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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Sheriff’s Office to provide police coverage for Elgin

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Sheriff’s Office to provide police coverage for Elgin

ELGIN — The City of Elgin will contract with the Union County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.

Meeting in a special session Monday night, the council voted 4-3 to sign a three-year contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen, on hand for the meeting, said the contract will provide the city with law enforcement services comparable to what it had when it ran its own department.

“The biggest thing is, it’s a change in the color of the uniforms and a change in personnel,” Rasmussen said.

Elgin’s police department disintegrated in the wake of last August’s shooting of city resident Richard Shafer by Officer Erik Kilpatrick in a domestic disturbance call. 

Though a grand jury ruled the shooting justified, public outrage over the incident and a host of other law enforcement-related issues continued. Lynch and Kilpatrick resigned in October, leaving the city without any officers.

The council mounted a months-long search for a new chief, but has been unable to come up with a suitable candidate. In the meantime, Union County sheriff’s reserves have been providing coverage under a temporary contract.

Mayor John Stover said during Monday’s meeting that negative publicity has contributed to the problems of finding a new chief.

“We had a lot of negative reports from the news media, which we don’t agree with but it got out nationwide,” he said. “It’s been a frustrating problem from Day 1 to get someone in here.”

Last month, the council made a decision to try and come to a more permanent agreement with Rasmussen. 

Rasmussen submitted terms, and Monday’s meeting was called so the council could decide on a direction. 

Rasmussen had told the council that the temporary contract was becoming unworkable and he needed to know what to plan for.

In the latest numbers submitted by the sheriff, law enforcement by the county would cost $298,700 in the first year, $269,000 in the second, and $290,300 in the third.

That money would cover the costs of fielding three full-time deputies, though Monday Stover said the council may seek a contract for two deputies with the costs adjusted downward.

“We can’t afford to hire three officers,” Stover said. “Union County would start off with two on the ground and, at such time we could hire three, we would work that out,” Stover said.

Under the contract, deputies would use Elgin’s police vehicles. There would be about $8,400 in new equipment costs, according to the numbers submitted by Rasmussen. 

Also, the city would need to hire someone to enforce local ordinances, something sheriff’s deputies would not be allowed to do. That would cost about $4,000 a year, according to Stover.

In discussion before the vote, the council considered reviving the search for a new chief and the effort to rebuild the city’s department. 

Councilors Alan Duffy and Chris Boylen both said they believed the Sheriff’s Office would do a good job, but expressed concern that a majority of city residents may still favor the city operating its own department. In a city-wide survey last year, a majority said that was what they wanted.

“I trust the sheriff but I have a problem going with the sheriff if that’s not what the people want to do,” Duffy said. 

But in other talk, the need for a stable and sustained law enforcement presence was highlighted.

Some citizens attending the meeting said that trouble with speeders and reckless drivers is on the rise in the city. Others worried that a continued lack of a steady law enforcement presence could attract a lawless element.

“We’re a bank with an open vault for all those people who would come to Elgin to take advantage of us,” one woman said.

Rasmussen said that without a contract, sheriff’s deputies would answer 9-1-1 calls but would not show a regular presence in the city. He said a contract for regularly assigned deputies would assure “proactive” law enforcement.

“If you don’t have a presence in your community, you’ll see an upward spiral in crime,” he said.

Rasmussen pointed out another advantage of contracting with the sheriff’s office.

“When you write that check for the contract, you say goodbye to all that liability. It’s all on the county,” he said.

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