The small town of Garden City, Mo., disbanded its police force Wednesday, the department announced on social media.
According to the department, Chief Thomas Alber was told to lay off his entire staff immediately.
“No explanation was given nor plans to staff the police department beyond the Chief,” the department wrote on Facebook. “No further guidance was given for pending criminal cases or coverage of the city when the Chief is not on duty.”
The town of about 1,600, about 50 miles southeast of Kansas City, was staffed by seven officers and five civilian volunteers. But it is already largely covered by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, which responds to emergencies in the town.
The sheriff’s office will continue to handle emergency calls and patrol the area, according to NBC affiliate KSHB. Previously, a deputy would respond to calls if no police officer was available.
"We don’t have someone in Garden City 24/7, but many times when they didn’t have someone on duty, we usually respond to emergency calls down there anyway,” Cass County Sheriff’s Capt. Mitch Phillips told the TV station.
Phillips said the nearest deputy was stationed in Harrisonville, about 12 miles away.
“It might be a 10- or 15-minute emergency response time,” he said.
Phillips said his office was caught off guard by the announcement.
There was no response to emails sent to two town clerks for information. Alber did not respond to an email, either.
In an era of tight budgets and rising costs, disputes between small towns and their police forces spill into the news occasionally. In Indiana, the four officers who made up the police department in the 900-person town of Bunker Hill walked off the job and quit in 2016 over work- and pay-related issues. Earlier that year in Colorado, four members of the police force of Green Mountain Falls, population 700, quit because of a dispute with the mayor. In these cases, the local sheriff’s department usually steps in to handle emergency calls.
In July, a four-person police unit in Blandford, Mass., quit after disputes about the safety of the work, subpar equipment and low wages.