Public safety in Indian Trail

Our View
Mar. 02, 2013 @ 03:08 PM

The question of whether Indian Trail is better protected by contract deputies or by a town police force is a serious question that merits careful consideration.

Tragically, Indian Trail town government has treated the decision neither as a life-and-death matter of public safety nor as a pocketbook issue that could significantly increase taxes. Instead, public officials have turned it into a shamefully transparent soap opera with only them as the stars.

The debate over a town police force has simmered for years. During the last election cycle it subsided as candidates who wanted to get elected disavowed the idea. Then last month, as the town was ostensibly negotiating a renewal of its contract with the Sheriff’s Office for the services of 22 deputies, it flared anew.

The spark was a set of absurd demands designed to provoke a confrontation with the sheriff. They did. Sheriff Eddie Cathey minced no words in his rejection of the contract proposal nor in his characterization of those who made it.

That was perfect. Proponents of severing the contract played their roles well. They acted shocked, offended and blamed the sheriff for irretrievably breaking any faith and trust they had in him. There was no choice left but to abandon the contract and form a police department, they said.

Only a lack of courage by Mayor Michael Alvarez at the crucial moment upset their subterfuge.

Everyone should be thankful. If this gambit had succeeded, the town would have had four months to hire, train and equip a police force. And the taxpayers in Indian Trail would have had to foot the bill — literally millions — to buy and equip patrol cars and to equip the officers with weapons, radios, computers and all else a modern force needs.

The idea is simply absurd.

If there is a groundswell for a police department — and many county towns do have their own police — then Indian Trail should sign the contract extension with the Sheriff’s office. They should then use the intervening time to study crime and safety in the community, determine the real needs, and how best to serve them. They should think broadly even including options like sharing a department with Stallings. The two towns are geographically linked.

Give voters the facts and let them decide at a referendum. If they go for it, then budget the capital costs over the next several years to ease the impact on taxes. Find and hire a competent chief and allow the time to recruit, hire and train the best officers for the money available.

Indian Trail may need its own police force. That is a question for the voters to decide. What they don’t need is the dangerous charade that has passed for governance lately.