Law Enforcement Merger in Franklin/Simpson?

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The city of Franklin considers combining the city and county law enforcement agencies.

Six months after merging fire departments, Franklin is now considering a plan to merge law enforcement agencies.

If approved, the Franklin Police Department would take over all county law enforcement responsibilities, but the plan is not without its share of controversy.

The Simpson County Sheriff's duties are under dispute.

"Their responsibility is to collect taxes. Additionally they are charged with serving civil papers and third serve as security for court. Law enforcement is almost a secondary responsibility," Judge-Executive Jim Henderson explained the law for Kentucky Sheriff's.

Simpson County Sheriff Gene Starks isn't happy about the possibility of taking away the department's duties.

"All you have to do is read Kentucky statutes and see how it applies to law enforcement as much as civil and court services," Sheriff Starks said.

Sheriff Starks is publicly and privately against handing over all law enforcement duties to city police.

The move would require his budget be cut almost in half by the fiscal court.

"It would cost me just as much to provide law enforcement as it would funneling money from this office to another," Starks said.

Mayor Jim Brown said the cost is coming from the Sheriff's Office serving the entire county, but having very few deputies.

As it is right now, the police department is constantly helping the sheriff's office on calls.

Brown said by combining forces he can promise job security to sheriff's deputies.

"The primary goal is a policemen could work for the city of Franklin and not be affected by change in politicians," Brown explained, but sheriff's deputies like John Coats feel their job is actually threatened.

"That's a major concern, going to another place and starting again from ground zero," Coats said.

"All I can promise for sure is we'd gladly accept applications," Brown said. He also said no elected official can promise job security.

"Simply completing an application doesn't guarantee a job," Coats said.

Deputies are upset their seniority, vacation and benefits will be stripped if they start anew and work for city police, but Jim Henderson said in his nine years of Executive Judgeship he only recalls one deputy who isn't considered what he calls short timer.

"There's only one deputy sheriff that's been there long enough and is senior enough that his pay is larger than the starting pay of the police department," Henderson said.

Henderson and Brown say every other deputy would be financially better off working with the police department.

"We have to weigh what's the most beneficial and effective to the most people and many times that involves unpleasant things to a few people."
Mayor Brown said.

The Sheriff wants to remind the judge and mayor those few people are still his employees and he won't let them go that easy.

"If they can convince me they can provide better service to this county and for cheaper than I can, then I might ... might lean," Sheriff Starks said.

The move will mean the city of Franklin will expand possibly down to Kentucky Downs and will incorporate a few neighborhoods outside county limits. Click here to see a map.

To see copies of the definition of the Sheriff Department duties click here.

On April 17, 2007, at 6:00 p.m. there will be a public meeting with fiscal court and the city commission.

The possibility of adding seven new police officers to the Franklin Police Department will be discussed.

The fiscal court and city commission will consider how much it will cost to add additional officers, expanding the city limits and if collecting taxes from a larger vicinity would pay for additional officers.

Currently the sheriff's budget is about $800, 000 and fiscal court wants to cut it down by roughly half.

If an agreement is reached the sheriff's duties would take on a primary administration service rather than law enforcement although he would still reign as the Chief Law Enforcement Agency.

To view a list of new law enforcement guidelines, click here.