By Isa Cox September 11, 2021 at 11:00am
The small town of Kimberling City, Missouri, which is nestled in the heart of the Ozarks a stone’s throw away from the wholesome attractions of Branson, is soon to be without a police department after every single member of the force resigned within a matter of weeks.
Granted, the entire force of the small town, which has a population of roughly 2,400, is comprised of five people, but it does appear that their having all resigned within the same period of time was no coincidence.
Kimberling City Mayor Bob Fritz told Branson Tri Lake News that the department is normally staffed with six officers, but a detective retired in July.
In late August, the resignations began.
First came Chief of Police Craig Alexander, who visited Mayor Fritz’s home on Aug. 23 and explained he’d been offered another position. On Sep. 1, Officer Shaun McCafferty turned in his resignation letter, also stating he’d also been offered another opportunity. Officer Rutger House gave notice of his resignation the following day, although he did not state a reason.
Sergeant Aaron Hoeft resigned on Tuesday, stating a lack of resources and qualified officers to assist him. Officer Caleb McCarty resigned on Wednesday, and, like Officer House, did not give a reason.
As the city recruits a new force, the Stone County Sheriff’s Office will be responding to calls, although they are unable to enforce city ordinances.
The mayor claimed to be stunned at the sudden resignation of his entire police force.
“It is unfortunate that the officers had to leave the city at this time. It is all unexpected. The short notice is very disappointing,” he told the Tri Lake News. “I was really surprised. If you hear the dates Aug. 23, Sept. 1, Sept. 2, Sept. 7 and Sept. 8, you know no notice. I had no earlier warning that the officers were going to do this. I talked to the officers last week to try to encourage them and see what I could do as mayor. They said nothing. They said they were satisfied and this was just something they had to do after the chief was leaving.”
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Former mayor and current Alderman Jason Hulliung, however, said that the issue is clearly the small town’s current mayoral administration and that it extends beyond the police force.
“I have a serious issue with my entire police department resigning because the entire police department resigning indicates there is a bigger problem,” the alderman, who has served various positions in the city’s government, told the local news outlet.
“An entire department doesn’t leave for individual, independent reasons,” he said. “You have to go back a little farther and understand not only did our police department resign, our court clerk resigned, a 17 year employee of Public Works resigned. All of them point to the same issue. It is an administration issue.”
Going back further, he said, Kimberling City has “lost massive amounts of long term experience in the city government in a short amount of time. It is definitely an administrative problem.”
“If they can’t see that then they don’t need to be in that position. Somebody who is called the administrator and somebody who is called the mayor and can not see the fact that an entire police department left and there is a bigger issue, they don’t need to be in that position. There is no way that someone in charge of that can say it is all independent, it’s all unique cases.”
He added that “if they can’t see the bigger picture then they need to find somebody who can.”
Although Fritz said that he had a very amiable chat with the police chief upon the latter’s resignation, the chief issued a Facebook post this week that also seemed to pin the blame for the resignations on failings of the current administration.
“There is a lot to the job most don’t see and I am not good at explaining it,” Alexander wrote, according to a photo uploaded by a user to the Everything Kimberling City, MO Facebook group on Wednesday. “But today is my last day. I am no longer capable of doing my very best under the current administration, and the citizens deserve the very best.
“So to all of those out there that have supported me over the last 18 plus years, THANK YOU. To those that are happy I’m [leaving], I’m sorry I failed you. I always did [my] very best. Love you all.”
Although Kimberling City, Missouri, couldn’t be more different from our nation’s big, headline-grabbing metropolises, it’s still hard not to draw a parallel between this situation and cities like Portland, Oregon, and Chicago that are hemorrhaging police officers thanks to mayors who have shown significantly more respect and consideration for violent rioters than their own law enforcement.
It’s highly unlikely that Kimberling City administrators have been maligning their police officers in the same way, and there’s certainly no indication that this was the case, but it does appear to be clear that general bad management is indeed to blame.
And bad management of city infrastructure, whether it’s of a town of fewer than 3,000 or a city of several million, ultimately constrains the ability of officers of the peace from both enjoying their jobs and being able to perform them properly.
What happened in this small Missouri town gives us an up-close snapshot of what happens when administrators fail to recognize how breakdowns in management negatively impact city employees. This trickles down, of course, to the population at large.
There’s no denying it — bureaucratic failures can ultimately put the lives of citizens at risk.
Hopefully, Kimberling City will iron out whatever issues led to this small-scale mass resignation and the local sheriff’s department will be able to keep the peace sufficiently in the meantime.
Sadly, it’s likely going to take much more than a bit of ironing to fix the problems with policing in our nation’s major cities. At this rate, a fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party’s entire political platform is needed before our police officers start getting the recognition and respect they need — and citizens get the law and order they deserve.