MOUNT VERNON — A practice discontinued in the mid-80s may soon return to Mount Vernon.
The Mount Vernon Police Department used to provide police escorts for funerals, but due to layoffs on the force in 1986, former Police Chief Tom Bartlett stopped the practice. Even though the vacant officer positions were later filled, Bartlett did not resume the escorts.
“We think to some extent we will be able to work something out,” Police Chief Mike Merrilees told council Monday.
He said it might be just one officer; representatives from the funeral homes would have to organize the process, and then let the MVPD know what time to arrive. The officer may only be available for 30 minutes, but that would be time enough to lead the procession through the high-traffic areas in town.
Councilman Bruce Hawkins asked Merrilees what jurisdiction the MVPD would have outside of the city limits, and how far the officer would escort the procession.
“Those are the details we need to work out,” said Merrilees, adding that the department may have some jurisdiction outside city limits under the state code.
It may depend on which cemetery the procession is going to, he said. For example, if it is from Mount Vernon to Fredericktown, once the procession reaches the city limits on a state route, the officer would pull to the side and let the procession continue. Merrilees pointed out the safety issue is lessened on a state route compared to going through town on Coshocton Avenue.
Mount Vernon resident Tony Smith, an advocate of the escorts, was pleased Merrilees is willing to look into the issue.
“I just feel this is an important issue to me — I believe the Lord laid it on my heart,” he said. “I just feel it’s necessary that we bring this service back to the citizens of Knox County.”
Smith said he spoke with Brent Lasater of Dilley-Lasater Funeral Home about the escorts. According to Smith, Lasater said that with the high volume of traffic, it is a nightmare turning onto Coshocton Avenue. Councilman Mike Hillier concurred that Lasater would like something done.
Hillier said if an officer is available, he would be in favor of the escort, but he is not in favor of incurring overtime in order to provide the service.