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Ill. town votes to disband police department

“Sometimes, you have to take the emotion out of it and think about what’s best financially and viability-wise,” a Hampton board member said

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Hampton plans to dissolve its police department and instead contract with the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department to provide protection services.

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By Grace Kinnicutt
Quad City Times, Davenport, Iowa

HAMPTON, Ill. — Hampton plans to dissolve its police department and instead contract with the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department to provide protection services.

Hampton’s Village Board of Trustees voted to approve the change and move forward with working out a contract with the county sheriff’s department. The Hampton Police Department will no longer be in service.

Board members said the decision had been a long time coming and one they did not take lightly. Extra funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act helped keep the police department around a little longer, Village President Christopher Bornhoeft said, but this day was always going to come because the village could not keep running on a deficit.

The move will provide more police coverage to Hampton residents, he said.

“This is not new, people; this is already happening,” he said. “We have to put money away for the future ... there is a lot that goes into running a village ... a lot more than police.”

Sheriff Darren Hart said his department hoped to work out a contract with the village before Hampton’s fiscal year began in May 2024. Hart also said Hampton would not be the first town in Rock Island County to contract with the Sheriff’s department. Other towns in the county that have a contract with the sheriff’s department are Andalusia, Carbon Cliff, Cordova, Port Byron, Rapids City and Hillsdale.

‘Lack of transparency’

The vote came after a lengthy public comment discussion from residents. The Heritage Center was packed, with at least a hundred in attendance and Hampton police officers standing in the back. Extra tables and chairs were brought out for more seats as people filed in, with some standing in the doorways.

At least half a dozen spoke, expressing their anger over what they saw as the lack of transparency. They said they were blindsided and that the vote should be tabled so more input could be given on dissolving the police force and having the county provide services.

Residents expressed support for the Hampton Police Department, saying they want their own officers and department to remain. Hampton employs one full-time officer, along with additional part-time officers.

Resident Stacy Jones expressed her anger, saying the board held several backdoor and undocumented meetings, conducting business on behalf of the public without public notice.

“You have failed in duty of obedience,” Jones said. “You have failed to carry out your oath of office.”

She also said the board failed to post the meeting agenda online in the required amount of time in accordance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Jones was not the only resident who said the board failed to notify the public of Monday’s meeting, stating that the agenda was not online.

Board members said the printed agenda was posted on the doors of the Heritage Center on Friday.

Nick Armstrong, who said he has lived in Hampton for 25 years, said he was willing to pay higher taxes if it meant keeping their own police department. He also expressed concern over transparency, saying it’s the first time many residents in attendance heard of contracting with the county for services.

“Transparency ... we want that as a community; that is all we are asking for,” Armstrong said.

Given the amount of people in attendance, Armstrong said, it is clear dissolving the police department is not supported by the community.

Bornhoeft said that not all 1,700 residents of Hampton were in attendance and that the village board had a duty to look out for the entire village — not just those in attendance.

No matter the vote, Bornhoeft said, residents will still continue to receive the coverage they need and police services are not disappearing. He stressed numerous times that when a Hampton officer is not working, county officers are already picking up those calls and providing coverage.

Whether people realize it or not, he said, the village already has been relying on the county for extra coverage.

Residents also were urging the board to table the vote, stating more time and consideration should be given for public input on the issue. Resident Elliot Stone urged the board to table the vote to find out what other solutions there may be.

Residents also expressed concern in delayed response time, stating that an officer in town could response faster. But Bornhoeft said that is not always the case and stated that in September, there were at least 50 shifts the Hampton Police Department did not cover and relied on the county officers to respond.

Hart said the Sheriff’s Department and Hampton officials would work out how often they wanted coverage provided and look to have the Hampton Police station become a substation for county officers. The sheriff’s department plans to have a dedicated officer for the village.

Nearby mayors express benefits

Mayors from Hillsdale, Port Byron and Cordova also were in attendance and spoke after listening to the concerns of the residents. All said they understood the concern residents were expressing, but said smaller villages can only do so much before funds run out.

Hillsdale Mayor T.J. Francis said his village had problems with staffing, and when he took over five years ago, one of the first things he had to do was look at and move forward with disbanding the Hillsdale Police Department for similar reasons as Hampton. His father, Bill Francis, was a police chief, he said, and knows how difficult it can be on smaller villages to fund departments and have adequate police coverage.

“It’s not an easy issue,” he said. “Sometimes, you have to take the emotion out of it and think about what’s best financially and viability-wise.”

Port Byron Mayor Barb Cray and Cordova Mayor James Boone also spoke, saying it was a hard decision to make but in the long run had saved the towns money and more coverage from county officers was provided than what their own police departments could do.

“We get great service (from the county sheriff’s) and a lot of the deputies live in Port Byron,” Cray said. “We get really great coverage ... service ... for way less money.”

The three said they also received pushback from residents but knew it was the right decision to make in the long run in order to continue surviving on the funds they did have.

Trustees’ response, what’s next?

Trustee Steffanie Adams said the board had discussed budget concerns with the police department the past four years and the decision had come down to money. The police department, Adams said, has become more difficult to fund since they are required to make changes based on state regulations and changes the county makes.

Keeping up with those regulations, she said, is difficult since it requires more money to be spent — money they can’t continue to try to supply on deficit.

“We were operating in the red, which means any money that we had saved ... we were having to borrow to keep this village running,” Adams said. “The gravitas of this situation is not lost on any of us.”

Trustee Mark White said as a former law enforcement officer of over three decades, it came down to a business decision. White said his concern was the village did not have the coverage it needed and it was already difficult to hire police officers.

“We made an honest effort to try to keep these guys and go as far as we are,” White said, acknowledging the officers in the back of the room.


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