Sandpoint Mayor Ray Miller says the City Council is trying to dismantle the Sandpoint Police Department and contract services with the Bonner County sheriff.
Miller says two City Council members have been pitching the idea to Sheriff Elain Savage.
Councilwoman Helen Newton acknowledges she has been researching the idea.
“As an elected City Council person, I believe it is my duty and obligation to explore and debate with other council members opportunities that could save tax dollars without reducing services for the residents of the city of Sandpoint,” Newton told the Bonner County Daily Bee.
Sandpoint is the largest city in Bonner County, and its police force is more than half the size of the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office, which has between 30 and 40 deputies at full force.
Miller says eliminating the police force would put the city and its property at risk.
“It would be a huge step backward that would undo more than 100 years of infrastructure,” said Miller. “Sandpoint’s growth means needs for police services are increasing, and residents expect a high level of service that they have been used to.”
He says a city the size of Sandpoint, with about 8,000 residents, should have its own law enforcement agency.
“The county has enough problems covering its own calls for an area larger than the state of Rhode Island,” Miller said. “Our level of service would be drastically reduced.”
Police Chief Mark Lockwood says calls to the department, which has 20 sworn officers, are mounting.
“Misdemeanors and felonies are going through the roof,” he said. “My officers are based solely in the city and respond instantly to calls. They have a strong history with the city’s infrastructure.”