I am writing in regard to the proposed dissolution of the Benld Police Department and the contractual hiring of the Gillespie Police Department to provide police services to the citizens of Benld. In that the voters of Benld elect absolutely no municipal officials within the City of Gillespie, this proposal amounts to the privatization of police services and public safety within the City of Benld.
The complete transfer of control and accountability of public safety priorities and decisions to another governmental body entirely outside the recourse of the voters of Benld is fundamentally flawed and destined for failure. Regardless of any so-called liaison or complaint committee to be organized to supposedly oversee Gillespie Police Department actions within the City of Benld, the fact is the Mayor, City Council, Police Commission and Police Department of Gillespie are entirely unaccountable to the voters and citizens of Benld. Authority is what matters in law enforcement, not opinions and oversight committees without the ability to implement change.
In attempt to appease these concerns at a public hearing in Benld on this matter on Monday, July 30th, Gillespie City Treasurer Dan Fisher compared this proposal to the past consolidations of school districts and fire districts. However, the flaw with this argument is that Benld residents vote for school board members and county board members who oversee these districts, and their complaints may be made to public officials with the authority to implement change.
Mr. Fisher also stated “There if no profit in this for us”. However, adding $215,000 to his stated Gillespie Police Budget of $515,000 will total $730,000. This, at face value, reduces per capital Gillespie Police services to their residents from $161.44 to $156.38 annually (at published populations of Gillespie at 3,196 residents and Benld at 1,478 residents). Although seemingly inconsequential, this does not include revenues generated by traffic tickets, ordinance citations, grants, vehicle impound fees and other police protection incomes. Hardly a not-for-profit situation as Mr. Fisher contends.
Furthermore, while trying to convince the citizens of Benld of the advantage of this contract, Chief Jared DePoppe stated that “In an emergency, all three (3) cars might be in Benld”. However, he added, “That’s no different than what would happen now”. This is because mutual aid is the law in Illinois mandates that neighboring jurisdictions respond to emergencies in other venues at no cost. The municipalities of Gillespie and Benld are both subject to this, as well as the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois State Police.
Therefore, I ask the citizens of Benld how they will actually benefit from giving up their public safety authority and funds to the citizens of Gillespie?
Kenneth D. Snider