Village of Belmont Creates New Police Force
BELMONT — The village soon will have its own police patrolling its streets again as it plans to part ways with the Bethesda Police Department.
Belmont Village Council voted unanimously Wednesday to pass an ordinance that creates a village police department. Council members had called the special meeting specifically to vote on the ordinance.
Belmont dissolved its own police department in 2016 and merged with Bethesda’s police department. Mayor Stanley Sobel said the village had only one officer in its department and needed more coverage at that time. Sobel also said the move is not related to the suspension of Bethesda Police Chief Eric Smith, who also is under a state investigation for allegedly misusing a law enforcement database.
“This is not a reaction to everything going on in Bethesda,” he said. “A long time ago, we were talking about having a police department.
“I just want transparency where our own police can tell me what they are doing, if everyone is certified, all of that stuff,” the mayor continued. “If you ask me a question about having background checks on the police, I could confirm it. I want to be able to know these things. When it is Bethesda’s police, I don’t know any of that. If there is a situation where Bethesda would need help, we would be glad to help them just like they have for us.”
The Belmont Police Department is scheduled to be ready for service July 1.
The village still needs to hire officers and a chief, council members said. Sobel and the council said they also are figuring out what the police personnel will be paid.
“The reason why it is extended to July is it gives us time to put things in place,” Sobel said. “I don’t want to hit the ground not prepared.”
Sobel said the village already has two police cruisers. One is a 2005 model, while the other is a 2016.
But council said it will cost more for the village to run its own department, even though its members say having the department is necessary. Belmont paid $1,280 per month to have Bethesda provide police coverage.
A police levy generates $7,000 a year for the village and Sobel said he has no plans of asking for a replacement levy. He said he does not want to raise any more taxes for village residents.
“Some people don’t realize that there are people in the village who are living on minimal social security and they just can’t afford to pay anything more for things like property taxes and whatnot,” Sobel said.