SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The board of aldermen meeting in Branson Tuesday night was packed.
Many were showing support for Branson police officers. Some were even wearing shirts that said “back those kids downstairs,” in response to a comment city administrator Stan Dobbins said last week that left police officers feeling disappointed and frustrated.
“I’ve been a policeman for 43 years. I have done this job far more than some of the kids that are downstairs that don’t know what being a policeman is about evidently.”
A statement that created a backlash.
“My father showed the optima of integrity last Thursday, and you impugned him to be a liar and accused him of creating hysteria. Sir, it is my conclusion that you are promoting falsehood,” said the Assistant Police Chief’s son Colton Schmitt.
Colton Schmitt took the stand, along with other police officers to share their concerns not only about the police department but the comments from the city administrator.
“In the past year alone, many, I understand the number to be upwards of 16 officers have left the department. It is my conclusion that many of these losses were the result of broken promises and stifled voices,” said Colton Schmitt.
“These kids downstairs consist of fathers, mothers, grandparents, attorneys, veterans, trainers, crash reconstructionists, crime scene techniques, and all are good cops who would take a bullet for anyone in this room or in this community. Frankly, an assertion made after last week’s meeting which was used as a term of endearment was exceptionally disappointing because we all know what we heard,” said Branson Police Officer Dale Burnett.
“In my opinion, an apology is more for PR and his image than actually being sorry. In my opinion, Dobbins’ statement is an inexcusable, pathetic, inane, Freudian slip showing a side of him the public very seldom sees,” said Branson resident Gary Groman.
Dobbins did not agree with Schmitt and the mayor, as they both said Branson PD is in a crisis mode. To compete with surrounding agencies, Schmitt says BPD needs a higher wage. No matter the outcome, officers want the community to know they’ll be there to protect them.
“Those who are able to continue under the circumstances will continue to put on the uniform every day and serve the citizens of Branson with the same level of devotion this police department always has,” said Officer Burnett.
Another topic officers brought up was the tax that voters approved in 2017. The Public Safety Sales Tax is a half-cent sales tax increase. In February 2020, the city said it had already generated roughly $9.8 million from the tax. It also outlined salary increase for both Fire Rescue and Police Department. Officers say they haven’t seen this.
“BPD members all sincerely hoped that funds from the city sales tax that is now four years old and was passed with our support, would be managed in such a way that would minimize our financial impact on other city departments,” Sergeant Caleb Teig said. “Many of us learned last week that the BPD fund is totally empty, although there is money in the reserve. There’s been a variety of explanation put forth over the years as to why the tax has not performed as expected or why the funds have been used as we mistakenly thought they would be. None of those explanations are useful in deciding how to move forward from here.”
Assistant Chief Schmitt’s son also said getting the sales tax approved was one of his first tasks when his dad started.
“I would like to remind you that when you hired my father, he hadn’t even gotten his boots on the ground when you told him to go politicking in the community to get a public safety sales tax passed,” Schmitt said. “You and the other city leaders at the time assured him that the tax was to raise the tax of our public safety servants. And I say servants because they are dedicated to serving, but they are not slaves. That tax, as I understand it, was in part to raise salaries for fire and law enforcement to a competitive range that would attract top notch applicants and keep the loyal firefighters and police officers you already had in order to maintain the highest degree of safety and service to our community. It was also to get a police station in which they could better function, instead of being relegated to a cramped basement dungeon. At no point did I understand this tax to be focusing on a city wide employee pay raise. There was not vote for that. Therefore it is prudent and fair to separate the fact that other employees throughout the city deserve a raise as well. Perhaps you need to prioritize spending on those salaries before beautification projects throughout the city.”
BPD officers make 35 percent less than the national average. At the very end of Tuesday’s meeting, Dobbins addressed the police officers comments.
“There’s some great men and women sitting out here in this audience,” Dobbins said. “Some of you know me better than other. I’ve always loved you and I’ve continued to love you. I could’ve chosen my words better the other day. I will be talking to each one of you individually. I want you to truly know I’ve always had your backs. Always. You’re always first in my heart. I’m not just a cop of 40 years. My family has been cops forever. I would never abandon you and I would never hurt you and if I have I’m sorry, but I want to talk to you all individually about that.”