MCSO-Belle policing contract survey receives 150 responses

Feedback shows overwhelming support for sheriff’s department

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 3/6/21

A Belle policing satisfaction survey conducted by The Maries County Advocate in January and February had 150 responses from the county and surrounding areas over a month-long period.

The …

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MCSO-Belle policing contract survey receives 150 responses

Feedback shows overwhelming support for sheriff’s department


A Belle policing satisfaction survey conducted by The Maries County Advocate in January and February had 150 responses from the county and surrounding areas over a month-long period.

The eight-question anonymous survey asked for the public’s opinion on local police coverage conducted under the Maries County Sheriff’s Department Belle Division contract as well as the service provided by elected Marshal Joe Turnbough. The survey was created because Feb. 1 marked the completion of the one-year anniversary of the two-year police contract.

The Maries County Advocate uploaded the survey to its Facebook page in January before community members requested it run in the newspaper for those without social media accounts. Staff collected the responses and uploaded them to the online survey for the public to view.

The first question asked participants to identify where they reside. Of the 150 responses, 71.3 percent said they reside in the city limits, 20.7 percent said they live within a few miles surrounding Belle, and the remaining 8 percent either live in the vicinity of the town, county, or work/own a business in Belle.

The second question asked participants if they were satisfied with the Maries County Sheriff’s Department Belle Division’s police coverage, of which 77.3 percent said yes, 14.7 percent said no and 8 percent said they are undecided. 

When asked to comment what they were most pleased or displeased about with the Belle Division’s coverage in the third question, 131 respondents gave various written answers.

“I am pleased with seeing the presence of officers patrolling in town,” one person responded. “It is important for community members to see law enforcement out and about.”

Another respondent said, “I have seen officers write tickets and then break that same law the next week. Seen them write a ticket to one person while wave at another person breaking the same law.”

From the other side of the county, one Vienna resident expressed concern that officers are always in Belle.

“They are always in Belle and there is often no coverage anywhere in the county. - Not they keep 1/2 of the fine money,” They wrote.

Another responder in the county said, “Our Maries County Sheriff’s Department seem to always be in Belle. We need better sheriff coverage around Vienna and west.”

Others responded that the Belle Division enforces the law, they are visible, involved in the community, have a prompt response time, and are proactive. Still, others feel the coverage “has been nearly the same as before, wish a Belle Division representative was more present at the city meetings, feel the officers don’t respond well when asked questions, or simply feel that the city marshal should be doing the job because the city pays for the position.”

The fourth question was if the public had noticed changes in the police coverage in the community and 134 participants responded.

“Definitely!” one person wrote. “At any given time, a person can drive through town and find a police officer (sometimes two or three) with no problem. A huge improvement over the coverage of the previous six years.”

Many said they feel safer in the community, see a positive change from the police force presence, and believe crimes are being solved faster, and drugs are being dealt with consistently.

Other respondents said they haven’t seen a lot of change.

“No, I sure haven’t,” another wrote. “Sometimes they will come to your call, and sometimes they will not even show up. It’s really sad that you almost have to say to the dispatch ‘shots fired’ before they will come right away.”

Complaints included officers are sitting in their vehicles around town or are present at local restaurants or city hall instead of being out on the roads. Others think they are being provided less coverage.

In question five, respondents were asked about the marshal’s role after the new police contract was implemented.

“The city’s contract with the sheriff’s department allows the city marshal to continue providing police services in the community. Are you satisfied with the marshal’s coverage?”

Of the 147 respondents, 68.7 percent said not satisfied, 20.4 percent said yes, satisfied, and 10.9 percent were undecided. 

In question six, when asked what they were most pleased or displeased with about the marshal’s coverage, 128 responded.

Those who are satisfied with the marshal’s coverage said, “Sounds to me like the marshal is doing the best as he can with what he is working with.”

Another said, “He is as willing to help when he is needed.” 

Another respondent said the marshal is still in the know.

“He is in town and aware of those who continues to steal, rob, do the drugs, but the court just keep a running tab on them and let them out to continue (sic).”

