Urges public vote on move that could cost 20 officers their jobs
By TIM ROWDEN
Bel-Ridge, MO – Mayor Willie Fair and the newly elected Board of Alderman have plans to abolish the Bel-Ridge Police Department and contract those services to the Normandy Police Department or possibly another police agency, Laborers Local 42’s Law Enforcement Division has learned.
Bill Stark, director of Local 42’s Law Enforcement Division, says that could mean approximately 20 Bel-Ridge Police Department employees will be without jobs, and that Bel-Ridge citizens will no longer have police officers who are familiar with the community.
Although no announcement has been made on the proposal to outsource police services in the city, Stark said, “We know for a fact that the mayor has met a couple of different times with the mayor from Normandy and the topic of discussion was Normandy taking over police service.”
EVERY ONE A UNION MEMBER
The Bel-Ridge Police Department has 16 full-time police officers and four part-time officers. Every officer in the department, including Police Chief Mark Harris, is a member of the union. Local 42 signed a three-year contract with the city last year.
“With these small towns, the police department is usually their biggest expense in terms of manpower and insurance and what have you,” Stark said. “When it comes to the budget, that’s someplace they look. Some of these people that were recently elected put out very negative information during the campaign about the police department, kind of like they were laying the groundwork.”
HANDBILLING BUSINESSES, CITY RESIDENTS
Representatives of Local 42 began handbilling businesses along Natural Bridge Road last week and visiting with residents, urging them to appeal to city leaders to take any decision about outsourcing the police department to a public vote.
“The response to the handbilling has been very, very positive,” Stark said.
“At one time, Bel-Ridge had a pretty bad reputation with traffic stops and the like. But Chief Harris has done a really great job turning that around, they’re turned completely to community policing. They have community outreach and kids programs and Shop With a Cop. They have an active Facebook page where they keep residents informed about what’s going on.
“If the board ultimately decides to outsource and do away with the police department, we can’t stop it, but we’re going to give it our best effort. What we’re asking is that they put it on the ballot. Let the residents decide whether they want to outsource their police department.”