Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said he is exploring alternative means of countywide police protection should Sheriff LeeRoy Hardin again suspend law-enforcement activities — as the sheriff did for about 19 hours Thursday and Friday.
"The people of Boyle County will be served with protection in a timely manner," McKinney said. "There are alternatives that we are looking at if Sheriff Hardin ... chooses not to provide police protection to the people of the county."
Simmering budget disagreements between Boyle County Fiscal Court and Hardin came to a boil Thursday afternoon when the sheriff ordered deputies not to respond to any police calls. Deputies were instructed to collect taxes, serve as court bailiffs and to serve court papers, but not to respond to accidents or other law enforcement-related calls.
Hardin, who did not return calls for comment, rescinded his suspension order Friday morning. In recent years, Hardin has butted heads with the county fiscal court on salary caps, the maintenance of cruisers, and overtime pay.
Asked whether he expects a similar order suspending law enforcement, McKinney said: "You know, the past is the best predictor of the future, and I'm not going to have another order next week that says something else without being prepared to deal with it.
"It was verbally rescinded. It could just as easily be verbally reissued," McKinney added. "And I am preparing the county and myself and the fiscal court to take the actions that we think are necessary to provide public police protection to people in Boyle County."
One alternative would be for Boyle County Fiscal Court to contract with the city of Danville to perform countywide police protection, Mc Kinney said. McKinney said he has already spoken informally to the city about that option.
Although they patrol within the city limits, Danville police officers have countywide jurisdiction. "The city has assured me that they are not going to let a real emergency go unmet," McKinney said.
The other option is that state law grants a county judge-executive power to "establish, appoint and maintain a county police force." Under that scenario, McKinney could appoint deputy sheriffs or other qualified individuals to be part of that county police force.
In either case, McKinney said, fiscal court has the authority to amend the budget to take away $650,000 in county general fund money that supplements the sheriff's $888,000 budget. That money would then be used to fund the county police force or to pay Danville for contracted services.
Either way, McKinney said, "The people are going to get the protection that they need and they deserve and they want. We're going to do it one way or another."
Hardin's order suspending response to calls went into effect about 3 p.m. Thursday, but he rescinded it at 10 a.m. Friday, Chief Deputy Jim Wilcher said. Hardin's order affected nine deputies who worked the afternoon and night shifts, Wilcher said. No major incidents happened during Thursday night, he said.
Kentucky State Police troopers covered the county during Thursday night and Friday morning. The Boyle County cities of Danville, Junction City and Perryville have their own police departments.
Hardin rescinded his order after Wilcher asked him to do so.
"I asked him to do it as a personal favor to me," Wilcher said.
Last summer, Hardin discontinued 24-hour patrols in the county. After 1 a.m. each day, deputies are still on call, but they do not patrol the roads until 7 a.m.
McKinney said he has received calls from the public complaining about the sheriff's Thursday order.
"They are telling me 'You need to do what you need to do and make sure we are protected," McKinney said.