Dear Residents of Stockton,

As your City Attorney, it is my priority to ensure that our city’s decisions and partnerships are both beneficial and transparent, particularly when it involves community safety and responsible use of financial resources. After a thorough analysis and consideration of the longstanding partnership with Cedar County for police services, I believe it is time for us to re-assess this arrangement to ensure it aligns with Stockton’s evolving interests and future aspirations.

Like Sheriff McCrary pointed out, Stockton hasn’t always relied on Cedar County for police services. Stockton used to have its own small police force that significantly improved safety and response times for police services in Stockton. But tough times in the early 2000s led Stockton leadership to turn to Cedar County, hoping to save some money. Instead of a reduction in the force, the choice was made to give the entire Stockton police department to Cedar County. While the decision made in the early 2000s was financially motivated, circumstances have changed, and it is our responsibility to re-evaluate this decision with a forward-looking perspective for Stockton.

In general, I believe that the City does not have enough documentation showing the  Stockton-specific police services being provided by Cedar County in addition to the services Stockton residents already receive as Cedar County taxpayers. There is an overall lack of transparency and detailed information regarding the additional services Stockton receives. Effective governance requires transparency and meticulous record-keeping from all service providers. For Cedar County, good records and clear details about the services they provide Stockton are a must. Stockton requires the same level of detailed record-keeping from all other City vendors.

The absence of comprehensive records involving Stockton-specific police services makes it difficult to fully evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of this agreement for our City. Additionally, despite the Sheriff’s assurances that this arrangement is working for Stockton residents, throughout the past 2 years, I have been made aware of several ongoing, systemic, communication and response time issues still existing today that do not allow the City to directly communicate City-specific concerns to all Cedar County officers, know which officers are designated Stockton-only officers and where such officers are in the City (even though this information is available to the county), provide a community-based policing effort, or participate in specific decisions involving Stockton’s police services.

Although this arrangement is working for the county, that does not necessarily mean it’s also working for Stockton. A one-size-fits-all approach rarely addresses the unique needs and challenges of a community like Stockton’s, especially when there are no clear records letting Stockton residents know what’s going on.

The idea of bringing back a local police presence, led by a Chief of Police and possibly supported by a deputy who both may live in Stockton, is not merely about repeating a mistaken past. It has shown in other similar cities to be a strategic move towards ensuring a law enforcement system that is deeply connected and living within/near the community it serves, understands Stockton’s unique needs, and is directly accountable to Stockton residents. Operating within Stockton’s current budget constraints, this option may propose a more localized, responsive, and community-oriented approach to policing.

As Sheriff McCrary mentioned, there was a time in Stockton’s past  where a small, dedicated local police team significantly reduced crime, enhanced public safety, and made a big difference. We just have to be careful to not let it get too big. I appreciate Sheriff McCrary telling his story. His experiences and lessons from the past are invaluable during this time. We need to learn from the past in order to grow together in the future. However, my experience as the City Attorney over the past 2 years leads me to believe that while the county’s approach may be working fine on a broader county scale, it might not be delivering the tailored, focused service that Stockton requires and has been requesting.

As we continue to discuss the future of law enforcement in Stockton, we must consider the overall value, community impact, and standards of transparency and accountability that responsible stewards of public resources are obligated to uphold. In the end, the City requires these same stringent standards from other vendors and expects Cedar County to uphold these same standards as well.

I invite each of you to engage in this important dialogue about community-safety and well-being, as we work together to figure out the best choice for public safety in Stockton.

Warm regards,

Janae L. Graham

City Attorney

City of Stockton, Missouri

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