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Locals have mixed feelings about keeping St. Augustine Beach police

6:16 PM, Jul 11, 2012   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. -- At the weekly St. Augustine Beach farmers market, the locals have mixed feelings about the future of the St. Augustine Beach Police Department.

Meike Hightower has sold linens and quilts at the market for more than ten years.

"I think the police do a fine job," she exclaimed. "Why mess with it when it's good?"

Her son agreed.

"The St. Augustine Beach Police Department has always maintained the beach very professionally and maintained order on the beach. I don't see a problem," Tom Hightower noted.

At a special St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting Monday night, commissioners will consider three options: 1) keep the police department and hire a new chief, 2) have the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office oversee the law enforcement responsibilities, or 3) hire a new chief while contracting with the sheriff's office for deputies on the streets.

Adrian de Giosafatto has a booth at the market.

"I think it would be okay if they took over patrol if there was the same kind of service given ... and the patrols were the same and not less," she said.

Reportedly it would save the City of St. Augustine Beach $600,000 - $900,000 a year if the police department was dissolved.

Debbie Allison lives in St. Augustine Beach and understands that chopping the department could save money.

"There's money that has to be paid for their salaries and it comes from the community," she acknowledged. However, she said she mixed feelings about the issue because she likes the police local department.

"You see them everywhere. Visibility is good," Allison said. "I think they do a good job."

The police department has had internal issues. In May, many of the officers filed a complaint against Chief Richard Hedges. It led to a state investigation and the chief's resignation.

In the end, the state cleared the Hedges of any criminal wrong doing.

Pat High, who sells jewelry at the market said, "I think the more we have those internal troubles, the more we air those things, the better it will be in the long run."

As for Hightower, who was starting to pack up her tablecloths and quilts, she believes the internal issues can be overcome and she wants her own police department.

"I'm in favor of it because they're right here!"

First Coast News

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