• 75°

Editorial: Can Mocksville board members cope with no influence on police matters?

If anyone is happy that the Town of Mocksville could soon be without its own police department, they should be ashamed.

Towns the size of Mocksville deserve a police department: one that residents can count on and be proud of, one that not only enforces the law, but engages in the community.

I even suggested the town look at contracting with the sheriff’s department and do away with its own force, which is being considered Tuesday night. But I’m not happy about what is happening. If you are happy, shame on you again.

Because of past problems – real and perceived – there seemed to be no other way out. I’ll not rehash them all here. Interim Town Manager Lynn Trivette outlined reasons making the change would be a good move in a news release. The money savings alone merits consideration.

One thing is for sure, for the new plan – or any plan, for that matter – to work, town board members must stay out of the way. We’ve lost capable police chiefs and a good manager because of unnecessary meddling in the police department by board members and their cronies. Maybe – at the very least – Jimmy Bagshaw will disappear into oblivion, never to be heard from again.

And the way the three-year agreement is worded, the town will have little or no say into how policing is done other than what is in the agreement. The sheriff makes all decisions – without interference.

Working in Downtown Mocksville, sometimes at late hours, I’ve seen officers in action. Or I used to. I’ve heard my license plate number go over the police radio, because an officer saw a vehicle parked behind our building at 2 a.m. I’ve been scared by officers, who upon noticing our back door open, walk in to investigate. We’d chat, have a cup of coffee, and go about our business.

That was 20-plus years ago. Foot patrols in town have been more of a rarity in quite a few years, through several police administrations.

But according to the agreement with the sheriff’s department, they may be coming back. It calls for routine foot patrols in the central business district.

It calls for a base number of hours for deputies to be working in the town, for an average of 3.5 on duty around the clock. Response time to calls must be 9 minutes or less for 80 percent of calls. Decisions about when those deputies work will be up to the sheriff, based on times when most needed.

Like the rest of us, current Sheriff J.D. Hartman has watched the goings on at the police department for years. I’m sure he’s already formed opinions on most of the employees left there.

Let’s just hope that he seriously considers every current employee for a job at the sheriff’s office if they want it. Whatever their politics, whichever side they fell on this controversy or that, they are people trying to work for a living. They have families who depend on their hard-earned paychecks. Their jobs aren’t easy in a good year, just imagine the forces that have been put on them in recent years, sometimes from their own ranks.

Give them a chance.

Hartman is a smart and capable officer, well versed in all facets of law enforcement. We’re confident he will not be a problem. We’re also confident that he will not tolerate outside interference – or inside insurrection.

Can all of our town board members handle that?

I’d say if they’re happy with a move to sheriff’s coverage, they can’t.

– Mike Barnhardt