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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