(06/25/2001)
By Bob Weaver

State Police memos released through a Freedom of Information request by The Hur Herald, reveals information regarding the agencies decision to discontinue after hours coverage in Calhoun County. That policy was later rescinded.

Sgt. David Garrett of Spencer, the Grantsville detachment supervisor, states in an inter-office memo on May 17, "Sgt. Bonazzo advised me that the Calhoun Sheriff's Department and the Grantsville Police Department were no longer taking 911 calls after hours."

Responding to the memo, Sheriff Allen Parsons said "I never made that statement. Our department has always answered all our calls." It is "totally inaccurate and false."

The Calhoun County Sheriff's Department has a long history of responding to local after hours calls. "Scanner listeners will attest to that," said one official. "Why such a statement would be made is baffling to me," said Sheriff Parsons. "We've tried hard to cooperate with the State Police."

Grantsville Chief of Police Charles McCroskey, said the statement was "false and it never came from us." He said there has never been a night in Grantsville that someone was not on call. "Lately, I've been working seven nights a week."

First Sgt. David Garrett did not discuss coverage problems with Sheriff Parsons or Chief McCroskey. Officials said the State Police did not notify Calhoun Control/911 of recent unit number changes for police cruisers in the county, nor are they providing on-duty schedules.

The State Police sent an internal memo to Calhoun Control/911 on May 10, detailing the decision to discontinue coverage. The Hur Herald printed the memo contending police coverage was public information and of concern to Calhoun citizens. Sgt. Garrett reportedly said the memo was meant for Calhoun Control/911 only.

A second memo was issued on May 18, rescinding the first directive. It states the State Police "Will take any and all calls" although the agency declined to make the information public. The Hur Herald inquired about the policy change with numerous phone calls and faxes going unanswered, prior to the FOIA request.

"If the problem was lack of coverage by local law enforcement, the cutting of State Police service didn't make much sense," said a local officer. He couldn't offer any explanation for the statements. "They did lose one of their officers, and are down to three," he said. While the memos seemed to blame Sgt. Bonazzo for the problems, the official said it was likely supervisor Garrett was aware of the situation.

New State Police Superintendent Howard Hill said he is vitally concerned about "attitude" problems in the ranks and feels more emphasis should be placed on service to the community, in addition to the mission "to protect." The department has been plagued with dozens of suits related to unprofessional conduct by some troopers.

Hill says the department has suffered from having its insurance premium go to one and one half million dollars. He said insurance costs help drain the budget and keeps some units from having essential supplies.


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