Belle mayor introduces Turnbough as police chief, discusses future of police department

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 9/21/22

BELLE — Belle Mayor Daryl White, Jr. on Sept. 13 took the time during his department head report to discuss former marshal Joe Turnbough’s return as chief of police and the future of the …

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Belle mayor introduces Turnbough as police chief, discusses future of police department


BELLE — Belle Mayor Daryl White, Jr. on Sept. 13 took the time during his department head report to discuss former marshal Joe Turnbough’s return as chief of police and the future of the Belle Police Department.

“Before I start my department head report, I’d like to take a few minutes to explain the situation and the changes the council has made in the past month,” White began.

He asked board members to “chime in if he said anything wrong.” Turnbough was hired part-time during a special morning meeting on Aug. 29, gave his two-week notice to Phelps County Health on Aug. 30 and began working full-time on Sept. 13 for the city as a police chief.

“You guys have noticed Joe is back in uniform and we have discussed this a lot,” White said. “It has not been a secret since I have been back on the council that I would like to see us nail down plans to bring the police department back in Belle.”

White said that the Maries County Sheriff’s Department is not doing a bad job, he just thinks that the community should have its own police force working alongside Maries County Sheriff’s Department.

“We advertised, we hired Joe back as a chief of police instead of a marshal,” White said. “We have never once talked about taking the vote away from the people.”

The marshal’s position will be on the April 2023 ballot and candidate sign-ups will open in December.

“Joe or anybody that meets criteria will be allowed to run for marshal,” White said.

“I speak for myself, but I feel it is a decision we need to do. I know there is a lot of miscommunication about the elections and we’re not changing the election whatsoever. Joe wants to be marshal — he may not want anything to do with it after this. Right now, I call it a probationary period.”

White said in the next six to eight months that Turnbough is working for the city he will be monitored closely.

“Joe will be working with the city not as a public official but as an employee,” White said. “He will be working hourly and he will report to the council. He is just like any other employee in that he can be reprimanded, hired or fired at any time. This is a great chance to go back and prove what we can do and improve on what we had in the past.”

White continued that the city will keep the public informed on Turnbough’s work performance via police reports.

“If Joe does a good job we will tell you Joe is doing a good job,” White said, adding that by the same token they will inform the public when he is not. “If he does not do a good job, I am going to say ‘well, we had some issues.’”

White asked if anyone had a concern that they wanted to ask about.

There were 35 members of the public in attendance at the monthly meeting that was held at the Belle-Bland Community Center instead of the Lonnie Feeler Memorial Building.

One community member asked if Turnbough would have any officers to help him.

“We are still contracting with the sheriff’s department in Belle,” White said. “We have a lot of decisions that the council still needs to make. We still have a lot of stuff to talk about. We have a proposed budget and will be discussing it in the next few days. We will be working with that budget to determine how much money it will take versus how much we have.”

Speaking for himself, White said he would like to think at some point they will have plenty of help for Turnbough.

Eventually, they will be taking over and need more help as they phase out the sheriff’s department.

“Maybe two or three officers,” White said. “We will see what we can do. I know there are a lot of people concerned about the funding. We are concerned about it too, but the sheriff’s department’s not free and we are paying a lot of money.”

White said the decision made by the board was not done “fast.”

“If anyone has read the minutes we passed at the last council meeting, the vote was 4-0,” he continued. “I don’t want to take any credit away from the council. I get quoted a lot in the newspaper. This is probably the best group I have ever worked with and I want them to know that.”

He said every decision the board makes they put a lot of time and effort into making them. 

“I am really proud of that, they make the decisions with the city and people in mind,” White said. “Let’s give everybody a chance before we judge anybody. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

White said they weren’t there to complain about the sheriff’s department or to put them down, he would just like to see the city’s police force be community entwined. The county is big and the sheriff’s department has its hands full with several hundred miles to cover. White said he would like to see the fourth graders at a ball game recognize and be able to name the chief and officers.

The three aldermen present did not comment during the meeting about the decision to bring Turnbough back into a police position, however, Turnbough asked for a chance to speak.

“I am glad you brought that up because today at the school it was a very humbling experience,” Turnbough said. “I had kids come up and hug me real tight and say ‘hey Joe, glad to have you back and I didn’t know who they are. They were so much taller. I had parents today, very humbling experience, they were dropping kids off and pulled over and they walked across the street.”

