Potential police force among items discussed at latest city council meeting

By: 
Michael Brock
Reporter

The Deer Park city council will hold a yet-to-be-scheduled workshop over Zoom to consider the potential factors of again starting a city-controlled police force.

“This item is before the council for discussion only, because I really believe the topic is better addressed in a workshop session where ideas and discussion can be freely held, and not during a telephone conference call where I can [only] call on folks for comments,” Mayor Tim Verzal said during the latest council meeting on Jan. 20.

Councilmember Richie Schut requested the item on the agenda, after some council discussion on the topic in the fall.

“This has been something that has been brought to my attention by a number of residents that feel that it’s time that Deer Park had its own law enforcement again,” Schut said. “It’s something that takes a lot of time to get set up and developed. And I think that with the increasing costs of the sheriff contract, that we need to begin working on this and want to figure out how best to move forward with this.”

Mayor Verzal said the workshop would be scheduled once the council can meet in person, and might involve hiring a consultant and appointing a task force to further study important aspects. Details to discuss include crime stats, desired level of service coverage, timing of election/process, dispatch, holding cell, attorney costs, equipment, offices/office staffing and tax increases/types of taxes to be adjusted, Verzal said.

The workshop session could be effectively held via Zoom, Councilmember Caleb Stapp said.

“The interaction is much enhanced and it’s close to in-person, much closer than this,” he said. “I wouldn’t count on being able to meet in-person any time soon.”

Stapp said he is not firmly of one mind or the other at this point as far as the police force is concerned.

“[I] have appreciated the input that I’ve gotten from a variety of sources, particularly past council members from back when they had the police force and how that went and what that experience was like to have more local control,” he said. “While I am [hearing] from some folks that say we do need this, I haven’t seen a big enough increase or big enough need at this point that I would be firmly convinced that [we] definitely need to move forward with getting our own force because we need more coverage.”

Councilmember Ron Scholz said he liked the idea of a workshop, because of all the necessary angles to analyze, including the cost of training an officer and liability insurance.

Read the full story in the January 27, 2021 edition of the Deer Park Tribune.

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