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Westmorland residents crowd city council chambers, fear losing police department

Westmorland residents crowd council chambers, fears of losing police department

WESTMORLAND, Calif. - The Westmorland City Council Chambers were unusually filled to capacity at Wednesday’s regular meeting. The majority of people were there to ask if they were losing their police department and if the Sheriff was taking over.

Westmorland resident Jesus Castellanos Cortez said, “There are problems in the city because the police chief is retiring.”

City Mayor Mary Ann Smith said the city is only looking for a temporary supervisor from the Sheriff’s Office until they hire another police chief.

Some residents were not satisfied with that answer. They want a police chief chosen from the current police ranks.

“I don’t agree that somebody should come from the outside into the police department and force their ideas,” Cortez said.

Other residents said the city needs an experienced supervisor during the transition.

“I think it’s good that they’re going to bring somebody to look over. Because you never know, something might happen that we need somebody from the sheriff’s department,” Teresa Francos said.

They said somebody from outside the department might be beneficial.

“He doesn’t know everybody, so he’s going to be a little tougher than the actual ones,” Francos said.

Imperial County District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley said the community needs to work this out in an orderly way. The chambers were so packed he never got a chance go inside.

“I want the city of Westmorland and the citizens to decide that,” Kelley said.

At meeting’s end, the council repeated their plan to not dissolve the police department, but to look for a temporary transitional supervisor from the Sheriff’s Office.

One resident was apologetic about the heated discussions between community and council that took place during the meeting.

Katy Miranda said, “it’s not about a personal thing over the officers or the people, it’s about our safety.”


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