Leadwood has lost another police chief. And three out of four full-time officers.
Greg Northrup gave notice about two weeks ago and officially left the department on Thursday, having joined in the fall as city marshal, being named chief in January. Although he had been hired from the city’s street department, he reportedly had more than 13 years’ experience in law enforcement.
April 29 was his last day. Three more officers left the department as well.
Northrup had taken over the department from former chief William Dickey, who had been fired in September after being arrested on multiple felony charges. Several months ago, Dickey entered a plea of not guilty to the felony charges of stealing a firearm, explosive weapon or ammonium nitrate, tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution and hindering prosecution of a felony. His case continues to make its way through the court system.
Northrup said his reason for leaving was financial. Three out of the four full-time officers followed him out the door, he said, their reasons echoing his.
“I had a lot of hope that after I turned things around in the department, the council would see the work that me and my officers had accomplished,” he said. “But two weeks into their budget talks, I was told there would be no salary increase for anyone. No equipment for officers, no duty gear, all I heard was ‘I’ll think about it.’ I was told going in, this would happen but I gave it a shot.”
Leadwood’s new mayor, Ed Austin, said remaining officer Emily Portell’s status as sergeant was restored at the last council meeting and for now, she’s in charge.
“She is pretty dedicated to the city and to me, so she stuck around,” Austin said, adding pay was indeed one of the biggest challenges in keeping officers in the police department.
“Most of our police officers come straight out of the academy and use Leadwood as a stepping stone, then move to higher pay or a different location,” he said. “The pay rate is the hardest thing. I know there are grants and stuff out there, but I’ve gotta get someone in there who knows how to work all that stuff.”
Austin said, as he understands it, most Leadwood officers start at $11-12 an hour. Chiefs are paid anywhere from $14-16 an hour, “which isn’t much at all.”
“We’re only a town of 1,200 so we don’t have a big budget,” he said. “I would think, in my personal opinion that three full time officers and a couple of reserves would be enough to cover the town. Right now, we have Sgt. Portell, and two or three part-time officers helping her out so she doesn’t run herself ragged, pulling 16-hour shifts a day.”
Northrup said he has no hard feelings toward Leadwood, he wishes it all the best, but the lack of municipal funding is an issue that needs to be solved.
“The economic development of Leadwood has not been pursued by the council for a long time, which has created the downfall of the city of Leadwood,” he said. “Tax increases, business incentives to locate to the town, ideas for bringing in new money … there are a few people on the board who don’t feel like they need to change anything.
"Nothing against Leadwood, it’s just not going to survive on its own.”
According to a news release issued Wednesday afternoon by the City of Leadwood, the city board held an emergency closed meeting in which they discussed the police department and questions that had been circulating.
"Our Board and Mayor discussed the situation, they are in process of hiring a Chief and Officers this week," states the release, signed by City Clerk Kendra Boyer. "Any other issues/allegations at this point are merely (hearsay) and not verified at this time."
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.