For a police department with five full-time officers, losing any staff member can be burdensome.
But losing four officers in about a month constitutes a bit of a crisis.
That’s the position in which Fair Grove city leaders found themselves last month, so they’ve called on Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott for help.
The city of Fair Grove entered into a mutual aid agreement with Arnott on July 28 that calls for Greene County deputies to patrol the small city north of Springfield and respond to 911 calls there and for Arnott (who lives in Fair Grove) to supervise the department and help pick the next police chief.
The agreement, which does not appear to have a financial component, will be in place for up to 90 days.
“They just asked for some help to keep them in 24-hour policing,” Arnott said. “We do that for other small municipal departments to help them.”
Arnott said he anticipates the Fair Grove Police Department, which has three reserve officers in addition to the full-time cop, would be back to full strength fairly soon.
As for how Fair Grove got in this position, one member of the Board of Alderman said there was tension between the old police guard and some newly appointed city leaders that came to a head at a July 14 meeting.
Alderwoman Dayna Ault said every year the police chief is required to go before the Board of Aldermen which votes on whether or not he should be retained. At that July 14 meeting, the vote was split 3-to-3 on whether Chief Adam Mallory should be reappointed.
The tie meant Mallory could stay on as police chief, but — perhaps put off by the lack of unanimous support — Mallory resigned days later, followed soon after by Sgt. Tyler Gerling.
An attempt to reach Mallory for comment was not successful by press time.
The departures of Mallory and Gerling, coupled with some previous resignations, led to Fair Grove leaders calling on Arnott for help.
“Some of the guys contacted the sheriff and said ‘you know, we’ve got some real problems, we’re going to need to some extra oversight,'” Ault said.
Ault said after Arnott got involved, the city ended up firing another officer who had recently been hired at Fair Grove. That officer had previously been fired from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.
Fair Grove Mayor Steve Short, who ran in June on a platform that included reducing the police force from six to five (which happened earlier this summer), said he was surprised to see Chief Mallory resign after the July 14 reappointment, but he’s confident in the city’s plan going forward.
“We’re going to be moving along quickly on this, especially getting the police chief hired,” Short said. “We’ve already had several applications put in for these positions, so that’s encouraging for us.”
Short said city leaders have also discussed other changes like increasing officer salaries and moving to 12-hour shifts so it’s easier to ensure 24-hour coverage and deal with things like vacation and sick days.
Short said he and Officer Patrick Williams (the department’s only remaining full-time officer) visited the businesses in Fair Grove to explain the current policing arrangement as well as some of the plans going forward, and business leaders were generally supportive.
“I think what our community is looking for is more community and neighborhood policing and having more contact with individual citizens and especially businesses,” Short said.
Short said the agreement with Arnott also calls for the sheriff to look for any problems related to the police department’s record-keeping and evidence storage.
Sheriff Arnott said as of this week he had not noticed any glaring issues.
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