City of Northwest postpones decision on police department

NORTHWEST, NC (WWAY) — After dozens came out to share concerns at a council meeting, The City of Northwest has decided to postpone a decision on the future of the police department.

The city will hold a public hearing to discuss the possibility of eliminating the police department and contracting with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.

On Tuesday, a large crowd of residents stood outside city hall calling on leaders to keep the police department intact.

“To see this group which was very diverse might I add, you had blacks, whites, and everybody was together and was on the same page and they were for their police, they feel safe,” said resident Elisha Jennings-Shoffner.

“One of the last holds that Northwest has is its police department, so if that too is given to Brunswick County, then Northwest is really not a city anymore,” said Jeanne Rhein. “Because why should we pay city taxes when we really don’t have any of the benefits of a city.”

Councilman “Chip” Carroll proposed the switch. According to councilman Michael Troy, Northwest offers police coverage during peak hours, but it doesn’t have an officer available 24 hours a day.

Residents worry that the sheriff’s office would not provide the same level of community service as the police department.

“They’ve pretty much been like family around here,” said Ryan Watkins. “I know chief personally, he gave me my first ticket and taught me a lesson.”

“We are concerned that they will be sending people in on calls that don’t know the community like the policemen that we have here do,” said Darlene Ballard. “It may become violent, because of coming into communities and not really knowing the people and using excessive force.”

Carroll says outsourcing law enforcement to the county could be a more cost effective option than staffing the local police department 24 hours per day. However Mayor James Knox says he was left in the dark on the issue until recently.

“I was kept in the dark on it and I always say I was kept in the dark on this, I heard about it second-hand,” Knox said. “I’m opposing to this going to the county. What I’m standing on is that we keep our police department functioning and going and doing the things that we need to do to make it a better department.”

Knox also addressed claims that a discussion on the issue was held between town leaders on Friday.

“I deemed the meeting to be not a legal meeting and so we did not discuss that, and a motion was made that the meeting be adjourned,” Knox said.

The public hearing will be held at Northwest City Hall Tuesday, September 7 at 6:00 p.m.

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