Citizens of Belle bring safety concerns to council, marshal

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 10/16/19

BELLE — Marshal Joe Turnbough reacted to comments concerns from citizens and accusations from alderment Oct. 8 during a city meeting.

“Joe, these people have a right to know as …

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Citizens of Belle bring safety concerns to council, marshal

Posted

BELLE — Marshal Joe Turnbough reacted to comments concerns from citizens and accusations from alderment Oct. 8 during a city meeting.

“Joe, these people have a right to know as citizens what is going on,” said Alderman Courtney Abel, to Turnbough as he continued to speak while she did. “He (Mayor Josh Seaver) had a schedule set up for you to work 24-hours (coverage), but you have since taken on a full-time job working at Phelps County (Hospital) and are not readily available to help protect these citizens of the community that you have sworn to stand up and protect, and they are angry.”

Turnbough said the city isn’t working with the police department and it is a disgrace.

“The problem is you are not working Joe, you are not working at all,” Seaver said. “I know this sounds like a broken record from the previous administration —.”

Turnbough interrupted.

“You lied to the people!” he shouted at Alderman Tony Gieck as he questioned why Turnbough instructed his police captain, Kim Elrod, not to write tickets three months ago.

Gieck said he didn’t lie to “nobody.”

“You all did,” Turnbough said. “You said we could hire another person! You said we could do the school! The school was gonna pay for 24-hour coverage. The school was gonna pay for it! And you said ‘no’!”

The explosion came at the end of an hour-and-a-half meeting with nearly 30 citizens who were upset about rising crime rates in town and lack of police patrol. The Belle Police Department wrote 13 tickets last month, as robberies and theft were reported all over town. Many were threatening violence and admitted to sleeping near a weapon.

Tom Kinsey said he had gone went one step further recently and had to hold a trespasser at gunpoint.

“I held a man at gunpoint, and I always said if someone tresspasses on my property, I am going to shoot him and I didn’t that night.”

“Joe, if you don’t start doing something, people are going to start dying,” said Wade Guffey.

His wife’s vehicle was one of many that were broken into in early September. The car was parked near the Guffey’s infant son’s bedroom window.

Guy MacClugage has lived in Belle for 18 years.

“I live in Belle, but sometimes I wonder if I am living in Hell,” he said. “I have people selling drugs at my house. I wrote down the plate numbers and gave them to Officer Elrod. Somehow, it got back to them. It put a target on my back.”

Rehna Britton said Belle is her home. She and her husband recently built a home in what they thought was a quiet neighborhood.

“I have things out (side) I didn’t think would have a chance of being stolen, and now I don’t feel comfortable with anything I have sitting outside that is not chained down,” she said.

BrendaLeigh Guffey was a victim of the string of car thefts in September. After she voiced her concerns and asked the board to help them start a neighborhood watch, she addressed the marshal.

“Joe, I love you to death. A nicer guy you will never meet,” Guffey said. “But I haven’t seen you on patrol, I haven’t seen you at the police station, and all these things are going on and I don’t understand where you have been to help protect us and keep us safe.”

Turnbough listened to the complaints.

“If you guys would like me to say somethin’ as your city marshal, I think a neighborhood watch is a great program,” he said. “Like what Bev (Abel) was talking about, at the meeting, things will be discussed, like what we can do and what we can’t.”

Turnbough said he would love to do it, and he was sure that Osage County Sheriff and the Maries County lieutenant could make arrangements and would love to come over whatever night they designated to do so.

“Then the whole public would be invited and we could advertise it in the paper, make sure that everyone knows who wants to be part of it,” Turnbough said.

Turnbough tried to address concerns by saying his department didn’t receive enough in the budget to patrol the town. He also made his argument about the 24-hour coverage.

“This is just an example, and I don’t want to get into an entire budget thing, but I would love to see 24-hour coverage, and I think the city would too, but we only have so much money,” Turnbough said.

Seaver said, “here it goes,” as the discussion of 24-hour coverage has been on-going.

“Mr. Mayor, let me ask you one question, what percent of the budget am I getting?” Turnbough asked.

Seaver said it doesn’t matter, “You are getting all the money you could possibly get.”

Ty Abel asked the marshal how hard it was to write a ticket. The marshal said he writes tickets. Gieck argued that just a few months ago Turnbough told Elrod that he was not to write any tickets that didn’t go through him first.

“13 tickets this month! 13 tickets, Joe,” Courtney Abel interceded.

Ty Abel said he could write that in a night.

“I don’t mind if the officers write tickets,” Turnbough said. “I have encouraged them to write tickets.”

Bev Abel said they are not being proactive, and Turnbough said they have to have money to write a ticket. MacClugage said he has made nine calls about destruction of property.

“The night that Mr. Kinsey had a gun to someone and called for police officers, where were you?” Seaver asked.

Turnbough said he was in Rolla, and passed the call to his officer over the phone.

“Why were you not a responding office on that call,” Seaver said. “I heard the whole thing on the radio and he is screaming for back-up. You were elected to be a police officer first. You are not elected to lead the fair parade and give hugs at funerals.”

Turnbough said his police truck barely runs. Another person said Turnbough’s police truck barely moves.

“We just spent $500 to fix the radiator on that truck and it hasn’t moved in three weeks,” Seaver said.

Turnbough’s wife, Deborah Turnbough, said that wasn’t true, and continued to speak at the same time as the mayor. Seaver said her name and held up a figure for her to stop talking.

“Don’t disrespect my wife ever,” Turnbough said as he came to his feet and walked toward the mayor. “Come on babe, let’s go.”

The meeting erupted with citizens asking Turnbough to answer their questions. After he left, his wife stayed to tell citizens that the police department went downhill after the city refused to hire another officer in July, and accused the board of not telling her husband about their decision to fire Elrod in a 6 p.m. closed meeting.

Seaver told Deborah Turnbough she needed to leave the meeting.

She left and did not return.

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