The small Clay County community of Mosby has become the latest in a growing trend of municipalities that are disbanding their police departments and hiring off-duty county sheriff’s deputies to patrol their streets.
On Thursday, Mosby officials voted to jettison the police department and pay Clay County deputies to respond to emergencies and other service calls.
“It was a financial decision,” said Mayor Harlin Clements, whose vote broke a 2-2 tie to disband. “Our budget won’t allow us to support the Police Department.”
Other municipalities that have hired Clay County sheriff’s deputies include Missouri City, Village of the Oaks, Glenaire and Avondale. Holt will begin using sheriff’s deputies to respond to emergency calls beginning Sept. 1.
The Clay County Commission is expected to approve arrangements with both Holt and Mosby.
Platte County has contracts to provide police service for Dearborn and Houston Lake. Deputies are cross-commissioned, which allows them to write municipal citations, Capt. Erik Holland said.
Small and rural communities that drop their police departments usually do so because of tight budgets and the challenge of hiring and retaining qualified officers, said Richard Sheets, the deputy director for the Missouri Municipal League.
“There are a number of small cities throughout Missouri that do contract with the county,” Sheets said. “Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Small cities often serve as a training ground, so as officers gain experience, they typically move on to bigger cities for more money and better career opportunities, he said.
On the other hand, small communities sometimes end up with officers who can’t land jobs anywhere else.
“That’s not what they really want, so small cities really struggle with this,” Sheets said.
Sheets said that using county deputies doesn’t always work in rural communities far from county seats because the officers may not patrol as much as town leaders would like.
Mosby, which has a total operating budget of $280,000, has been designating about $142,000 for the Police Department. Some of that money will be used to handle city maintenance and make repairs to City Hall and other municipal buildings, Clements said.
City officials said they had explored options for several months before making their decision last week.
“We spent quite a bit of money in the last fiscal year on police cars, repairs, uniforms, and it just got out of hand,” Clements said. “We just can’t support the department any longer. There are other cities that are going to Clay County. We are just falling in line.”
Mosby, which has about 190 residents, never had a 24-hour police department. Clay County deputies routinely patrolled the city when the Mosby officers were not on duty.
As a result, Mosby let go its one full-time police officer, Jason Lininger, who had been the city’s acting police chief. Before working for Mosby, Lininger had worked for the police department in Holt.
Holt officials realized that using Clay County deputies would mean getting officers with more experience and better training and equipment, Mayor Ross Poile said.
“With an in-house department, we essentially relied on police officers who were either just out of school or with very little experience,” Poile said. “There was never really a question, as far as I was concerned, because when you can get a much superior service at a lower cost, that is clearly in the city’s best interest.”
Holt, which has about 450 residents, expects to save $15,000 to $25,000 by hiring off-duty sheriff’s deputies. The savings will be used to repair roads that were damaged by heavy spring rains.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Mosby has decided to do this,” Poile said. “Operating an in-house police department is very expensive. There is no way a small town like Holt could get that experience without bringing in officers from another department.”