INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. -- After an emotional meeting full of shouting and accusations, Indian Trail Town Council voted down a proposal this weekend to start its own police department.
The proposal would have allowed the current law enforcement contract with the Union County Sheriff’s Office to expire in June, and also looked into starting a police department run by the city.
Council member Robert Allen, who supported the proposal, said it came up because Sheriff Eddie Cathey is not negotiating with the town council on a new contract that has been drawn up.
“All this is, is a contract negotiation,” said Allen. But he said he was shocked at how emotional the meeting got.
Mayor Pro-Tem David Cohn, at one point, began yelling at someone on the dais about the vote.
“It's political and you know it's political, and the wrong thing to do!” he yelled to a person sitting to his right. “Don't look at Robert, and don't look at her, make the decision yourself... from here, right here’s where it comes from!” he bellowed, pointing forcefully at his heart.
Allen said the meeting was out of control.
“Last night was a complete and total three-ring circus,” he said. “I have never in my life seen professionals -- alleged, I have to say alleged now -- performing in such a manner.”
Allen said he and the council member who made the motion for the new police department, Darlene Luther, agree the sheriff’s department is doing a great job.
But Allen said he wants to put parts of the deputies’ duties on paper, actually detailing everything that is expected as part of the contract with the Sheriff’s Office.
That includes provisions like notifying the town manager in an emergency, who gets equipment that is retired, and details about how much time deputies assigned to Indian Trail spend outside of town limits.
“You want a contract that will sustain itself through time. This didn't,” said Allen, about the contract the town currently has with the sheriff.
Allen said the town has thousands of new residents it didn’t have when the original contract with the sheriff’s department was drawn up years ago, and now it needs to be redrawn instead of just updated.
“All this sounds pretty reasonable to me,” he said.
“I do take it as a slap in the face,” Sheriff Eddie Cathey told NBC Charlotte about the new contract provisions this week. “To me, it’s asking if I’ll sign a contract and give up the constitutional authority of the sheriff’s office, and certainly that’s not going to happen.”
A council member who supports renewing the sheriff’s department contract said creating a new police department has been Luther’s and Allen’s goal all along.
"Unfortunately it's politics at work," said David Waddell. “I believe what this is, is an effort to undermine the contract process and to make it look like – at least to the public – that we have no choice but to start a police department.”
That motion failed, but both sides agree the debate isn’t over. Even council members who support the sheriff’s contract have to agree on details that need to be updated.
The sooner the better, said Waddell – but at least the current contract gives them until June to sort it out.