Garden City police chief suspended pending investigation after entire department laid off

GARDEN CITY, Mo. -- After the entire Garden City Police Department was laid off last week, the only officer left on the force was the chief. That's no longer the case.

Chief Tom Alber has been suspended, Garden City Mayor Daniel Cantrell confirmed to FOX4 on Monday. Cantrell said Alber's suspension is pending on an investigation, but the mayor wouldn't say what that investigation regarded.

But Alber said the letter he received Monday makes it sound like he's been fired. He told FOX4's Zac Summers  he got into work around 9 a.m. and the mayor and a Cass County Sheriff's deputy were waiting out front.

Cantrell apparently gave him a letter that informed him the city's board of aldermen held an emergency executive meeting last Thursday and decided to suspend him without pay indefinitely, according to Alber.

Alber said he's in shock and called the move "concerning."

In an interview with FOX4 last week, Alber said the decision to lay off his entire department was a surprise to him, too.

The department used to be an army of eight -- until Wednesday when a human resources specialist representing the city showed up and laid off all seven officers in the police department, leaving Alber as the only employee with no explanation as to why.

But that HR specialist did give the chief other instructions, such as not talking to the media. Alber said he chose to speak to FOX4 last week because this is a public safety issue.

As of 2017, Garden City has a population of 1,629. Garden City police handle 2,800 calls each year with an average response time of 2 to 3 minutes.

Now, it will be up to the Cass County Sheriff’s Department to respond to those calls. The county already runs emergency dispatch service for the city.

Garden City mayor Daniel Cantrell shared his response on Facebook. It said in part, "We in the city are sad that this is what it has come to due to the budget of the city. We simply can no longer continue to travel down this road."

But Alber said he believes gutting the city's police department has nothing to do with budget issues.