NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) – Sunday, Jan. 1 is the first day for the disbandment of the Newton Falls Police Department.
The Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office now takes over policing of the city. This has been a controversial issue in the Newton Falls community.
Since the police levy failed on the November ballot, city council members say they had no choice under budgetary constraints but to outsource policing to the Trumbull County sheriff.
“I haven’t heard anything negative, so I would have to say no news is good news, that I know that they have been patrolling,” said Newton Falls Mayor Ken Kline.
Kline says he doesn’t suspect that people will notice a significant drop-off in service with the sheriff’s department. He also says the way the Newton Falls Police Department was operating was a disservice to the officers and community.
“I had multiple police officers come to me in private and they had told me, you know. I was shocked to hear them say the very best thing that can happen to this community and this police department is for this police department right now as it is to end,” Kline said.
Last year, Gene Fixler was fired as chief and then later reinstated by court order. The judge further ordered the city to pay back pay. City manager Pam Priddy confirmed at a recent city council meeting that restitution would be paid out of the city’s police budget.
Fixler says he has been receiving a paycheck from the city since mid-November but is still waiting on back pay.
“I am very concerned about there being no Newton Falls officers available to respond to calls within the city. The residents and businesses deserve better for their tax dollars. The department has been in existence since around 1920,” Fixler said.
City leadership has proposed an increase in income tax. That money would be earmarked for the police department. Kline says if it passes in May, then they can begin planning to reinstate the department. That money would not be available until January 2024.
Newton Falls is also being sued along with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and all three Trumbull County commissioners. The suit alleges that city council acted illegally and then went against the city’s charter to outsource policing.
Click below to read the entire complaint.