Winona police face petition & complaints, city responds

Winona police face petition & complaints, city responds

People in the town of 576 said Friday that a petition effort to either cut the police department in size and expense or eliminate it all together has fallen largely on deaf ears. Meanwhile city workers defended the department.

It's been a couple of weeks since that petition was going around, but Rose Gordon was still happy to talk about it.

"Some of us were going door to door, and I did go to lots of doors," Gordon said. "It was a lot of strong opinions."

Many people around town Friday said they're being harassed and given "petty" tickets by a police force that includes the chief and three officers.

"In my opinion they do a lot of sitting at City Hall when they could be out patrolling," Gordon said. "Especially on the highway. A lot of the big trucks just fly down through there."

Gordon said she and others presented the petition at a community meeting only to have it largely ignored.

The unrest over police--and city spending in general--may have been what pushed Mayor-elect Dede Stroud (Gordon's sister) into office.

"I'm not sure what we're paying these officers right now," she said. "That's something else that I will be looking into and doing what's best for the community. I appreciate the community backing me on this."

Stroud, who takes office next week, is planning an audit to try to get a handle on spending many believe has put the city in debt.

On Friday city workers said the department carries its own weight and is nearly budget neutral except for the city's portion of a salary for the officer who patrols the high school and helps the city over the summer.

"It costs the city a little over $12,000 to keep all four officers here," City Secretary Connie Sexton said. "They're doing an excellent job."

Sexton and others at city hall denied claims of petty tickets written by the officers and said they'll continue to stand with the department.

However, Stroud said there's some serious room for improvement.

"There's a lot of lack of trust from our community and I would like to do something to gain their trust back," she said.

One member of the police department said he feels like people should focus more on the good things the department does, including the criminals and drugs that officers are getting off the streets.

The police chief did not respond to a request for comment.


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