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Galesburg Register-Mail, IL : London Mills Police Dept Shuts Down over Outcry regarding DOD Military Surplus

June 19, 2016 04:30 AM

 

London Mills shuts down police dept.

 
 
By Robert Connelly
The Register-Mail
 
Posted Jun. 19, 2016 at 4:30 PM
 
LONDON MILLS — The London Mills Village Board of Trustees closed the police department two months ago.
 
The last police chief of the department said the move came after he wrote a ticket for a man who crashed a car and was found to be driving under the influence.
 
Village officials say it was done because the department was using a military weapon loan program and the department overspent its budget.
 
Jim Record was the last London Mills Police Chief and he said his last shift ended with writing a DUI ticket. Record told The Register-Mail he knew he would lose his job over that DUI.
 
"We did an outstanding job for that village. The only problem is I wrote a DUI," Record said.
Village officials said it was coincidental that the decision came during Record’s next shift, and they contend the DUI citation was never filed.
 
According to Fulton County Courthouse officials, the DUI was filed in late February and the case will proceed to a pretrial hearing later this month.
 
Village Trustee Larry Schatz resigned at that meeting, and declined to comment for this story when contacted Thursday.
 
Record was an on-call 24/7 officer, but would work 25 hours a week, he said.
Currently 911 calls in London Mills are handled by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.
 
Village officials said only a handful of homes in town are in Knox County.
 
The board voted to close the department at its April meeting. Village officials said they became uncomfortable with the police department’s use of the Law Enforcement Support Office’s military surplus program. Departments can pay an annual loan fee to use equipment through the state such as generators, trucks, Humvees or rifles.
 
A generator was acquired to use for the water department, but Trustee Lynn Moore said that generator "wasn’t what we were told it was going to be."
 
A former London Mills police officer explained that the state of equipment in the LESO program was not known until it was picked up.
 
According to the non-profit OpenTheBooks, the London Mills Police Department acquired $201,445 in equipment.
 
Earlier this year, the department received six AR-15 rifles.
 
"Did they ever actually deploy? No. Did we ever actually fire them? No ... in the end, what was brought out was the cops have guns. I don’t think it really shocks the conscious that the cops are going to have guns," Record said.
 
London Mills Deputy City Clerk Debbi Flude said she began in her role last May and began accounting for items.
 
That included learning more about the LESO program.
 
"We were left in the dark so bad," she said.
 
"This LESO deal was cutting too deep and other things were getting neglected so that was a
big concern," Moore said.

Moving forward 
 
Village officials said the budget has become easier to manage since the department was closed. Things such as vacant homes have been torn down and the village is working toward solving other outstanding issues.
 
Almost all of the LESO-acquired items have been transferred to other participating agencies,
such as the Avon Police Department, since the London Mills Police Department was closed.
 
"We got rid of our police department because of funding issues. We have had a loss of tax
revenue come to our community and since then we have relied on the Fulton County
(Sheriff’s) Department to resolve any criminal matters in town," said Mayor Russ Craver in a
statement.
 
Record now works with the Avon Police Department as a patrol officer.
Village officials said they are considering getting an on-call officer in the future, possibly next year.
 
Resident Tammy Brady said she did not know the department had closed until an incident
between her dog and another dog in which she tried to call police.
 
She said residents drive four-wheelers down the street and young drivers race through town
now that there is no police department.
 
"If (Fulton County Sheriff’s deputies) do show up, they’re already gone, so it’s like we don’t
have any more control over town anymore," she said.
 
Village officials said no residents have attended meetings to voice concern over the decision
to close the department since that was done.
 
"We just don’t have the money for a police department. We’re just going to keep having
water and sewer," Moore said.
 
"I’ve already seen improvements and I anticipate a lot better, but we still have the concern"
of not having a department for special events when security or traffic is needed, he added.
 
Robert Connelly: (309) 343-7181, ext. 266; rconnelly@register-mail.com; @RConnelly_
 

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Kathy Knox
London Mills, IL
6/25/2016 02:58 PM
 

  The fact that the police had guns is no surprise for sure. What was a surprise and not understood is why a town of less than 500 people needed 6 AR-15 rifles.

 
 
Kathy Knox
London Mills, IL
6/25/2016 02:55 PM
 

  The generator that Mr. Willis referred to is not the one in fact that was in the article. That generator was acquired in September of 2015 from Ft. Riley, Kansas. That item, along with a pickup truck and trailer cost the village $2,000 to pick up. Lynn Moore was not in charge of the water plant when Mr. Willis was Police Chief so he was not at fault with the generator he mentioned, which was lost in the flood. The Board of Trustees asked last fall for an inventory list of all items we had on the LESO program. After several months, we finally got a list from our COP, but items such as the assault rifles, another Hummer, motorcycle, sound equipment, storage containers and other items were not on the list given to the Board. We got the completed list from the office in Springfield, but only after there was a discrepancy in the form listing our full time police officers. The coordinator called the Town Hall asking for the correct number of full time officers, which was 3, rather than the 10 the Police Chief had sent in with our fee. The Board told the Chief nothing more was to be acquired without approval, which was not done. We were also faxed the LESO program guidelines and rules. In part, it states...“Property available under this agreement is for the current use of authorized program participants; it will not be requested nor issued for speculative use/possible future use. Property will not be obtained for the purpose of sale, lease, loan, personal use, rent, exchange, barter, to secure a loan, or to otherwise supplement normal LEA or State/local governmental entities budgets. All requests for property will be based on bona fide law enforcement requirements.” http://www.illinois.gov/cms/business/surplus/Documents/fed/LESO_State_Plan.pdf The mayor and trustees decided when we had to renew our new fiscal budget that we could no longer afford the police department, due to major budget cuts in all departments. The fact that the board was lied to also was a factor.

 
 
Deborah Flude
London mills , IL
6/24/2016 10:50 PM
 

  The generator that Davi Willis speaks of was destroyed in the flood 3 years ago. The one Mr Moore speaks of was obtained in Fall of 2015. It has never been operable since we received it . One of the Hummers was used in the flood and has not really run properly ever since. Maintaining these items is a large expense. There is no doubt that the leso program is a great help to many police departments however a town of 375 people which employed 3 part-time police officers had very little need if any for 2 Hummers 8 rifles a motorcycle cargo containers sound boards (the list is long ) especially when the majority of the items were not even in the Village and theVillage had no knowledge of these items or where they were. ( held in other towns like Pekin, or at some of the auxiliary offcers home ). The village has had a struggle keeping their water and sewer system in good running order. So even the smallest of unnecessary expenses had to be closely monitored for the village too make make the necessary upkeep .