Six police officers, the police chief, and the secretary will lose their jobs. Police Chief Russell Mills said Lt. Roger Smith and Capt. Donald Malray will stay on until Aug. 1, while the department phases out. In August, the Claiborne Sheriff's Office will take over keeping the town safe.
Alecia Smith, Mayor of Homer, said she supports the council's decision. She said the council has worked with Chief Mills since November on adjusting the department's budget to no avail.
Smith said the police department's expenditures have exceeded its budget since 2010, when she took office. In 2012, Smith said the department's overtime expenditures tallied up to $40,000, more than six times the department's limit. According to Smith, the town spent $132,000 in legal fees on a lawsuit against the police department. She said the town is still paying on the $100,000 settlement that resulted from that lawsuit. As of Friday, she said the town learned of two more pending lawsuits against the Homer Police Department. On top of these expenditures, she said the price of maintenance and fuel keeps rising.
Smith said the town will be able to save around $350,000 by disbanding the police department. The department's total budget comes in around $6-700,000, according to Smith.
The town of 3,500 residents also has a quarter cent sales tax that is allocated to the police department. Smith said that money will be transferred over to the Claiborne Parish Sheriff's Offfice.
In response, Chief Mills said he was blind-sided. He's concerned because he was elected as the City Marshal, and said the town's charter says the city marshal shall serve as the police chief. In order to look further into this matter, Mills said he is consulting with his lawyer. He said he will lose at least $36,000 of his salary if the chief title is taken away. Mills said he could not cut his expenditures over the years because he had several officers on paid administrative leave, so he had to pay them in addition to paying other officers overtime to cover their shifts.