Chestertown Police Department debated to close next year

By Victoria Gill

Opinion Editor

In a Chestertown Council meeting on Oct. 7, town officials began a debate about whether or not to keep the local Chestertown Police Department open.

This problem is not an uncommon one. Police departments around the country are losing man-power between bustling cities and small rural towns. Chestertown is no different. Maybe it is time to let go of this department.

The town council agreed 4-1 in a vote to postpone any final decisions until February, according to an Elm article from this Oct. 16.

According to that same article, the town has 14 officers. Out of the two towns in the area that have their own police department, Chestertown’s is the biggest.

However, to keep this up is a lot of money for tax payers and town budgets.

“The cost of public safety has risen by 33%, — $462,000,” Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino said during the council meeting, as quoted in the same Elm article. 

This has been rising since 2009, with the town’s revenue only increasing by 4%.

This big expense for public safety can see throughout the United States.

According to the Duluth News Tribune of Minnesota in 2018, many small towns throughout northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota have also closed their doors as budgets shrink and it becomes harder to recruit new officers.

Grand Forks County Sheriff Andy Scheider said in the Tribune “small towns are often viewed as a stepping stone for young officers.”

I can even account for this, given that my own cousin started training to be an officer three years ago and has since transferred from Ocean City to a western Maryland county department.

If the decision to get rid of the police department is passed during February, it will mean that there is a possibility of these 14 officers will be moving to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office.

The council hopes to incorporate a hybrid option where CPD’s merging will assign a contract to ensure the town similar coverage of the Chestertown area.

Unfortunately, this means fewer patrols and slower response times.

Yet, looking at the crime rates of the community, is there a need for 14 officers?

Rock Hall only has three. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is within town limits and provides just the same amount of safety as does the protection of High Street, where CPD is stationed.

As it stands, if Chestertown lost their police department, this would not affect much of the everyday life in town. Of course, these individuals hold significance to the town overall, but how can this group survive if there is not enough money anywhere to provide them a liveable wage while not harming the town in the process? This could also foster a better relationship between the town and Sheriff’s department.

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