Bland aldermen vote 4-0 to demote BPD to part-time

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 3/15/23

Bland aldermen on Feb. 28 voted 4-0 to move its police department to part-time with set hours and no benefits.

According to Mayor Pro-Tem Merrilee Spurgeon at the March 13 meeting the board …

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Bland aldermen vote 4-0 to demote BPD to part-time


Bland aldermen on Feb. 28 voted 4-0 to move its police department to part-time with set hours and no benefits.

According to Mayor Pro-Tem Merrilee Spurgeon at the March 13 meeting the board still needs to further discuss the move, but they are planning for the change to take effect on April 1, pending other developments.

“We are wanting to save our expenses and we were wanting to wait ‘till later on and make everyone part-time,” Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon, Aldermen Matt Dittman and Jim Carpenter were present for the discussion that followed the reading of the Feb. 28 closed session minutes. Alderman Ron Schafferkoetter had left a few minutes prior.

The Bland Police Department is currently under the administration of Chief Dwayne Goodridge as well as two part-time officers. Goodridge, the only full-time officer, will be the lone disadvantaged official.

“We will give Dwayne 20 hours a week and save on the insurance until we can get back up on our feet financially and see where we are at,” Spurgeon said.

During the board’s financial discussion, City Clerk Diane Decker mentioned one of the financial columns showed a negative $41,000 and that the financials weren’t right. Former alderman Diana Mayfield used to do the financials, but the board wasn’t happy with the work and suggested hiring a CPA. When Mayfield stepped down, they hired a CPA. Decker suggested they call the CPA to get the figures straightened out.

Spurgeon estimated that Goodridge currently works around 32 hours a week for the city. The other two police officers work an estimated 15 hours a week each.

The Bland police chief is not employed by another department. If he accepts the demotion he would be serving the community without insurance.

Spurgeon said recently-appointed Alderman Ron Schafferkoetter suggested the plan and the board approved it.

“The board came up with the plan in closed session,” Spurgeon said. “There are a lot of opinions on it. It was voted on, and as of April 1 our PD will go to part-time unless we find a reason not to. We will have to revisit that decision. As it stands right now, that is the plan.”

Bland Mayor Kenny Sullinger, who has been out due to illness since December, said Tuesday morning that he was unaware of the board’s changes or discussions regarding the police department.

“I had no clue what they were doing,” Sullinger said. “Ron Schafferkoetter has been trying to get rid of the police department since he was in government in Bland before.”

Goodridge said on Monday night following the announcement that it was the first time he has heard that the board say anything about demoting his department.

“After the adjourned the meeting, I said to Merrilee, ‘I am not going to have any benefits come April?’” Goodridge said. “I can’t work here without benefits. That was part of me being police chief. This department cannot operate without a head — without a police chief.”

Goodridge, who was friends with Hermann police officer and Rosebud Police Chief Mason Griffith who died in the line of duty on March 12, told the board during his department report prior to the board’s announcement that he had participated in the police escort for Griffith earlier in the evening.

“Mason and I clicked,” Goodridge said later. “We got along really well, he gave me a lot of good pointers.” 

The dangers to police officers, even in rural communities, are present.

He considers the department to be doing well and mentioned many “firsts” this month.

The Bland Municipal Court held its first trial, and the court received $5,710.95 in fine revenue and court costs — the most since the department started back.

A law enforcement tax payout — $5,300 — was delivered to the city for November through February.

“With our new law enforcement tax and really good court, the department took in over $10,000 this month,” Goodridge said. “It is not like that in every court session, but this was a very successful session.”

A traffic study, delivered by Goodridge, also revealed nearly 81,000 cars passed through the city limits on Missouri Highway 28 in the last month.

Later, when the board read motions from the closed-session meeting about the change in PD status, Goodridge was notably surprised.

“It caught me completely off guard,” he said. “Especially when you feel like the department is doing really well. Could we have more hours, better hours, more attentive part-time positions than we have?”

He said both part-time officers, Rob Green and Darrel Chrisenberry, have a great flow in their shifts. One tends to work days and the other has weekend availability. 

“All these guys’ schedules flowed because of their full-time jobs,” he said. “I get it, towns or boards would like your hours to be extremely dependable, but with part-time employees, especially in the police department, it sometimes varies.”

Goodridge was hired in 2017 to reorganize and restart the department. He became police chief around 2019 when the citizens approved a ballot initiative to hire a police chief instead of an elected marshal.

“We are so much further ahead than we were,” Goodridge said. “Three to five years ago the department was pretty much nonexistent. I am in awe that they would consider doing what they voted on.”

The city of Bland has not purchased police equipment. Goodridge has been fortunate to go through the state’s surplus supply for some needs, but mostly the officers have brought their equipment with them.

“We supply our own safety equipment,” Goodridge said. “(The city doesn’t) purchase their own equipment. They don’t know how fortunate they are to have officers that have their own equipment, because it is costly.”

The officers use their own weapons, tasers and vests.

“They don’t supply anything and they never ask us if we need anything,” Goodridge added.