It is time I explain my actions over the past few months.
I am sorry things become so volatile that the previous council felt the best measure was to disband the Marshal’s Office and contract the Maries County Sheriff’s Office in February 2020. I attempted to still be effective that first year of my remaining two terms. Eventually felt I was being unfair to the taxpayers and resigned in April 2021, with one year left in my elected term.
I am 100 percent committed to seeing Belle have a functional, safe, proactive, and qualified Marshal’s Office, not a police department. It is my dream and goal to become your elected Marshal and retire here in Belle. Thank you for your open mind and consideration of my candidacy.
When asked if I was interested in coming back as the Belle Police Chief, I was hesitant. It was going to be a monumental undertaking, but I was prepared to work. I wasn’t prepared for how I was treated.
Before I accepted the position, I laid out my expectations at my “interview.” We discussed the position’s pay, the pay of any officers hired, when I was expected to be seen around town, and if I could build the Marshal’s Office from the ground up. I told them I could, especially with Maries County responsible for handling services in town while we were preparing to take over at the end of their contract. That key agreement was overlooked by Mayor White. I requested $20/hour for the officers, $25/hour for my position (they were calling a police chief), and that I be allowed to rehire Jerry Coborn. I emphasized that we must all agree to work together, or it would never work. I received a call from White before I got out of my car in my driveway. I was super excited to “be back!”
The next day after I was hired, Councilwoman Kayla Bray immediately volunteered to assist me to create a list, prioritizing items, and completing them. She was a huge part of getting everything completed, without any thanks from Mayor White. I’ll try to summarize. We were able to get the old Impala in patrol condition. It needed radios, electronics programming, maintenance, decals, and numerous items for patrol duties. We both were questioned by White on why things were costing so much and what was taking so long to begin writing tickets. I don’t believe he did any homework. He believed we could get into a car, grab a radio, and go write some tickets.
Radios were not operational as the tower radio repeater had been given to the fire dept. MOSWIN radios was way too expensive. We didn’t even have an agreement with a dispatch center, uniforms, or a report-writing system as our Crimestar had not been maintained and required expensive software updates to re-activate it. None of which were well received by Mayor White.
While Bray and I were trying to rebuild White hounded us, most times in a very condescending and critical way. We were trying to be problem solvers. I reached out to the Sheriff’s Chief Deputy, Scott John, and asked what equipment they would be able to sell us. They gave us a very fair deal on a like-new radar unit, some less lethal equipment, ammunition, and a used MOSWIN radio. We were able to convince our installers to fit us in (usually 2-3 week wait) and had a patrol car with an operational radar and radio a few days later. White still wasn’t happy. When he received the invoices for the equipment purchase and installation he was irate and said, “not another damn dime goes into the police department until some tickets start getting wrote.” We were still contracting Maries County to perform policing duties. From that point on, almost every conversation with White was about saving money. While I understand there is a budget, it appeared as if White jumped into a major decision without anything other than an emotional desire to see Maries County leave Belle.
Because White was so persistent with his complaints about expenses, I approached John again to see what we could do. The most logical decision was to share patrol duties with Maries County and schedule opposite of one another. John agreed to let Jerry and I cover two shifts while Maries County continued to cover the opposite two shifts. In exchange, Maries County would pull two of the four deputies into county coverage and reduce our contract expense by 50 percent! I thought Mayor White would be ecstatic. Instead, I was scolded for “conspiring with the enemy” and ordered to stop meeting with John and that he was trying to “get rid of Maries County” and I was working with them to extend the contract. There was absolutely no conversation about extending the contract, only cutting the cost. When it comes to Maries County, Mayor White sees nothing but red.
Things really went downhill after four young men from Belle rolled a truck over, trapping one, in a tragic accident. I was off that night and Jerry had been on duty that day, but completed his 12-hour shift and went home. Maries County was on duty and responded as contracted but White was beside himself because social media questioned “where was Belle PD.” At that point, White started making a schedule and demanding Coborn and I follow it. It was designed around being seen in public and ignored officer safety. It required numerous days in a row then would change from days to nights and back to days.
It wasn’t too long after the accident White ordered me to park the Charger because it wasn’t insured and hadn’t been for two weeks unbeknownst to me. It sat idly at the City Hall for three weeks, waiting to go to Jefferson City for equipment installation, while the bank paperwork and insurance went through. White purchased the Charger without following state-mandated purchasing guidelines. It is a civilian model vehicle without the much-needed police package such as oversized brakes to prevent overheating and an oversized alternator to handle all the electronic demands. It was not purchased from the awarded state bid list nor did he secure competitive bids. He showed up one day and asked if I liked the Chargers. I told him I did and he said “good, I just bought you one.” I was not comfortable being named “Police Chief” of a department not following state guidelines.
Not only did I feel White was not adhering to purchasing guidelines or Sunshine Law, the constant belittling what Bray and I were doing, the decisions White was making, and the stress of working shifts on little sleep while conducting administrative tasks while “off duty” was more than I could stand. Bray and I put in countless hours without compensation. Then we were asked in a closed session if we were having an affair because of the amount of time we were spending together. White did not call the behavior outrageously unprofessional and inappropriate but wanted an answer to the question.
I could not please him nor could I be a part of the dictatorship of a police department. He made it clear I was Police Chief in title only and that he held all decisions. The citizens of Belle have voted numerous times to NOT have a police chief who answers to the mayor and have repeatedly said they desire to have a marshal that answers to the people only. That is why I resigned and THAT is what I promise to bring back to you if I am elected.
Joe Turnbough, candidate for Belle Marshal
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