KEMP - As rural American struggles to find its financial footing during this slow economic recovery, no longer is it uncommon for a small town to fire its police force.
On Tuesday, the Kaufman County City of Kemp in Northeast Texas, home to about 1,200 people, became the latest entity who could no longer afford its police department.
Matt Gannsle is the former mayor of Kemp, now a resident of Oregon, whose term ended nearly one year ago. And while there were certainly financial hardships during his time in office, Gannsle tells KETR he never anticipated a full dismantling of the force.
“When the recession hit and the property tax values went down it definitely raised a lot of red flags a long time ago,” Gannsle said. “We did quite a few things to save money. We laid off the city administrator when I was mayor. And the city secretary and the council and I all stepped up and took over those duties so that we didn’t have to lay off those police officers.”
Citizens will now rely on the sheriff’s department for law enforcement. Gannsle says there is also a constable based in Kemp who may provide additional assistance.
While initial reaction to the layoffs has been frustration, Gannsle believes calmer heads will prevail.
“Kemp is a small town and it’s a strong town. They’ve been through tougher things before and they’ll get through this too. The town always in the end will come together and they’ll find a long term solution that will work and grow and evolve as the town will.”
Kemp is not the first East Texas town to cut its police force. Last year, the City of Alto in Cherokee County furloughed officers because of the city's budget shortfall. Four months later, the department was reinstated after a rash of burglaries at residences and businesses.
Fortunately a majority of cities are not faced with such dire fiscal matters. But this December 2011 report by The Blaze cities a number of towns across the U.S. that had to cut ties with its police force due to budget concerns.