Citizens blast city for police cuts
By LPR Staff
More than 40 Lockhart residents gathered at the front door of the Lockhart Police station on Wedsnesday morning to show support for the department and distaste for the council”s decision to make cuts to the police department.
The impromptu demonstration was the result of information that News 8 Austin would be at the dep
artment offices to interview police chief Frank Coggins about recent staffing cuts.
Coggins, who said he felt “humbled” by the community”s display, believes that while the department may struggle, they will survive the cuts.
His greatest concern was the morale of the officers, many of whom are uncertain what the future holds, or whether they will continue to be employed by the City of Lockhart.
“We”ve been given no guidance yet as to the cuts,” Coggins said on Wednesday. He added that City Manager Clovia English, rather than he as the head of the police department, would be responsible for determing which positions would be done away with.
That fact, among several others, has caused concern in the community.
“I don”t like figureheads,” said Rev. Ira Guyton. “I think that when a department head gets blindsided with cuts like this… how can someone who isn”t in the department every day know what this department needs better than the head of that department does?”
Michele Schalin, who was instrumental in putting together the demonstration, suggested that other departments could have been changed.
“I would have rather seen [the Technology Center] go, even though that was my baby, than see them cut four cops,” she said. Schalin was the former director of the Lockhart Technology Center, one of the departments that survived cuts this budget year.
“We have a great police department,” she added. “These guys are fantastic, they aren”t corrupt and they certainly deserve better than this.”
District Attorney Chris Schneider was present at the department, though he said he intended to speak to department chief Frank Coggins about the possible effects of the cuts.
“We get lots of jurors that question why police didn”t do more, why they didn”t do more investigation, and with this situation, they”ll be able to do even less,” he said. Schneider mused that juror expectations are high based on what they see on television.
In his interview, Coggins suggested that criminal investigation may very well suffer as a result of the cuts. He speculated that patrol positions, criminal investigations positions and community services officer positions would be those that could be eliminated.
Regardless, the department will be presented with the additional problem of determining how to replace cut positions or reassign
“What they aren”t thinking about is that if the department gets cut, someone could die,” said resident and business owner Scott Ritchie. “A resident could die, or if backup doesn”t come quickly enough, an officer could die.”
Though the citizens voices may not have been heard first-hand by the city officials behind the cuts, the greater hope is that their voices were heard loud and clear by the police department. Coggins is confident that his officers got the message.
“We”re committed to making sure that the community gets the same level of service, as much as we can,” he said. “We”re here to serve the citizens of Lockhart.”