Those who are pleased with the marshal’s services also included that he works well with Maries County deputies, that they wished Turnbough could be “supported the way he used to be,” and that he does a good job.

Most responses were displeased with the marshal’s service.

“He is still getting paid, yet I haven’t seen him performing any duties he was elected for,” one respondent said. “He still has law enforcement powers, but doesn’t use them. Basically, he is exactly the same as before the sheriff’s department started their patrols.”

Other respondents believe that the marshal’s second job is distracting him from the elected position.

“You don’t ever see him out and about anymore,” one person wrote. “Maybe he’s too busy with his other job. I’m not sure. And maybe he is around and I just haven’t seen him. Seems to me he has sort of disappeared while still drawing pay from the city.”

Another respondent says the marshal is a “good man,” but not good for the position.

“He simply does not do his job. He does not fulfill his duties as marshal. He does not report like he should. He does not engage in city council meetings like a professional. He may be a good guy, but he is an incompetent marshal,” the responder wrote.

Still others are unhappy with the marshal’s work all around.

“Never see him, plus he is very immature,” the responder began. “Watching city council meetings he gets his feelings hurt and he stomps off. Very unprofessional. Also he mentioned multiple times taking the mayor on calls for ordinance violations. It seems he can’t do his job with (sic) his hand being held. If the mayor is doing half of Joe’s work he should get half of Joe’s salary. I’m all for a marshal but it needs to be a different one. Joe said he is “acting” marshal. He definitely is acting like a child.”

In question seven, respondents were asked if the Belle Board of Aldermen should begin working to reestablish the Belle Police Department now so that it may be implemented once the two-year contract with the sheriff’s department is complete. Of the 148 respondents, 66.9 percent said no, 24.3 percent said yes and 8.8 percent said not sure.

Question eight, answered by 107 participants, asked if they had anything else they wanted to add to their opinion of the police contract or roles of each department.

“As a long time member of the community I am still saddened by the loss of our own police force,” one respondent began. “However, we were not being served or protected by the marshal. Smiles, prayers, and handshakes do not protect the town. Anyone who had to rely on him to actually make a difference were sorely let down.”

Another respondent wrote, “The sheriff’s department doesn’t belong patrolling Belle. We have our own marshal position with our own deputies and it needs to stay that way. The contract with the sheriff’s department needs terminated. This contract with the sheriff’s department has got Belle in the negative. It will never pay off it will always be in the minus. Our marshal position needs put back together and left alone. How would they feel if we took over their police force in Vienna, taking over their town? There’s lots of people in the Belle community that do not approve of the sheriff’s department being here. Let alone being paid twice with our tax dollars. We didn’t want this.”

Other respondents said they were happy to have the coverage from the police department, and that the decision to contract the police force to the county has improved the town.

One respondent demanded the return of the city’s marshal, another asked why the sheriff’s department doesn’t patrol the town regardless of the contract.

“This never should have taken place,” another person wrote, “I understand there were some issues between the board and marshal but overwhelmingly the town voted against this and would again if given the chance.”

Another asked why the town should change back to a system that hasn’t worked in seven years, and a few others believe the marshal should step down from his position.

A small few, however, had suggestions to make or questions about the current situation.

“The businesses used to have walk-throughs just to proactively police,” one respondent began. “We still need that. Takes no time at all to drive through parking lots or in some cases do a quick walk through.” 

Another asked the board to consider eliminating the marshal’s position.

“The marshal system should be eliminated,” they said. “It is outdated and obviously does not give the city council the ability to hold the police department accountable.” 

Another suggested replacing the marshal’s position with an employee police chief.

“I feel that the city should hire a chief of police rather than public voting in a marshal. Someone that knows what they’re doing and creditable.”

A few commented on the school resource officer (SRO) provided from the county.

“The SRO is amazing and should be highlighted on the department’s Facebook page to show the citizens what he is up to.”  

Others asked if the contract was saving the city financially.

Feb. 1, 2021, completed the first year of the two-year contract with the county to outsource the Belle Police Department. Visit to view the full survey and responses.


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