Varnell City Council Votes To Disband Police Department, Mayor Says He Will Veto

Varnell is a small city in Whitfield County with a population of over 1,700.  They have a police department as one of their city’s services.  Well, they did until the city council made a surprise move this week and voted to disband the department.

A little back story:

The Varnell Police responded to a domestic disturbance called that was made by Varnell Councilman Shane Fowler’s wife against him.  The councilman yelled and poked his finger in the chest of an officer.  Over a week later, an arrest warrant was taken out against Councilman Fowler.  Councilman David Owens thought the delay was odd, but Police Chief Lyle Grant said that he wanted an independent investigator to review the evidence and to bring it before the mayor and council to see if charges were necessary.  Councilman Fowler resigned from the city council effective July 3rd.

The council decided to suspend Chief Grant and have the GBI investigate the department’s policy, but the GBI did not take up the investigation.

Fast forward to earlier this week, it was expected that Chief Grant would be reinstated, but the council voted 3-1 to disband the police department calling it a duplication of services.  The Whitfield County Sheriff’s Department does ride through the area, but Varnell Mayor Anthony Hulsey calls it just that as deputies travel from one part of the county to the other and not an actual patrol of the town.

This morning, Chattanooga ABC affiliate NewsChannel 9 reported that Varnell’s city attorney says that the council’s actions violate Georgia’s sunshine law because their intention to disband the police department was not made public in proper time.  Mayor Anthony Hulsey has said that he would veto the action.  The Chattanooga Times-Free Press reports that the mayor is expected to sign the veto at noon today.

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Lea ThracerickdaySaltycracker Recent comment authors
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The coordination with the sheriff was notable! Citizens clinging to very small incorporated cities have too much discretionary money or ego.


Update: Mayor Vetos but can be overridden at next council meeting. Police reinstated for now:

Some data on Varnell from City Scape.

Crime rates in Varnell (2005):
0 murders (0.0 per 100,000)
0 rapes (0.0 per 100,000)
0 robberies (0.0 per 100,000)
6 assaults (382.7 per 100,000)
28 burglaries (1,785.7 per 100,000)
106 thefts (6,760.2 per 100,000)
7 auto thefts (446.4 per 100,000) crime rate = 507.7 (higher means more crime, US average = 312.9)

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2010, including police officers: 12 (12 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here: 7.70
Georgia average: 2.85

Lea Thrace
Lea Thrace

For me, this looks to be a scenario where the correct thing is done for all the wrong reasons.