Attempt to dissolve Cleves Police Department marked by frustration, uncertainty

Village of Cleves debates police department funding

CLEVES, Ohio (FOX19) - The Village of Cleves continues to consider dissolving its police department and contracting with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and other nearby departments instead.

The proposal first came to light in early August, when the village divulged budget gaps, officer vacancies and difficulty recruiting. At the time, the village said it would have to impose a substantial tax increase to keep the police department, which currently takes up two-thirds of the village’s $1 million budget.

Contracting with the sheriff’s office, the village argued, makes good fiscal sense.

But Cleves villagers expressed frustration with the proposed move Monday at a regularly scheduled village council meeting. Some questioned the credibility of council members and others accusing the council of secrecy.

Prior to the meeting, sources told FOX19 NOW council was going to vote on the proposal. There was no vote held.

“You’re operating in the dark,” Chuck Birkholtz told the council members. “We want you to open the sunshine.”

Birkholtz also alleged intimidation by Village Administrator Mike Rahall and Mayor Stephen Myers.

Rahall and Myers denied the allegations. Rahall also said he and Myers have had no meetings on the proposal so far this week, “Period.”

They also said the reason there was no vote Monday is because the council had nothing to vote on. Village officials had reached agreement with the sheriff’s office, North Bend, Miami Township and Whitewater Township, they said, but the proposal was then tabled.

Council members said they have to work on a new agreement.

“This agreement will include offering all Cleves police officers with the sheriff, including covering our village, after appropriate vetting,” Rahall explained. “No position can be made legally until voted on by council.”

Meanwhile, Cleves interim Police Chief Justin Habig says he’s frustrated because he doesn’t yet know if he’s able to hire more officers and there isn’t a meeting scheduled to discuss the issue.

Council members tell FOX19 NOW when they decide it’s time to vote they can hold a special meeting as long as they five 48 hours notice.

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