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KY sheriff to public: ‘load your guns,’ entire dept suspended over funding

Civilian with gun (Sgt. Harley Jelis/Flickr)
February 13, 2019

Failed funding is forcing a Kentucky sheriff to suspend all police activity and now the county is on their own for protection.

Martin County Sheriff John Kirk told his residents, “Folks, lock your doors, load your guns and get you a barking, biting dog,” Fox News reported.

There has been a drastic cut in the eastern Kentucky coal severance taxes which has resulted in reduced compensation in the coal mining counties.

Since 2012, that money has decreased by 80 percent. It has been a big hit to the communities as a percentage of the money funded local governments.

“I’m very sorry to tell you this but I want the fine folks of this county to know the truth. WE ARE BROKE,” the sheriff said in a Facebook post.

Kirk said his wife has been coming to the office to help out after she leaves her full-time job. He added he has let the bookkeeper go and reduced office hours to 20 hours weekly.

With the recent reductions, the sheriff’s office will close at noon each day, no vehicle inspections will be performed, and the sheriff and deputy will complete court duties such as serving papers and conducting transports.

The Kentucky State Police will function as the role of the sheriff and most often the KSP has just one officer who patrols over several counties.

“I have been your Sheriff for over four years now. It has been a struggle to try to keep 24-hour protection for you and your family. I have had to operate the last little bit with just myself and one other paid deputy,” Kirk’s Facebook post said.

“If the sheriff’s office can’t protect you, who will?” Kirk asked.

Kirk said he was requested to present a reduced budget by $150,000 from the previous year, according to Newsweek. He spoke at a recent fiscal court meeting and informed those in attendance that his office was still owed a January payment of $75,000.

“The law requires the Sheriff to collect taxes, Bailiff court and serve papers. We have always provided police protection but without the funding, we can no longer do this,” he said.

The county was unable to give a time frame for when they would be able to make the $75,000 payment to the sheriff’s office.

Martin County Judge-Executive Bill Davis said, “I am very, very disappointed in what we have had to face as a court. Personally, I think there are a lot of better days ahead. It can’t get much worse.”

Kirk told his residents to be mindful of what is happening and to attend all of the court’s meetings.