Less than a week after incumbent Sheriff Lawrence Hodge was indicted on felony charges, sheriff’s department patrols are being reduced due to a manpower shortage.
The Whitley County Sheriff’s Department will be eliminating regular weekend patrols and all third shift patrols until further notice.
Whitley County 911 Director Chuck Davis said he was notified about the reduced patrols Friday, and that the changes took effect starting at 11 p.m. that day.
All emergency 911 police calls from 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, and all emergency calls on weekends are now being sent to Kentucky State Police Post 11 in London, which covers Whitley County, Davis said.
While Corbin and Williamsburg police will help out some in the county, they won’t be conducting regular patrols during third shift or on weekends.
Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney and Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison reached that decision after consulting at length Monday.
"It is unfortunate, but he and I both agree that our first number one priority is to the cities, and to the taxpayers," Harrison said Tuesday morning. "However, if there is an emergency or if the state police or what few deputies there are out there call us for assistance, we will respond to that."
Harrison said that the cities don’t have the funds, resources or manpower to also patrol in the county.
"I know it is an unfortunate incident, but we have to take care of what’s in the city first," he said.
McBurney echoed similar sentiments.
"If there is an emergency and we are called for back up or support of the county or state law enforcement, then we will help," McBurney said. "As far as us actually being on patrol out in the county, no, we can’t do that."
McBurney added that calls for police within the city limits of Corbin would take priority, taking into account the seriousness of the call.
"Whitley County is a big county and it is dangerous situation to not have enough law enforcement," McBurney said. "I think this is something people really need to take a look at. If you live in the city, you don’t have to worry about police protection or fire protection … We’ve always got it not matter what the political situation is."
Due to resignations and layoffs, the sheriff’s department is down to only three full-time road deputies, one of whom will be off for vacation the next two weeks.
Deputies Todd Shelley and Scott Prewitt are expected to split up first and second shift patrols Monday through Friday.
It is uncertain whether third shift patrols will resume once Deputy Dennis Foley returns from vacation.
Since retired Kentucky State Police Detective Colan Harrell soundly defeated Hodge in the May Primary Election, at least four officers have left the department for other jobs.
Davis, who was a detective in the department, left to become Whitley County Police Chief and 911 Director. Deputy Dorman Patrick quit to become a 911 dispatcher.
Deputy Brett Reeves took a job at the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department, and Deputy Adam Jarboe recently left to take a job at the Campbell County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Department.
Office worker Josh Price also left to take a job with the Whitley County school system.
Deputies Ben Hodge and Johnny Miller were recently laid off.
Their positions haven’t been filled. Harrell’s new administration is slated to take office Jan. 1.
Following a five-month investigation, a special called Whitley County Grand Jury indicted Lawrence Hodge last Monday on a 21-count felony indictment alleging abuse of the public trust and tampering with physical evidence.
"The sheriff is both a tax collector and a chief of a law enforcement agency," the special grand jury’s five-page report stated. "As the criminal charges returned along with this report show, we believe he has committed criminal acts regarding both of these assigned duties.
"We are aware as a grand jury that our review has been somewhat narrow in that we have not gone into possible violations of law, which are being investigated by other state and federal agencies. A federal grand jury will report on the results of those active investigations at a later date."
Federal officers also executed a search warrant at Hodge’s office and residence that day. A federal grand jury has been empanelled to investigate other allegations against Hodge, who is currently free on a $150,000 fully secured bond.
On Tuesday, Forcht Bank filed suit against Lawrence Hodge in Whitley Circuit Court attempting to collect payment on a $11,688.59 note and security agreement that was taken out on June 19, 2009.
The lawsuit alleges that as of Nov. 9, 2010, Hodge still owed $11,444.95 plus interest, which continues to accrue at 9 percent per annum.
The lawsuit also seeks to collect costs expended plus a reasonable attorney’s fee.
So far no response has been filed to the lawsuit.