Roseboro, N.C. — The Sampson County Sheriff's Office could soon be patrolling Roseboro streets, bringing to an end a police department that has protected the town of 1,500 for decades.
The Roseboro Police Department has been troubled since its chief resigned in May. Interim Police Chief Anita Merritt stepped down in September on the same day a captain was arrested for buying a vehicle transmission with town money.
The department is full staffed with five workers but employs only two people.
Despite those troubles, closing the police department would be a big change for the small town, Commissioner Anthony Bennett said.
"It was born in 1950. It was here then, and it's still here now," Bennett said.
Troubles finding a new chief, however, led town commissioners to vote 3-1 in favor of entering a contract with the sheriff's office.
"The reality is we can't afford in our budget the kind of folks we need with the skills that are required to do a good job," Mayor Roland Hall said.
Under the contract, the sheriff's office would hire four deputies who would be assigned to Roseboro. Town officials say they would have to pay $189,000 up front to hire the deputies, but the arrangement would save Roseboro up to $70,000 a year.
Bennett expressed sadness that his town might lose its own police force.
"I'm not saying that the sheriff's office won't do a great job if the need comes, because they're supportive of our town anyway," Bennett said. "But I just think our town needs its own police force."
However, such arrangements are becoming more common for small towns, Hall said. In July, the Sampson County Sheriff's Office struck a similar agreement with the town of Garland.
"Our decision to contract with the sheriff was not a hasty decision. We agonized with it most of the summer," Hall said. "This seems to be what a lot of small towns are having to do these days in order to give protection that our people need."
Sampson County commissioners are expected to approve the deal once attorneys have worked out the details.