Does St. Maries need its own police force?

In lieu of Mayor Tom Carver’s recent comments on the Benewah County Sherriff’s lack of coverage in the city, officials have been contemplating whether reinstating the St. Maries Police Department is a good or bad idea.

What does the public have to say about it?

A selection of St. Maries residents weigh in on the issue.

Dale Harrison, a pastor at the First Baptist Church of St. Maries, expressed a concern about the size of the county and how having one police force cover that entire area could put a strain on the Benewah County Sheriff.

“Sometimes our sheriff deputies need to be covering out in the county,” Mr. Harrison said. “I’m for having a city police force, I think it would be a good idea.”

Theresa Plank, a resident of St. Maries, said she is weighing the two sides.

“Fortunately I personally haven’t had to require their service,” Mrs. Plank said, “but the county is so large and the sheriff’s department is not big. I’m kind of torn, I know a city police force would help, but I would hate to have to pay an additional cost.”

Another resident, Laura Allen, said she would like more information on the debate but cited the extra cost wouldn’t be too bad.

“I’d be willing to pay more for better coverage,” Mrs. Allen said.

Another resident, that wished to remain anonymous, said that she thinks St. Maries should absolutely have a city police force.

Though some citizens are in favor of having a city police force, Kevin Hofmaister, owner of the Pines Motel, says he doesn’t see the point in spending more money.

“I’m back and forth to the motel day and night and I see the sheriffs department out doing their jobs,” Mr. Hofmaister said. “I think crime rates are down and it’s because these guys are doing their jobs. I don’t think there is anything to benefit from spending more money or having more officers in the community. There is a point where you can over-police a community.”

Mr. Hofmaister also added that he feels that the community is trustworthy and that if he felt his home wasn’t safe, or his neighbors’, he would maybe have a different opinion.

Jeff Andersen, St. Maries Middle School principal, says the Benewah County Sheriff has always been great to the community.

“I know they are a little short-staffed but whenever we (the middle school) need something, they are always there for us,” Mr. Andersen said.

Wanda Wemhoff, another resident of St. Maries says that having a city police department would be a waste of money.

“I think the sheriff does a good job,” Mrs. Wemhoff said, “I see them around plenty.”

Rick Thurston, a retired doctor, said he hadn’t really heard too much about the debate and would like to learn more before weighing in.

“It would be interesting to have a town hall meeting and hear both sides,” Dr. Thurston said.

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