Some in Valley City want police department disbanded
VALLEY CITY, N.D. – The police department in this town of 7,000 is used to controversy.
In 2011, Chief Dean Ross resigned over allegations—which were later dismissed—that he misused public money.
His successor, Fred Thompson, who has said he will resign in January, attracted controversy last month when he drew a gun on a resident who was playing with airsoft guns on his front lawn with his kids.
Now, some residents are saying it's time to get rid of the police department altogether and let county authorities take over law enforcement for the city.
Robert Drake is one person behind a petition that would "disband" the Valley City Police Department and shift the city's security responsibility to the Barnes County Sheriff's Department.
"There's always been some kind of strife between the police department and the sheriff's department," said Drake, a 62-year-old restaurant owner and longtime resident. "We got double the infrastructure, double everything.
"It would be a lot cheaper if we could just have the sheriff's department," he said.
Robert Drake’s son, Anthony Drake, who is also sponsoring the petition, said he planned to turn in the petition draft today for approval before gathering signatures.
Robert Drake's brother, Tom Drake, said disbanding the police department would "simplify law enforcement under one county law enforcement agency.
"We see the duplication of efforts," he said.
As much as they said their petition was about about saving money, the Drakes did not hide their dislike for the current chief.
"You're personable. He's not like you," Tom Drake told a reporter.
Robert Drake was more blunt. "We've got a chief of police right now that's the biggest idiot," he said. "He pulled a gun on a citizen ... a guy that was playing with his two kids.
"He can't tell the difference between an M-16 and an airsoft gun," Drake said.
Chief Thompson said the idea of disbanding the police department "has been a longstanding thing between residents of the city and the city commissioners, and it went on long before I got here three and a half years ago.
"I will tell you that in my opinion, that if they went to this type of law enforcement set-up, that the citizens of Valley City would be underserved."
Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin declined to comment on whether disbanding the police department was a good idea, saying "that's up to the city."
He said he could handle security for the city if the petition were successful.
"You'd have to take some personnel that's working (for police) and then they would become under the sheriff's office," he said.
McClaflin said his department works well with Thompson's at the present, "like any agencies work together."
But Mayor Robert Werkhoven, asked about the relationship between the two law enforcement agencies, said, "I think there's probably a little difference in personalities."
Disbanding the police department is too extreme, the mayor said. He said he was exploring an idea to put the police department under the administration of the sheriff's department.
"I just thought it would save us some money," he said. "I've really been getting some positive comments."