Marshal says department needs funds, equipment to work efficiently

Posted 1/8/20

Belle Marshal Joe Turnbough met with The Maries County Advocate on Friday to answer citizen questions from the online survey published Dec. 19 on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Of the five …

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Marshal says department needs funds, equipment to work efficiently

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Belle Marshal Joe Turnbough met with The Maries County Advocate on Friday to answer citizen questions from the online survey published Dec. 19 on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Of the five questions, Turnbough declined to answer four, as he felt they were “guilt leading.”

He answered the following question via audio recording at the Belle Police Department.

Q: It’s a small town and a small department. You have told the people and the board you need more funds and better equipment. What do you need in order to do your job more efficiently?

A: I think the most important thing, first of all, is a good working relationship with our city board and our city government. I think it is extremely important that we all work together for the greater good of the people and the citizens that we serve who put us in the office because it is an honor and a privilege to be elected in the office by the community. So I think that relationship should be first priority, because without that relationship, you can’t achieve anything.

After that, of course we need funding, police officers — that will stay here.

When asked if he had ideas on funding, Turnbough said he really doesn’t know because there is only so much money in the budget.

“Because we are under-budgeted for a town our size. One of the best things you can do for your police officers who put their lives on the line for any moment, late at night or during the day, is to try to give them the best atmosphere you can and have a good working relationship with them.”

He would advocate for a tax base to help fund his department.

Turnbough said, “I would, definitely. What’s amazing is a huge part of the community actually wants it put on the ballot. The city has stated that it costs a lot of money to put something on the ballot, but yet, they keep puttin’ to take the elected position away on the ballot. I don’t know what that costs or entails, but if they can keep doing that, I would love to see that put on the ballot because the thing is it is extremely hard to get a sales tax passed, but if they people are screaming to do it for the greater good, and they are wanting to do that, how amazing is that?”

He added that the work relations and the public environment in the type of work he does — it is an absolute must to make the officers want to work in Belle rather than try to keep them here.

“If we want them to move to Belle, we need to work together, myself especially and our city government and politics, to ensure that it happens,” Turnbough said.

As far as equipment, Turnbough said they desperately need new radar units, which they recently applied for a grant to acquire.

“We are waiting to see if they keep the police department open or not, but we are hoping that we get those,” Turnbough said. “I just recently had a bunch of (used) radios donated to us. We do need to get up in the times, because our vehicles and radios are so outdated, we can’t keep up.”

He said one of the harshest realities is when he is in a pursuit and when they leave the city limits, their radios don’t work and their cellphones don’t have signal and they are out there all by themselves until someone tries to figure out where they are.

“Radios — communication — is a huge part of our job. Our equipment, like our computers that we have, are very old, the radios are being donated to us,” said Turnbough. “I am actually working on trying to get a car donated to us. A lot of things are donated to us, and they are used. Those people got new equipment and that is why they donated to us. I am very appreciative, but we do need to get caught up in the times because right now we are struggling to stay in the 20th century.”

Turnbough did not answer the questions on video, as Belle Mayor Josh Seaver and Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman did last week. He declined to answer the following questions:

• If the city decides to contract with the sheriff’s department, what is your plan moving forward? Will you continue to patrol in Belle and work administratively?

• This proposal came up last year, and was turned down. Then brought up again this year. If it is turned down again, what are some changes you would like to make to help reverse the amount of crime in town?

• What will you do moving forward to try to prevent this subject from coming up again next year?

• It’s a small town and a small department. You have told the people and the board you need more funds and better equipment. What do you need in order to do your job more efficiently?

• The mayor and aldermen say that they have worked with the police department to help keep them in budget. What other options have you tried to use in order to keep the police department on track? What other options will you consider?

Turnbough said he many consider answering the questions in a letter to the editor at a later date.

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