10/23/2006

Texas town fires police force

The Associated Press

Residents of this Central Texas city are making do without police after the City Council decided to fire the entire department.

City officials said the chief and three officers were fired over the past two months for reasons including insubordination and poor performance.

"I just hope the citizens of Troy know that we're doing what they elected us to do," Mayor Sammy Warren said. "We are not going to let that department just run by itself. We're going to have a police department to be proud of again."

The 1,400 residents of Troy, located about 70 miles north of Austin, have relied on the Bell County Sheriff's Office since the officers were fired. But the six deputies per shift also are responsible for the rest of the county's 240,000 residents.

Assistant Troy schools Superintendent Neil Jeter said he has not noticed much of a change but is concerned that in an emergency, the first call for help would be to the county.

But Robert Teer said car parts have been stolen from his auto repair shop four times in the past month, which had not happened the first seven of the eight months his business has been open.

Warren, however, said he thinks the town is safer than with the old police force.

Police Chief David Seward was fired in late August for poor performance or misconduct in the areas of department finances, record keeping, communication with superiors, supervising officers and maintaining the department office, according to a city news release.

Seward did not return phone calls for comment.

Warren said Seward is under investigation by the Bell County sheriff and the Texas Rangers. Warren said he is restricted from discussing specifics about the matter.

The city's remaining three officers were fired in September.

The city accused former officer Jack Comeaux, 59, of insubordination, disrespect and keeping an unauthorized work schedule.

Comeaux disputed the allegations and said the officers were fired without a solid explanation or just cause. They are considering suing the city.

"I worry that the citizens don't have the level of protection that they had," he said. "We know the people. We know the neighborhoods. We know which kid belongs to which house. The deputies don't have that one-on-one personal knowledge like we do."

The City Council is reviewing applicants and hopes this month to hire a new chief, who will hire three new officers.

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