Galesburg votes to disband police force

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
galesburg city officers winter 011218_459952

GALESBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — The police department in Galesburg is disbanding.

The decision was made Thursday evening during a special meeting of the Galesburg City Council. It came only a month after the council voted to fire its police chief.

Former chief Jeff Heppler was dismissed because of concerns that he couldn’t devote enough time or attention to the job. He also served as the part-time police chief and part-time village manager in the neighboring village of Augusta. Galesburg Mayor Carl Newton previously told 24 Hour News 8 that often made it difficult for people in Galesburg to reach Heppler.

In a phone interview Friday, Newton didn’t elaborate about whether Heppler’s termination had anything to do with the city’s decision to do away with the entire police department.

“No comment,” he said.

Galesburg will now contract with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement.

“(Galesburg) came to us and asked if there was something that we could do because of some changes in their world,” Sheriff Richard Fuller said.

“The county supplies everything for us, including a car, an officer, detective services and so forth,” Newton said.

Galesburg will pay just over $125,000 per year for one deputy to police the city 40 hours per week. It cost the city more than $200,000 annually to run its own police department.

“We’re fairly confident that what we’ll do with that one deputy will increase the return on service that they’re getting today only because of the things that come with that deputy,” Fuller said.

But the lower cost comes with its own risks. Galesburg’s police department had a chief, one full-time officer and one to two part-time officers. Now, the county will provide one full-time deputy.

“The people of the community voted, voiced their opinions very loudly,” Newton said. “That’s what they wanted to see.”

When asked whether one deputy is enough to police Galesburg, Fuller said it is.

“I think especially to begin with,” he said. “And we’ve had these discussions with the city. I think it’s a good place to start. I think over time we will have other conversations to see if there’s a higher need.”

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office also provides police services for Oshtemo, Comstock, Ross and Texas townships.

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