As many of you know by now, both the Gillespie and Benld city councils have agreed to a contract for the Gillespie Police Department to take over patrol and investigative duties for the citizens of Benld. While this change will not take full effect until June 1, 2020, I wanted to take the opportunity to communicate with all parties affected by this decision.
First of all, let me begin by stating that I am excited and privileged that Benld will be joining our area of police responsibilities. Benld and Gillespie share so many resources already. We share the same school district, the same fire district, the same ambulance service. Many of our residents have family members in both cities.
Many of my church folks reside in Benld or have family members that do. We are two distinct proud communities that share so much of the same. The police department will be no different in that regard. Benld will have the same police presence that it has always had, and perhaps even more. In addition to patrol officers, in squad cars in the city limits of Benld, there will be access to investigators, including myself that will assist in following-up on criminal cases. This will allow the freedom of more time for patrol officers to actually patrol the streets and proactively identify crime before it may be reported.
I know that there are concerns regarding this development. I know that there are questions regarding the “unknown” and “what-ifs” that are always associated with these types of decisions. That is understandable because this is new for all of us. There will be an adjustment time for the public and the police department as we head into this new area together.
I can understand that dissolving a police department is a sad day for any community, and a difficult decision for a city council to need to make. Many good officers have come from and through the Benld Police Department. Many of those officers have moved on to great careers elsewhere. I’ve had the personal privilege to been able to work with some of them during my career, and even count a few of them as my friends.
This decision was made because it is what is best for both communities. Working together is better than working alone.
The truth of law enforcement today is not the same as it once was. Constant public scrutiny, negative media and social media attention, continuing changes to legislation, low pay and benefits have caused many fine officers to seek “greener pastures” or go to the private sector for less stress filled occupation. If you ask most veteran police officers who left their position, they will most likely tell you they left because of the politics surrounding the job, not the job itself. They love being a cop, and in truth, we do this
job because we love it. The point is, they have moved on, and there are very few rising up who are able to take their place. This issue is affecting most areas of the country, but especially in rural areas where finances are limited.
This is a manpower issue. Police officers will not come, and or stay, if they can do the job at a bigger department for more benefits and opportunities for advancement. The way to help solve this issue is to combine recourses to make a more attractive location for recruits. Better equipment, more pay brings more talented officers who will be willing to serve a small community for a longer period of time. While these are certainly not the only issues, it is definitely a major one.
I look forward to continuing to serve the public in all the areas the Gillespie Police Department patrols. If you have questions or concerns regarding these issues, please feel free to contact me at the police department.
Chief Jared DePoppe
Gillespie Police Department