Police Chief and Mayor Battle Over Dismantling Marfa Police Department

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

MARFA - A 30 minute City Council meeting left the City of Marfa with no Police Department. Neighbors came to voice their concerns on Tuesday night. NewsWest 9 travelled to Marfa to find out what the Mayor and Police Chief had to say.

A call to action at the Marfa City Council meeting left the town with no police department. On Tuesday night, dozens of neighbors spoke out with mixed reaction on saving the city law enforcement.

"I applaud the Mayor and Administrator and City Council for getting us started in the right direction on this new budget," One Marfa Neighbor said.

Someone else chimed in, "I have two small children and I'm concerned for their safety. Who will be there quickly to protect the citizens?"

The Marfa Mayor told NewsWest 9, it's an effort to trim the budget and save Marfa residents money, but the Police Chief disagrees. He says it's a personal stab.

"I think when you're playing against a stacked deck, you've got a tough challenge to win," Chief J.D. Wilbourn with the Marfa Police Dept., said. "Obviously, the Mayor and City Administrator have an underlying agenda. I am that agenda - me personally. They've tried to destroy my reputation."

"This is not about the elimination of the Police Department," Marfa Mayor Dan Dunlap, said. "This is about consolidating with the county. Consolidating our resources with their resources so that we have a more efficient community."

But this isn't Chief Wilbourn's first go-around with city officials. A meeting two weeks ago almost left the Police Chief out of work following accusations of corruption and misconduct.

"There will be more than adequate law enforcement on the streets and in Marfa making sure our citizens are safe at all times," Mayor Dunlap said.

Mayor Dunlap says their decision to dismantle the Police Department in no way jeopardizes safety. They hope to have two deputies keep a watch on the city, but Chief Wilbourn believes that's not enough.

"Crime is going to go back up, theft is going to go back up, and burglaries will go back up because there's never a deputy here," Chief Wilbourn said.

And what's next for Chief Wilbourn? Even that's a topic of controversy.

"He will be a city employee even after Oct 1 as the City Marshall," Mayor Dunlap said. "The City Marshall as a minimum provides security for the Municipal Court."

"That's the first time I've heard of it when you first mentioned it," Chief Wilbourn said.

The changes in Marfa will go into effect during the new budget on October 1st following a vote by the City Council and the County Commissioners.