LAKE HAMILTON, Fla. (WFLA) – The people of Lake Hamilton are holding onto their police department, giving the force a chance to prove they can do the job the right way. It’s after a scathing report by the state attorney’s office and a hired consultant concluded the police department should shut down.
The Polk Sheriff recently gave the Town of Lake Hamilton a rundown of what costs and services would look like if they took control there. It didn’t change the minds of those who back their police department, no matter what.
The findings were jaw-dropping: a botched child abuse case, a death with no investigation and years of evidence stored in no particular order.
But Lake Hamilton town leaders backed their police department as soon as the scathing report against them from the state attorney came out in May.
And they still are, despite a hired consultant’s suggestion the town do away with the PD altogether.
“I see the police department trying to further their education as Mr. Hill expressed as one of the concerns that he had,” Council member Cora Roberson said.
According to Roberson, the department has upped its game since coming under fire.
“Some of the things Mr. Hill wanted them to buy and purchase, they did that as well,” Roberson said.
In late August the police chief gave council a list of 21 improvements now in place, like new packaging procedures with evidence, additional training for officers and overall organizational upgrades.
But the consultant suggested they join the six other small municipalities in Polk County that contract with the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Grady Judd gave them a proposal at the town’s request, which would be a savings of $10,000 a year.
“I was expecting a lower fee,” Roberson said.
The numbers didn’t change leaders’ minds about keeping the PD.
Their officers give the community a sense of comfort that Roberson fears the sheriff’s office couldn’t provide.
“In the cities we already have contracted services with we have designated deputies assigned to those cities,” PCSO Spokeswoman Carrie Horstman said. “They’re there 24 hours a day and it’s just the same small town feel,” she added.
Roberson said the police department has six to 12 months to show they meet the standards they should.
If they don’t, then the town leaders will consider hiring on the sheriff’s office.