City openings stretch deputies thin
Keeping a police presence in both the county plus two of its towns is stretching the sheriff’s office.
Peabody lost most of its police force in September when chief Bruce Burke, Josh Wilson, and Robert Bartlett resigned after a statement from then-mayor Tom Spencer that he “wanted druggies out of the city — legally or illegally.” Peabody’s remaining full-time officer, Caitlin Brunner, resigned in November to take a position with El Dorado department.
Marion lost two of its four full-time officers Dec. 27. Chief Clinton Jeffrey and assistant chief Steven Janzen resigned after city council members took no action on reports of alleged wrongdoing by then-city administrator Mark Skiles. Skiles later was fired.
The sheriff’s office has had to step up its service in those towns as well as provide coverage to the rest of the county.
Sheriff Jeff Soyez and Undersheriff Larry Starkey have been burning the midnight oil to fill in the gaps, Soyez said.
They often are called out on weekends. Weekend duties can take so much time that Soyez has ended up sleeping on the floor of his office. Both are making do with little sleep.
On Jan. 15, a mentally ill man had to be taken from Peabody to St. Luke Hospital, where he awaited a bed at Larned State Hospital for evaluation. Starkey, whose workday had begun at 9 a.m., went to the St. Luke at 2:30 p.m. to provide security. At 5 p.m., Soyez went to the hospital to relieve Starkey.
Soyez was at the hospital until Monday morning, then slept on the floor of his office until Monday’s county commission meeting.
“It cost me a shift of 24 hours,” Soyez said.
The sheriff’s office will be fully staffed in February when Burke comes on duty.
Until then, Soyez said, he’s trying to hold deputies to their assigned 12-hour shifts and calls on the department’s four part-time deputies to work more often.
Peabody has had people apply for police department jobs but decline to come for an interview.
Marion has a police chief opening listed on the Kansas Peace Officers Association, the City of Marion, and the Kansas Rural Water Association website.
Municipal court clerk Sandy Scheele said no applications had come to the city office. Acting police chief Duane McCarty could not be reached to say if applications had come directly to the police department.