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Walthourville puts police department on hold

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POSTED: December 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.
It appears that Walthourville’s police department is on hold as the mayor and city council weigh the costs of launching one.
The city, with an approximate population of 4,000, wants to starts a police department, according to an advertisement for a chief that began running early last month in the Coastal Courier.
City council member Larry Baker, however, said the council was not consulted before the ad was sent to the paper.
“The body did not approve the ad for a police chief,” Baker said. “A lot of this went out before the council had a whiff of it.”
Baker said the idea for a police department was hatched by the administration of former Mayor Henry Frasier, but was brought to a halt when costs started adding up.    
“The council body wanted the police department, but we need to know X, Y and Z, and the X, Y and Z we had the other night was not good enough,” said Baker, referring to a city county meeting Monday. “Walthourville doesn’t have any city taxes, so how are we going to (pay for) this police department?”
Baker said the timing is not good now for a police department, but that could change later.
Walthourville has been in contact with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, looking to expand its pool of police chief applicants, according to GACP executive director Frank Rotondo.
“I think what you have is (Walthourville’s) a transient population that probably can use a police department to handle things,” Rotondo said. “The population growth has increased substantially over the last year.”
He explained smaller cities have different reasons for pursuing a police department.   
“Some of the very small cities – they think they can generate revenue based on traffic enforcement,”  Rotondo said. “Regretfully, that’s not the right reason.”
Rotondo said he got the impression Walthourville’s No. 1 objective for having a police department is to fight crime.
“Whatever the reason, they should be conscious of the fact that the police chief should be autonomous of the budget,” Rotondo said.  “They shouldn’t really expect a certain amount of money.”
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Department has supplied Walthourville with a deputy sheriff since 1996, according to Chief Deputy Keith Moran.
He said sheriffs are exclusively assigned to the community, obligated to patrol the area, and answer calls.
Baker said the deputies have done a good job and get along well with the community.
But Rotondo said cities with their own police department have more direct authority. 
Baker said he wants to look at the whole picture, “the cost from top to bottom.”
“We do have the understanding with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, but we have to look at all the pros and cons,” Baker said. “We, the council, want it to happen but we don’t want to rush into anything.”
 

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