Disagreement Between Two DeFuniak Springs Agencies

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The heads of two police agencies in a panhandle county aren't seeing eye to eye when it comes to answering calls. Walton County Sheriff Ralph Johnson says his department can protect DeFuniak Springs without the help of local police.

There's talk of putting the two agencies under one roof.

Walton County Sheriff Ralph Johnson told News 4 he isn't saying his department could do a better job than the police department. He just says if the two agencies merged or if the sheriff's office took over policing duties, it would save DeFuniak Springs money.

But DeFuniak Springs Police Chief Michael Adkinson has a different point of view.

The DeFuniak Springs Police Department could become vacant if Walton County Sheriff Ralph Johnson has his way.

Johnson says his deputies already handle many calls within DeFuniak Springs.

Sheriff Johnson said, “It's a matter of economics. Right now the office can do it cheaper because we have the upper staff in place."

But DeFuniak Springs Police Chief Adkinson says he doesn't want any part of a merger or a takeover. He says he has enough manpower to police the city.

“We provide in much greater ability, I'd say, because we deal with a defined population. It's the ability to access from the chief on down," said Chief Adkinson.

The two men haven't spoken with each other about this issue. Adkinson says he is willing to meet with Johnson to discuss the situation, but Johnson says he doesn't think a meeting is necessary.

"Our job is to give service to the citizen. That's what we're going to do. I can't answer all the complaints. That's the reason for a staff," said Sheriff Johnson.

As far as policing the area, both departments have been working together. But Adkinson says that if Johnson gets his way, something might be missed.

Those deputies would not be defined to DeFuniak Springs; they would be working for the county, which means if there was a call outside, in the county, which would take priority.

The county currently employs 137 deputies.

DeFuniak Springs has 16 officers on their payroll, and despite the battle are looking to hire four more.

In order for the sheriff's department to take over or merge with the police department it would have to be approved by voters in DeFuniak Springs. So far city leaders have not proposed any kind of merger or takeover, but that could change.

The DeFuniak Springs Police Department is the only other local law enforcement agency in Walton County.