LUTHER, Okla. - A day after the town fired its second police officer in the last eight months, some residents are raising concern about their safety, as well as that of their remaining police officers.
"I see their presence - not only here on Main Street - but throughout the town as well," said Beth Lefave, who owns Beth's Baubles and Bits in downtown Luther.
The town is down two full-time police officers. Former Sergeant Mike Oliver was fired last January after his termination was upheld by an appeals board. Officer Anthony Butler was fired Tuesday night by the town board after he was charged with domestic assault as well as battery of a police officer earlier this month.
The Luther Board of Trustees also voted to start another search to replace Butler. However, during a public comment portion of the meeting, two officers' spouses spoke up with concerns about the increasing workload on their husbands, fellow officers and reserve officers on the force.
"Because once they reach overtime, you’re going to put it on (Chief David Randall). The chief is salaried. They can only work so many hours in a shift," said Tonya Gutierrez. "If one goes down and is sick, who are you going to have cover shifts? You’re going to have open shifts.”
"Let me just stop you and say I don’t think anybody is thinking it’s not that bad," Mayor Jenni White responded. "Certainly, we don’t want anybody in a situation where there’s endangerment of any kind.”
White declined to talk on camera after the meeting about the concerns, and declined News 4's offer to talk on camera about the matter Wednesday, but said over the phone the town's coordinating with the police chief to address the department's needs.
Randall said the rearranging of schedules and replacing Oliver's position with a part-time officer did lead to departmental strains that are now exacerbated because of Butler's firing. Randall declined to talk about the matter Wednesday.
"We will work to make sure everything is covered the way it should be covered," Randall said Tuesday. "I want to hire somebody immediately because, yes, home life is a strain right now for us."
A strain on the department Lefave worries could ripple throughout the small town.
"Living out in the country, there is some concern," Lefave said. "Are they going to be able to patrol everything they need to patrol, and keep me safe if I’m at home?"