23 Wellston officers turn in badges as department disbands

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WELLSTON, MO (KPLR) – The Wellston Police Department is no more after being disbanded, a move that caught many in the community by surprise.

Twenty-three Wellston police officers found out Monday was their last day on the force. Locks were changed and officers were asked to hand over guns and badges.

Police services in the community will now be handled by Vinita Park, part of what’s being called the “North County Policing Cooperative.” An official announcement is expected at noon Tuesday by Wellston Mayor Nate Griffin.

Wellston Police Chief G.T. Walker will still have a job in this new cooperative. He attempted to reassure residents about the quality of service at a meeting Monday evening. Meanwhile, Vinita Park Police Chief Tim Swope said his officers began patrolling Wellston that night.

Wellston’s police department has been struggling for some time. There have been conflicts in recent between the police department and the city council here, thanks in part to run-ins with the son of a city council member.

A report last month said Wellston couldn’t even afford to provide officers with guns. In July 2014, news broke that the City of Wellston owed nearly $11,000 to a local gas station for filling up police cruisers.

In addition to Vinita Park, Vinita Terrace will also be part of the new policing cooperative – and that might not be the end of it.

Swope said plans are being discussed for his officers to take over policing in another community as well.

And what about the now former officers of the Wellston Police Department? Chief Swope said those officers will be able to apply with Vinita Park.