BONIFAY, Fla. (WMBB) — It was a packed house at Bonifay City Hall Monday night when city council members reconvened after voting to shut down the police department on Friday.
“We’ve got a lot of great men and women that right now are sitting without a job and I understand things happen but we need our police department,” resident James Russell said. “We need to keep our community together. We need our city together.”
The unanimous vote came after Chief Chris Wells tendered his resignation.
He resigned a week after a Sgt. Jody Long was arrested following his alleged use of excessive force on a handcuffed suspect.
“The decision that we made on Friday did not deal with the quality of our remaining law enforcement staff,” Bonifay Mayor Dr. Emily McCann said. “What it dealt with was the quantity. We lost three of our six full-time officers. That is half of the force and every acting official leadership role.”
While the city works to recruit more officers, the current staff will still retain full pay and benefits.
“It was in her (McCann’s) recommendation for them to come to City Hall and they will probably work back here,” Bonifay City Clerk Rickey Callahan said. “I will be their supervisor and we’ll have them organizing some of the paperwork for the department during this time.”
Over the next month, city officials said they will work tirelessly to fill the vacant positions and get the police department back up and running.
They stressed it is just a temporary closure.
“This allows us to walk up to those officers tonight and say you still have a job with the Bonifay Police Department,” Callahan said.
The resolution has the city entering a one-month agreement with the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services starting May 5 and lasting until June 5.
The resolution states the Bonifay Police Department will take back law enforcement services within the city limits starting June 5.