A Kentucky sheriff suspended law enforcement due to a lack of funding: 'Lock your doors, load your guns'

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  • A county in Kentucky did not provide the Sheriff’s Office with funding in January.
  • In a message on Facebook, Martin County Sheriff John Kirk told residents that he couldn’t give them the help they needed. “Folks, lock your doors, load your guns, and get you a barking, biting dog,” he wrote.
  • In lieu of law enforcement, Kirk said residents could turn to the Kentucky State Police.
  • During a fiscal court meeting on February 4, the sheriff said that his department did not receive a $US75,000 payment it was owed in January, forcing him to lay off two employees, cut down hours, and make other financial cuts.

Martin County, Kentucky, is facing a financial crisis. And the latest department to be impacted by this is its Sheriff’s Office, as the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

In a post on his personal Facebook page, Martin County Sheriff John Kirk told residents that due to a lack of funding law enforcement in the area would cease.

“Folks, lock your doors, load your guns, and get you a barking, biting dog,” he advised. “If the Sheriff’s Office can’t protect you, who will?”

Per the Herald-Leader, Kirk took the stage without an invitation at a February 4 fiscal court meeting to speak about the lack of funding. Kirk said his department was owed a $US75,000 payment from January.

Also during the meeting, Kirk said that his department had recently been saddled with $US99,000 worth of additional expenses, including paying for employees’ benefits like workers’ compensation insurance, retirement, and social security, the Herald-Leader reported.

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Kirk said that because of this financial burden, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office would have to make significant changes to its day-to-day operations. During the meeting, he said he had laid off his bookkeeper and had restricted his office’s hours from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekdays, the Herald-Leader reported. Per his Facebook post, he had to switch his night shift deputy to the day shift.

These changes in operations culminated with the sheriff suspending law enforcement in the area. Instead, he said, people should turn to the Kentucky State Police with concerns.

In his post, Kirk stressed that these changes boil down to financial issues.

“Law enforcement as we have known for the last four years will not exist. I’m very sorry to tell you this but I want the fine folks of this county to know the truth,” he wrote. “We are broke.”

During the February 4 meeting, Kirk blamed last year’s fiscal court for the county’s current financial woes. At one point, he directly called out judge Victor Slone, the only member of last year’s court still serving, calling him “part of the problem,” per the Herald-Leader.

According to the Herald-Leader, this problem isn’t unique to Martin County. Several counties in Eastern Kentucky that relied on revenue generated by coal production have faced financial hardship in the last year. In 2018, coal generated just $US6.7 million worth of revenue, a sharp decline compared to the $US34 million it garnered in 2012, per the Herald-Leader.

The fiscal court pledged to pay the missed $US75,000 payment, although it did not say when the money would be made available. Additionally, the court has since approved the sheriff’s office $US140,000 budget.

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

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