KIPTON — The remaining two officers of the Kipton Police Department turned in their badges Wednesday night — effectively disbanding the police force shortly after a Village Council committee discussed dissolving it.
“They don’t want the headaches, that’s all they said,” Mayor Dennis Watson said.
Officers Dave Goldenberg and Jennifer Strunk were the last two part-time officers on the troubled department, which has seen its chief and his temporary replacement suspended since the beginning of the year.
Other officers resigned earlier in the year because they weren’t working the 20-hour a month shifts they were required to under their agreement with the village.
Goldenberg and Strunk defended their department at the meeting of Council’s Police Committee, saying that if Council does decide to eliminate the department, village residents wouldn’t be as safe, particularly from speeders on state Route 511.
The pair also defended themselves from accusations from residents at the meeting that officers were overaggressive with ticket writing and that people drove out of their way to avoid the village because of the town’s reputation.
“I’m ashamed. I don’t even want to say where I’m from because we have such a bad reputation,” said Council President Bob Meilander.
Council plans to meet next Thursday to decide whether to close the department and have the county sheriff’s office take over law enforcement responsibilities. About 75 of the village’s approximately 280 residents also have signed a petition calling for the end of the police department.
Police Chief Pablo Cruz, who has been suspended since February, is in the process of being fired by the village. Lt. Robert Wolfkill, who headed up an investigation into Cruz being paid twice for $98 worth of film he purchased for the village Christmas party in December, was suspended after he was indicted in Huron County last week on charges of theft from an elderly person.
Wolfkill is accused of obtaining power of attorney for an elderly woman he met while working as a police officer in Huron County and stealing from her to help deal with his financial problems.
Cruz has been under investigation by Watson and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation since April for allegedly falsifying training documents. That investigation is nearly complete and on Wednesday, Watson sent Cruz a letter notifying him of his intent to fire him from the $7-an-hour, 30-hour-a-month job.
Meilander said he has long been a supporter of the police department, but for some reason the problems don’t seem to be going away. He said he wants to eliminate the department, create a neighborhood watch program and use sheriff’s deputies for patrolling and investigations.
Several other Council members, who declined to comment after the meeting, nodded their heads as Meilander spoke.
Councilman Rick Krueck disagreed, saying after the meeting that he wants to keep the department intact. Council also plans to discuss the possibility of bringing in new officers.
“I’d like to see the police department stay,” Krueck said. “I live on 511 and see traffic flying through town all the time.”
Until Wednesday, Kipton’s police department was staffed by near volunteers, officers who worked about 20 hours a month in exchange for $1 a year and a law enforcement agency that kept their certifications current.
Contact Brad Dicken at 653-6258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.