The city of Colchester is still deciding how to replace Police Chief David Bland, who retired at the end of August. The issue is generating a good deal of debate in the western Illinois community.
Tri States Public Radio talked to NEWS3's Devin Brooks for an update. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation.
TSPR: What's happened since Bland retired?
Brooks: Since then there's been no police chief. Officers have started to leave the department. And they're trying to decide the future of the police department -- whether they're going to keep it or whether they're going to contract with the McDonough County Sheriff's office. They're trying to get applications in and see whether or not people will apply to be police chief and become officers. Right now it's a wait and see game.
(Brooks also said three of the city's five part-time police officers have left since Bland retired)
TSPR: It seems like there's been a lot of controversy about this.
Brooks: Residents I've talked to want to keep the local police department. You drive through town, you see the signs throughout yards. That speaks volumes.
TSPR: Yard signs that say keep the local police department.
Brooks: Keep it local. Keep the Colchester Police Department.
TSPR: The alternative would be to contract it out to, for example, the sheriff's department?
Brooks: To my understanding, that's what the alternative would be. When the chief retired, they began negotiations with the McDonough County Sheriff's office. But then there were some issues during that time so the sheriff pulled the negotiations. So as of right now, they're not negotiating with the sheriff's office or with Sheriff Nick Petitgout. They're trying to focus on receiving applications for the department and for the position of police chief.
TSPR: There have also been some changes on the city council and in city government?
Brooks: True, Pressure was put on the city leaders, particularly the former Police Committee Chairman, which was Kevin Bloomfield, who was also an alderman, and the mayor (Danny Bice). First, the mayor was out on leave for family reasons. Bloomfield filled in as mayor pro-tem. And when he was in that position all of this was going on and eventually both of them resigned. I think a lot of heat was coming. A big decision has to be made.
TSPR: What can you tell us about the new mayor?
Brooks: Her name is Frances Welch. She has been an alderwoman for a number of years. She wants to hear everything out. It doesn’t sound like she’s on one side or the other. She really wants to see where everyone stands. Really they’re hoping to get applications in because if they don’t get applications they will have to look at an alternative.