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Winona police chief defends department against recent criticism

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WINONA (KYTX) - Police Chief Bryan Richards responded Monday to the criticism that's been flying around town and ultimately resulted in an attempt to petition a cut or shutdown at the department. The petition was later thrown out by its proponents who felt it had fallen on deaf ears at city hall.

On Friday we introduced you to one of the people who took the petition door to door.

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

In response, Richards produced reports full of calls to the department which he said keep himself, a day officer, and a night officer plenty busy. The department also has an officer stationed at Winona High School whose salary and vehicle are funded by both the district and the city in a 3-1 split, respectively.

Richards said every call automatically generates time spent at city hall, even if it's just to write and file the report.

"I would call Winona, ppreviously their department was 'the good ol' boy system,'" Richards said of changes since he took over the department a year and a half ago. "The law enforcement just wasn't up to what I bbelieveit needed to be."

Asked about complaints that new police Chevrolet Tahoes were an unnecessary expense, Richards said they're cheaper than the combined maintenance and payments on the old Ford Crown Victorias and cheaper than most of the other new police cars on the market. He also pushed back against grumbling over officers who drive the Tahoes back and forth on the city's dime because they live out of town.

"We build relationships with people but we don't hang out with them and become their buddies because once you do that you can't enforce law the way it needs to be enforced," he said.

Richards said police cruisers are also a quicker and safer to get back to Winona in an emergency.

But it's when those officers are in town and giving tickets that many people are getting upset. Around Winona you'll hear complaints that many of the tickets given are petty.

"We're going to enforce laws and we're going to upset people by doing that," Richards said. "Maybe these laws weren't as enforced in the past, but these laws are what has kept crime down, vehicle crashes down."
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