Garden City, MO – The police chief who was ordered to fire the entire police force on Nov. 14 by the Garden City mayor has been suspended pending investigation.
Garden City Police Chief Tom Alber said that when he arrived at his office on Monday morning, he was greeted by the mayor and a Cass County sheriff’s deputy, who were waiting out front, WDAF reported.
Chief Alber said that Garden City Mayor Daniel Cantrell told him that the city’s board of aldermen had held an emergency meeting on Thursday and decided to suspend the police chief without pay.
The chief said he was shocked by the mayor’s news and called the move “concerning.”
Initially, the mayor and the Garden City board of aldermen had ordered Chief Alber to lay off the entire police force, made up of seven full-time and five volunteer officers.
“At about 10:00 this morning, Chief Alber was notified the City of Garden City was to ‘lay off’ 100% of the Police Department staff effective immediately,” the police department posted on its official Facebook page on Wednesday morning.
“No explanation was given nor plans to staff the police department beyond the Chief,” the message read.
“No further guidance was given for pending criminal cases or coverage of the city when the Chief is not on duty,” it ended.
The mayor tried to claim the decision to disband the police department was made for budget reasons in a Facebook post on his personal page.
“For many years the city police department has been operating over budget. The Council of this city and I have looked at the budget for some time now and deemed it necessary to make the cuts necessary to help the city prosper and not fail,” Cantrell wrote. “That included cutting the City Administrator position and a few officers from the police department.”
“We lost two full-time positions and a part-time position in the police department,” he continued. “We should still have the reserve officers when the grants are available I believe and we have several men to cover that.”
Chief Alber disagreed with the mayor’s representation and said the decision to shutter the police department was not about the budget.
Garden City has a population of approximately 1,625 residents. It is located in southeast Cass County, about 50 miles south of Kansas City.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office will be stepping into the gap left by the shuttering of the Garden City Police Department, KSHB reported.
Officials at the sheriff’s department told KSHB that they didn’t receive any warning about the change.
“We were caught off guard,” Cass County Sheriff’s Captain Mitch Phillips said. “Myself and another captain were together when we got a message about the Facebook post. Next thing, we were getting a call from the sheriff [Jeff Weber] asking us what we knew.”
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office already responded to emergency calls in Garden City, and will continue to manage Garden City’s 911 calls in its dispatch center and patrol the area as usual.
“We’ve always been the dispatch center for them,” Capt. Phillips told KSHB.
He said the county has always responded to emergency calls from Garden City when no local police officer was available.
“We don’t have someone in Garden City 24/7, but many times when they didn’t have someone on duty we usually respond to emergency calls down there anyway,” Capt. Phillips explained.
He said the Cass County Sheriff’s Office could increase patrols in Garden City if it was needed.
“The only real difference will be if our nearest deputy is in Harrisonville,” the captain said. “It might be a 10- or 15-minute emergency response time.”
Capt. Phillips stressed that plans were subject to change as his department had only just learned about the layoff of the Garden City PD officers, KSHB reported.