Turnbough said it was at both schools a lot on Sept. 13, beginning with the middle school during drop-off.

“Like the mayor said, no one is ever going to lose their vote. I would never participate in that,” Turnbough said. “They hired me to fill in until April. What I would like to say is I sit down with these people, and we sit in a room for over an hour and never had one argument. That is the first time in seven years that has ever happened and I appreciate that very much. I am able to communicate with them. They are able to communicate with me. We are working very hard on showin’ the public in six, seven, eight months that we have union.”

Turnbough said currently no one wants to be the person to step out of the box.

“The people in this town deserve, no matter who their marshal is, no matter who their mayor is, they deserve to see them together in unity,” Turnbough said. “I have six months to prove myself and if I do not do a good job, by all means, vote me out. But if you vote me in and these people do a good job, which I am praying they do, and we can show the city we have unity, then for the love of God, vote them in.”

Daryl White, Sr. asked Turnbough if he put in his resignation and Turnbough said he did.

White said that was one of the conditions they had before they hired Turnboug and Alderman Jeanette Struemph agreed.

“We actually suggested that maybe he have a day shift so that he is around during the day,” Struemph said. “As time goes on he will be available for an emergency should it arise. But we are still contracted with Maries County to actually do the street part of it.”

White said any time they can add another officer is great.

“I hope that in the feature that if Maries County needs assistance, Joe can help ‘em and if Bland needs assistance, Joe can help ‘em. We want to get along with everybody,” White said. “Mutual aid is a big plus.”

White said the decision was not made quickly by the board, but it is a working thing and they hope it will get better in the next 60 to 90 days.

“This is always going to be a work-in-progress no matter what,” Struemph said. “One many can’t be in all of the square footage in Belle at one time.”

White said they are going into it with an open mind.

“We know everything that happened three years ago and stuff and we are not overlooking that,” White said. “We are going into this with zero tolerance. We are going to get the job done and we are going to do a good job or we are going to move on and find somebody else.”

White said when they advertised the chief of police position, they did so in every publication available, including The Maries County Advocate, Unterrified Democrat, and Gasconade County Republican.”

White said it is an election year and he wants to take the opportunity to make changes.

“I hate the fact that after a marshal is elected they have six months to be POST certified,” White said. “That is six months that is just gone. I hate the ideal that the marshal has to live in town. I mean I think that is great but I don’t want to pick somebody that lives in town when six miles out of town there is somebody who protected the president or is really qualified. I hate to think the citizens of Belle has to settle because of these crazy rules that have been on the books the last 80-90 years.”

He said it is time to address other issues like the cost of living going up.

“It’s time to change the marshal salary and deputies salary. We are working across the table to change the employees’ salaries,” White said. “If everybody goes into this with an open mind, it will be great.”

Major Scott John who serves as chief of police for the Belle Division, asked Struemph to collaborate with him since she was there when everything first started.

“When the city approached the sheriff’s office when they first approached us, what was our first answer? Sheriff Heitman said no,” John said and Struemph agreed. “But then they said they were going to dismantle it anyways and they asked us to take and then we said fine, but only with the promise that you would bring it back.”

John said they had previously talked like it would be a five-year plan so, “We are one hundred percent for it like you said, we’ve got plenty on our plate. We will do anything we can to help as far as budget-wise, what kind of fuel expense you need to look at, what your equipment is gonna cost, who to get the equipment from and where the state bids are, we will help you with all of that. We just need to communicate, because I have guys that are worried about their job. They are worried about ‘am I gonna get fired in February? What’s gonna happen?’ We need to figure out how to absorb those employees into our budget so that our employees have peace of mind as well and we don’t have people jumping ship.”

White agreed and said they have a lot of decisions to make and will keep the sheriff’s department and the public informed.

Later, when the board went into closed session, they voted to terminate Terry Connors who was the elected 2022 marshal before he stepped down in July due to health reasons but agreed to stay on as a code enforcement officer.

According to closed session minutes, “Struemph made a motion to terminate Code Enforcement Officer Terry Connors and add his duties to Chief of Police Joe Turnbough. The motion was passed with a 3-0 vote.


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