A majority chose to keep a local police force.

BETHEL – Police Chief Darren M. Tripp said he was surprised at the turnout for Tuesday’s municipal referendum on police coverage and appreciated the outcome.

Of the 626 people who voted, 507 put their collective feet down to keep their local police department, while 119 chose to disband it in favor of dedicated coverage from Oxford County deputies.

“I am very pleased,” Tripp said Wednesday afternoon. “I am very pleased with the turnout and I am very pleased with the outcome and how things went.”

Referendum Question 3 asked the town to authorize selectmen to contract with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department for police coverage. A majority yes vote would have disbanded Tripp’s four-person department.

“Eighty percent of the people can’t be wrong,” said Town Manager Scott Cole. “That’s good. Now that we’ve worked the issue and worked the concept, clearly we know what we’re going to be doing for law enforcement for the future.”

The contentious issue began earlier this year when selectmen asked Cole to contact Sheriff “Skip” Herrick and put together a comparison between town and county services.

By a 3-2 vote in April, selectmen recommended a yes vote on Question 3, which would authorize the board to contract with Oxford County for law enforcement coverage.

On Wednesday, the day after voters overwhelmingly disagreed with selectmen, Selectman Don Bennett applauded their decision.

Both Bennett and Selectman Jack Cross, who favored keeping Bethel’s department intact, voted against recommending the switch to county coverage at that April meeting.

“I saw that as the road we needed to go down to put it to bed for a while,” Bennett said.

Newly re-elected Selectman Reggie Brown, who recommended a yes vote, was very surprised at the outcome.

“I never could have believed that it would go down so big, but that’s OK,” Brown said Tuesday night upon learning the results. “They want their Bethel Police Department and it’s mandated now.”


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