A small Missouri town in St. Louis County is disbanding its police force due to budget constraints and outsourcing law enforcement to a neighboring town, according to KWMU.
The Wellston City Council voted 5-2 Monday night to disband the local police force serving approximately 2,000 people — 95 percent of them African-American.
The 23 officers who made up the Wellston Police Department turned in their badges earlier this week, although some may hang onto their guns since officers were forced to purchase them for themselves because the city was too strapped to pay for them.
Under a new arrangement police services will be provided by the nearby police department in Vinita Park, with that department planning to beef up their staff with 10 new hires to provide coverage. Officers who left their $12 an hour jobs in Wellston have been encouraged to apply for the newly opened spots which pay $20 per hour and come with benefits.
According to Wellston Mayor Nathaniel Griffin, “The decision to disband our police department was a very difficult one for me.”
He added that “My best interest is to do the best thing for the city of Wellston. So this decision is the best decision to me for the city of Wellston, not only for the employees, the citizens, but the business owners.”
Wellston, a town in decline with rows of vacant stores and a high crime rate, has been rocked by multiple scandals in the past few years, including an officer who was caught on video pepper-spraying a woman while she was handcuffed.
Last year the FBI raided city hall, seizing financial records after council members complained they were not being given access to the documents.
A recent study recommended that Wellston join with eight other small communities, outsourcing their police needs to either St. Louis County police or the University City police department.