The Healdton City Council met in an emergency meeting Saturday night looking for answers in dealing with a police department in shambles.
Friday evening, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department served termination letters to two Healdton police officers as well as a dispatcher. With Chief Jarod Barnes serving an indefinite suspension, the department now has just one officer on its roster.
“I am having some pretty severe difficulties,” Healdton City Manager Charles Clark said. “We have professional challenges in regard to my police department with their judgment and putting public safety and welfare in the uppermost parts of their minds.”
Clark said there have been some ongoing issues within the department. Those issues began to surface Tuesday with the suspension of Barnes, Clark said. Clark indicated the issues are personal, and involved Megan Barnes, who was a dispatcher and wife of the chief. Court records indicate Megan Barnes filed for a protective order against Jarod Barnes Monday. A hearing is slated for 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Clark indicated chief Barnes had pulled over his wife, and the suspension was in part to the incident as well as the protective order.
“She did seek a protective order from the court, and I don’t know if it was related to him pulling her over,” Clark said. “She was granted a temporary protective order, and while it is in force, he is definitely suspended. He will remain suspended pending review.”
Clark said Megan Barnes did not show up for work and was deemed to have voluntarily abandoned her job.
In regard to the two officers who lost their jobs, Clark said there had been issues prior to Barnes’ suspension.
“There were some things that had been discussed with Barnes prior to the suspension,” Clark said.
Most of my officers are new, and two are fresh out of the academy,” he said. “There was a leadership vacuum that did not serve them well. They made some errors that were not acceptable. So I dealt with it, removing two officers. We will not begin to reconstitute new officers.”
Carter County Sheriff Milton Anthony said the department would be available to assist Healdton during its present difficulties.
“The Healdton Police Department is having some problems,” Anthony said. “They have let some of their officers and a dispatcher go, and they wanted a deputy to go around and serve a termination letter to each of them. I have to talk to the city manager Monday or Tuesday to see how we can help them.”
Clark said there had been prior questions from the Healdton City Council regarding whether or not to separate the police department and dispatch, and he felt those discussions would resurface. The emergency meeting listed an executive session in which the council would discuss and evaluate city personnel conduct and performance.
Meanwhile, Clark said there would be an emphasis placed on filling police department vacancies.
“We have some interviews coming up, but I want to sit with the council and decide what to do,” Clark said. “It is not like we have money to throw at the problem. We have to use our money wisely to provide the best law enforcement service.”