Breaking News
More () »

Newton City Council votes unanimously against disbanding city's police department

Newton County Sheriff Robert Burby says his office can take over if needed.

NEWTON, Texas — Newton City Council members voted Thursday against getting rid of the small East Texas city's police department after meetings about the issue this week.

Council members discussed shutting down the Newton Police Department and transferring city law enforcement responsibilities to the Newton County Sheriff's Office according to two items on the agenda for Thursday night's meeting.

Both agenda items mentioned "possible action." The agenda was posted on Monday, July 4, 2022. During the Thursday, July 7 meeting, the city council voted unanimously against disbanding the police department.

"I've been mayor 10 or 12 years. This is twice I’ve seen it full," said Newton Mayor Mark Bean.

The small city hall room was packed, with people sitting on the floor, standing against the walls, and more people still trying to make their way in.

"I knew we had some strong support and it shows," said Newton Police Chief William Jackson.

Jackson would have been one of four officers who would have lost their jobs if the motion to disband had been approved.

The Newton County Sheriff's Office would have taken over their responsibilities.

"The citizens of Newton have spoken," Jackson said.

And it didn't take long. After a few minutes of public comment, the council voted unanimously against the motion to disband.

"They don't want this, and I knew they didn't want it,” Jackson said. “I'm glad it came to a lot, it's been talked about. It's been tabled. We're done. We're going to move forward. We're going to put this behind us."

But the question for a lot of people was how did the city even get here?

Bean said there have been ongoing issues between the city police and county sheriff.

"It's not that we're trying to defund the police. Or anything. We actually need more police officers in both the county and in the city,” Bean said.

He said the council had discussed these issues several times and thought turning people's attention to the issue might solve the problem.

"So we thought about making this so we get some people's attention,” Bean said. “And we did and that's what we want to move their head up. We want them to be involved.”

Ultimately, he hopes this situation builds unity.

"I want this to work together as one not combined, but as one so that everybody is on the same page,” Bean said.

The sheriff wasn't at the Thursday night meeting. On Wednesday night he told 12News that this wasn't his idea.

Chief Jackson said he hopes they can set their differences aside and protect the people of Newton together.

Previous coverage surrounding the issue is below.

Agenda item seven mentions discontinuing law enforcement by the city as well as a repeal of all ordinances and resolutions dealing with the creation of and any action of a police department.

Agenda item eight mentions providing "funding" to pay the county for law enforcement.

Newton County Sheriff Robert Burby tells 12News that it is not his intention to take over the police department saying he's not a decision-maker for the city of Newton.

But if the police department is disbanded, he's ready to step in.

"If they disband, who else will be there for the citizens of Newton County," Burby asks. "A citizen in need in Newton is a citizen in need."

The Newton County Sheriff's office currently has 14 deputies and the sheriff to cover the county according to Burby. Some County officials feel disbanding the police department will only make things harder for the sheriff's office. 

Leanord Powell is the Newton County precinct 4 commissioner elect. He has his fair share of concerns when it comes to disbanding the police department.

“So precinct 4, although we are not the city of newton, we have concerns, because we often have a lack of coverage from the sheriff’s department,” Powell said.  

Newton County is approximately 934 square miles, has more than 12,000 residents but has very few deputies patrolling the large area, according to Powell.

"If a call is out in mid-way in the county, a lot of times it’s a deputy that around Deweyville that will respond to that," Powell said. 

This can be a problem when it comes to emergency situations. Powell feels the amount of time it took deputies to respond to a recent area homicide shows just how problematic disbanding the department will be.

“It took over 20 minutes for a deputy to respond,” Powell said. “That’s a long for such a tragic event to have law enforcement coverage.”

Officials fear letting go of the police department will put more work on deputies.

“The sheriff's office currently averages 277 calls per month, and the police averages 150,” Powell said. “So the workload for the sheriff’s department is going to increase dramatically.”

Powell fears the workload in the sheriff’s department is already too much to handle.

"And adding to an already heavy workload for that office is not going to benefit the south end, or the north end, or even outlying area, even around the city," Powell said. "The folks that live in the city should consider that when you have sheriff’s deputy patrolling your city, and there’s a call on the south end or north end of the county, your going to lose coverage as well." 

Powell feels there are other options.

“So, it’s a matter of putting quote all your eggs in one basket,” Powell said. “Maybe we diversify, and we keep our police department in Newton managing the city and our [sheriff’s office department] handling the outlying area , like any other large city does in Southeast Texas.”

For Powell, this issue hits close to home.

“It’s personal for me because I’ve been married 34 years to my wife. Her family lives in Deweyville,” Powell said. “We have children. We have grandchildren, and we have neighbors, and I care about the people there. They are my concern.”

While Powell feels community members take care of each other, he feels that certain situations call for professional help.

 “You need professional law enforcement when things happen," Powell said.

GET NEWS & WEATHER ALERTS | Download the 12News App to your mobile device 

CRIME STOPPERS | Submit a tip @ 833Tips.com

CRIME STOPPERS APP | Download the P3 Tips App

Here's the exact wording of the two agenda items...

7.  Consider and Possible Action to discontinue Law Enforcement and a Police Department for the City of Newton thereby transferring responsibilities to Newton County, repealing all ordinance and resolutions on the creation of a police department and repealing all ordinances that include any action by the police department.

8.  Consider and Possible Action to provide funding to Newton County for Law Enforcement.

The meeting will take place Thursday evening, July 7, 2022, at 6 p.m. in the Newton City Hall conference room. City hall is located at 101 North Street in Newton.

This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.

Send us a news tip | Download our app | 12News “In the Know” Newsletter

Also on 12NewsNow.com…

Before You Leave, Check This Out