Freeland Council considers disbanding police department

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FREELAND, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A police department in Luzerne County may soon be no more.

Eyewitness News has confirmed Freeland council has talked about disbanding the department. Sources tell Eyewitness News the matter was brought up during an Executive Work session of Council. Freeland officials Eyewitness News reached out to did not want to talk about the subject except one councilman.

“I can’t speak much about it due to executive session but I can confirm it has come up in conversation,” said Shayne Balliet, a Freeland Councilman.

Freeland Councilman Shayne Balliet agreed to talk with Eyewitness News about the possibility that the Freeland Police Department could be disbanded.

Sources in the borough had contacted the I-Team saying they had heard the police department was on the chopping block. We took that information to Balliet, who was the only Council member who returned our calls or agreed to speak with us.

“I can’t speak very much about the subject due to executive sessions. I can confirm that there has been a conversation involving disbanding the police department,” Balliet told us.

Under State laws Executive sessions allow Council members to talk in private about subjects like personnel that should not be discussed in public.

Balliet did say… “ I will do everything I can to ensure that the residents of Freeland continue to have police coverage. I do not feel that State Police coverage equals local police coverage.”

“I’m surprised by it because this is the first I’m hearing of it,” said John Wassel of Freeland.

John Wassel hopes the local officers stay on patrol.

“The presence of the police force here in Freeland is something many of us residents enjoy. Even if they have to cut back hours the fact we have them here if we need them,” Wassel added.

Freeland Police Department has four full time officers. The police chief told Eyewitness News he did not hear about the possible disbanding of his department, but said it would be a great loss to the community. Dave Purcell owns several businesses in town.

“I think it’s problematic because without police force in town your just looking to invite crime into the neighborhood. By the time the State Police respond to a call it’s too late.”

The mayor told me he also did not hear about council’s discussions. He had no comment. Balliet tells Eyewitness News the topic will likely be discussed at the next council meeting later this month.

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