Garden City police chief believes he was suspended for speaking out on layoffs

GARDEN CITY, Mo. -- Layoffs for seven officers with the Garden City Police Department last week left Chief Thomas Alber as a one-man department.

Alber said the day the layoffs happened, Nov. 14, he was told not to speak to the media. He did anyway because he considered the situation a matter of public safety.

On Monday, Mayor Daniel Cantrell delivered a letter to Alber, suspending him indefinitely without pay. He believes that speaking out is the cause of the suspension.

"I hate to speculate, but without any input or without any reason given, what other assumption can I make that my concern for public safety resulted in my termination?” Alber said.

Corrie Lopez, who lives in Garden City, said there's been animosity between the mayor and police chief for a long time. She's afraid that without a dedicated police department, this small town will be overrun by what she calls a drug problem brewing in Garden City.

It's also a town without a school. Lopez said that makes Garden City a haven for sexual predators after getting out of prison.

Cantrell has not answered FOX4's questions, instead posting a statement on Facebook, blaming the city budget for the demise of the police department.

“If we need to cut back, we need to sit down as our citizens and say 'Hey, where do we cut back?' Because I would cut back something else instead of taking away our police department. I don't think it was probably the best of ideas," Lopez said.

Garden City resident Delmer Merriman agrees. He wants answers from the mayor.

“He just made a short statement saying we need to spend the money elsewhere because we can't afford to fix several other things,” Merriman said. “I don`t think eliminating it totally was a good idea.”

Until further notice, the Cass County Sheriff's Department will be the primary law enforcement agency in Garden City. There will be one deputy assigned to patrolling the city every day.