De Soto may disband its police department due to high turnover

DE SOTO, Mo. – The troubled De Soto police department may soon go out of business. A new force will begin patrolling city streets if an agreement can be reached.

De Soto city officials and leaders in the Jefferson County Sheriff Department met Friday morning to examine the possibility of sheriff’s deputies protecting the town and, ultimately, disbanding the police force.

The police department has seen 3 chiefs come and go in a less than a year. The 15-member staff is now down to 9 members.

“It worries me that they don’t have enough police on staff,” said Amy Patton, a De Soto native.

The sheriff’s department has been backing up De Soto police as of late. The town cannot compete with wages offered by nearby cities and counties, where citizens have passed propositions to increase pay for cops.

“That’s what the issue is for us. The municipal budget is not growing as quickly as police officers’ wages have,” De Soto Mayor Rich McCane said.

Beginning next week, the sheriff’s department and De Soto officials will hammer out a short-term agreement for deputies to take over public safety in town.

“In the next few days, we’ll look at the number and try to put some decent proposals together that’s everybody’s happy with,” Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak said.

The sheriff said De Soto will pay for the police coverage and he added it will not jeopardize the safety of people now protected by deputies in Jefferson County.

Once the short-term agreement is made, they will look at a long-term contract.

De Soto police officers declined to comment on the upcoming change. They’ve been told they’re welcome to apply for jobs with the county.

Citizens have mixed reactions.

“I feel like that could be a problem in the future and it’s going to affect our safety,” said Tianna Stafford.

“I feel the county can do more,” said De Soto resident Richard Black. “It seems to me they have a lot more police.”