Gregory community pondering countywide policing
City leaders to examine law enforcement option at next council meeting
The city of Gregory is considering a switch from a traditional municipal police force to law enforcement provided by the county.
Scott Anshutz, mayor of Gregory, said the community is considering the change in direction due to the difficulty of keeping police chiefs and officers on staff in a small South Dakota community. It’s something Anshutz said has been on city leaders’ minds in the last several years.
“I’ve been mayor for four years and we’ve tossed it around for that long,” Anshutz told the Mitchell Republic. “Our chief of police resigned a (city council) meeting or two ago, and it’s difficult to keep officers in smaller communities. Statewide, it’s tough to keep them.”
Anshutz said it was when the most recent chief of police resigned that the city council began to seriously consider having the Gregory County Sheriff’s Office provide police services to the community of roughly 1,200 in western Gregory County.
While the traditional police force, comprised of city employees such as a chief and officers, has been in place for decades, Anshutz said there could be advantages to having police services shifted to the county. Many of the deputies already have close connections to the town and some work directly with the local department on specific law enforcement programs, so there is a familiarity with those deputies that there may not otherwise be in hiring a chief of police from outside the community.
“It’s nice to have (a police chief) in your community that is from your community. If they have connections or family here, they stay,” Anshutz said.
Anshutz said deputies with Gregory County are already heavily involved in various communities across the county and the Gregory community specifically. Several members of the sheriff’s office are from Gregory, and they have experience working with citizens in small communities like Colome, Burke and Bonesteel.
A survey of Gregory citizens on their feelings about switching to county-based law enforcement is expected to be reviewed at the next meeting of the Gregory City Council in September. Anshutz said the council and city leaders will use that survey as a guide to the opinion of local residents, though the city council will make the final decision on what direction to take.
Anshutz said the survey will be helpful, but citizens are already expressing their feelings to him and other city leaders.
“They’re calling me and talking to their council people in their ward about whether they’d like to do this or do that,” Ashutz said.
Anshutz said the city did receive an unexpected application for the recently-vacated chief of police position, and that will be a factor in the decision making process, as well.
“We do have one candidate for the chief of police. We didn’t think we’d get one, but we got one who’s qualified,” Anshutz said.
Anshutz said the final decision will be made by the Gregory City Council, but he will take part in the discussions. Although there would undoubtedly be a learning curve that comes with changing to a county-based system, it would be an advantage to have locally-based officers that are qualified and already familiar with the community.
Having a stable, experienced law enforcement presence in the community is important, he said, and that can be difficult when new municipal police hires don’t stay long.
“I’ve been mayor for four years, and it’s pretty much a revolving door. We train them and then they leave," Anshutz said.
Anshutz said the discussion on the topic will continue at the next meeting of the council. The next meeting of the Gregory City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. at city hall in Gregory. The meeting is being held on a Tuesday due to the Labor Day holiday.