UPDATE: The city of Odessa will be holding another meeting and will vote on the possible contract with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, August 25.
Crowds of Odessa residents showed up to a meeting on Monday night to voice displeasure towards a measure to possibly disband the city police force and contract with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office.
Several hundred people showed up to the meeting at the Odessa Community Center, with some wearing “Back Our Blue” t-shirts in support of Odessa police.
Odessa residents getting set for tonight's meeting. Plan to hand in petition calling on leaders to retain police pic.twitter.com/umdPPpilEC
— Tom Dempsey (@KCTomDempsey) August 22, 2016
The possible disbandment of the police force has led to rumors being spread around town, and on Monday, around a dozen people brought up issues with the plan.
One neighbor spoke about how using the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office instead of the city police force could lead to longer response times.
“My concern is, if you get rid of the police department, what is the response time if something would happen?” she said.
Others voiced their disappointment about how the talks were being handled by city leaders.
Some explained how they felt they were being left in the dark, and how they believed much of the future of the police department was being decided behind closed doors.
“The truth is we don't know the truth,” one neighbor said during the meeting. “Nobody has been forthcoming. As leaders, you have to be forthcoming and honest."
Loud applause came from the crowd after many of the speeches supporting the current city police force.
The loudest applause of the night came when Mary Hough, a local business owner, presented a petition with around 800 signatures to city leaders calling on them to retain the police department.
Much of the mood of the meeting changed when city administrator Mickey Ary presented the findings of an independent firm’s investigation of the Odessa Police Department.
In a multiple page report, Ary described issues of miscommunication, disloyalty, and mistrust from within the department.
Ary said the report mentioned how things like Facebook posts by officers had led to the department being divided.
As a way to fix the problems, the report noted how help from an outside source may be the best solution.
“The current operations of the Odessa Police Department have many deficiencies,” said Ary while reading the report aloud at Monday’s meeting. “The deficiencies have resulted in a department that needs reorganization."
Several members of the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office were present at Monday’s meeting, including Sheriff Kerrick Alumbaugh.
During a speech to the city leaders, Sheriff Alumbaugh spoke about many of the issues brought up by residents, and how his department would be able to keep things safe and take on the problems.
“A rise in crime will not happen,” he explained. “We will work hard for the citizens and city to keep Odessa safe."
A vote on the matter was not held on Monday night.
It is unknown when the mayor and city aldermen will take up the issue again.
In the meantime, Lafayette County deputies are helping to patrol Odessa alongside city police officers.
Tom Dempsey can be reached at Tom.Dempsey@KSHB.com.