The town of Randolph lost its police department after each of the members left their positions over the course of 2018, and now the town is considering its options for the future of law enforcement.
The members of the Randolph Police Department didn’t all quit en masse to make a statement, or anything like that. It just kind of happened.
Kelly Smith, who lives in Randolph, has been following the situation with the police department.
“The chief quit, and a few of his officers quit,” explained Smith. “And Officer [Loretta] Stalnaker went to South Royalton, I think it was.”
The Randolph Police Department had six full-time members, and one-by-one, since the spring, the officers left Randolph. Stalnaker, for example, left to become the Royalton police chief.
The selectboard hired the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as a stopgap measure, but Smith said she wants the town to re-staff its own department.
“I own a house right downtown and I see a lot of crime happen,” Smith said. “So I think I’d rather have our own [department], yes.”
Michael Penrod is another Randolph resident who’s been attending public meetings and following the issue.
Penrod said he doesn’t want his taxes going toward the almost $600,000 it takes to fund a full-time police department.
“I’ve never called the police. I’ve called the game warden a couple of times for people hunting illegally. But that’s the game warden, that’s not the police department,” Penrod said. “And I think if you look at Randolph, it’s a good place to live and it’s a safe place to live.”
After the final police officer left in mid-September, the selectboard put an advisory committee together to look at the issue and make some recommendations.
But selectboard member Larry Satcowitz said it’s been tough to get a clear read from the community.
“There’s no consensus out in the public,” Santcowitz said. “There are people who feel like we should just get rid of everything and just have state police coverage like a lot of rural areas in Vermont do. And other people are like, 'nope, that’s a horrible idea — we should really be keeping it just completely local.' It’s really all over the place.”
The police department used to cover the downtown area, and about 2,000 residents who live there. The budget was paid from taxpayers within the district.
Satcowitz said the resignations gave Randolph a chance to look at what level of law enforcement the town really needs and what level it can afford — though he knows not everyone will be happy in the end.
“What seems really clear is that no matter which path we go down, you know, it’s going to be a bit of a compromise. ... There’s going to be something that we lose or gain no matter what one we choose," Satcowitz said. “There’s no way to have everything that we want.”
The town’s police station is also in rough shape and if a new force is hired, Satcowitz said it will cost another million dollars or so to build a new station.
He said the selectboard hopes to come to some kind of a decision about the future of policing in town before the end of the year.