City of Memphis, Michigan puts police department on leave

An entire local police department is on paid leave. The small town of Memphis loses its local police force after the city council decided to shut it down temporarily.

Welcome to the quaint city of Memphis - the motto, "A pleasant place to live." The small, old fashion city, only covers a little more than a square mile, situated right on the border of Macomb and St. Clair counties.

"I called an emergency meeting (Thursday) and I asked council to suspend operations at the police department, “said Mayor Eric Schneider.

The problem is the lack of a good police chief. In the past 18 months, one chief had to be fired, another demoted, then on Jan. 1, Chief Kevin Sommers died of a heart attack after only four months on the job.

"He was here for such a short time that he never had the chance to find a person that would step in," Schneider said. "So we were in turmoil. Nobody knew who is in charge. There was lack of communication between City Hall the council and myself."

A sign on the door of the police department says it's closed until further notice, it's six police officers are on paid leave until a new chief can be found.

"We don't know anything about police department stuff," Schneider said. "So we've had the county sheriff's department come in and they've been helping us."

Over at Mom's Kitchen, a few familiar faces aren't around for dinner.

"They were always here eating and making sure we get home safe," said Myra Varga, owner of Mom's Kitchen.

Instead of Memphis offices, Macomb and St. Clair County sheriff's deputies are in town patrolling - at double the price of the city's policing budget.

"It isn't a good idea to cut out the police and not have a backup plan," said resident Joe Madison. "We need them here quick."

One officer, who works with the schools, is staying on the job.

"I'm sure they're doing what's for the best," said Nancy Thomson, school district co-superintendent. "They left the officer liaison with the school so those programs will not be affected."

The mayor says he has 11 promising candidates vying for the position of chief, which comes with a $38,000 a year salary. He expects to make a choice in four to five weeks.

"If somebody calls 911, the only thing that's changed is that the car that's going to show up is going to be from the sheriff’s department," he said.  "They've been driving around here, I've seen more sheriff’s department cars here in the last two days than ever."

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