By Brett Gillin
Wellston, Missouri no longer has a police department to call their own. The city of 2,300 watched as all 23 of their police officers were forced to turn in their badges earlier this week, after their police department was disbanded, thanks to a city council vote. While the move caught quite a few residents by surprise, those that were plugged into the tensions between the city council and the police department may have seen the writing on the wall.
As LEO Affairs reported earlier this year, tensions between a certain city councilwoman and the police department had been heating up for quite some time. Late in 2013, Wellston police officers raided the home of Terrance Dixon after getting a tip that he was selling crack cocaine and heroin out of the house. Terrance Dixon happens to be the son of city councilwoman Janet Dixon, and according to sources, Councilwoman Dixon did not take kindly to the raid. A short time after the raid, three officers, including the one that captured Dixon on tape confessing to selling drugs out of his house, were fired by the city council.
While the original firings were reversed, when police were called to another incident, this time involving domestic violence, the suspect happened to be Terrence Dixon yet again. The officer was summarily fired, again, after attempting to get to the bottom of the domestic disturbance, most likely due to Councilwoman Dixon’s influence.
Despite the growing friction between the police force and the city council, Wellston police continued to do their jobs to the best of their ability, until Monday. That’s the day they found that the locks to the department had been changed, and that each of the 23 police officers were forced to hand over their guns and badges, according to Fox 2 News.
In an extremely interesting coincidence, according to KMOV.com, Councilwoman Janet Dixon was arrested on Monday morning under suspicion of possessing a defaced firearm. She was released from jail shortly after 3:00 pm on Monday, and happened to vote to disband the police department just four hours later.
The Wellston City Council voted 5-2 in a closed session to completely disband the police department. Instead, they would bring in officers from the neighboring Vinita Park to police their neighborhood. Officially, according to StlToday.com, the move was meant to cut spending in the cash-strapped city.
“With limited resources, I think it is so important for our cities to at least consider collaborating and sharing more resources,” Wellston Mayor Nate Griffin told reporters.
Wellston Police Chief G.T. Walker had a much different take on why the department was disbanded. He claims that it was a direct result of “dirty politics” that the department was disbanded, claiming that Dixon herself led the charge to disband the department after the arrests of her son and herself.
One of the other Councilwomen, Linda Garner, strongly opposed the move to disband the department, telling reporters that she was angry that the vote seemed to be made in extreme haste and without opening discussion with the public.
According to this report in Fox 2, Former Police Chief G.T. Walker was offered a job in the new department, but he declined to take the job, saying he “couldn’t take the job in good conscience” after the other officers were let go.
Each of the officers will be “eligible to apply for jobs” this week in the new department. There is no official word as to how many job openings will be available for new police officers.