Why is there always a police officer at Ashland City Council meetings? Are they really that dangerous?

Why is there always a police officer at Ashland City Council meetings? Are they really that dangerous?

— Mary, Ashland

The Ashland Police Chief or the chief's designee is required by the Ashland City Charter to attend council meetings and perform the duties of the Sergeant-at-Arms and "watch over, care for and preserve all the City property and good morals of the City."

During his seven years with the Ashland Police Department, Chief Terry Holderness said he has only had to perform his sergeant-at-arms role of keeping the peace twice.

On one occasion, the mayor asked him to handle a disruptive audience member, but the person left the meeting room voluntarily. Another time, Holderness went outside with a disruptive person until the person settled down enough to return to the meeting.

"We've never really had a problem," Holderness said.

But even without the charter requirement, Holderness said he or his designee would still attend council meetings to be available if questions about policing arise. Many of the city's department heads regularly attend meetings to answer questions raised by councilors or audience members.

"It's normal for police chiefs to attend city council meetings as department heads," Holderness said.

The Ashland Police Department sometimes adds an extra police officer if a meeting may get contentious, such as when protests are planned outside, he said.

Added officers attended recent meetings when the council took up the issue of gun control regulations.

Gun rights supporters who were openly carrying their guns into the meetings were advised they could only bring their firearms into the meetings if they had concealed weapons permits.

Ashland's charter also calls on the police chief "to see that all the laws and ordinances of the City, and the provisions of this Charter, are enforced, to file complaint with the City Judge against any persons violating any of the provisions of this Charter, or the laws or ordinances of the City; and a failure or neglect to faithfully perform any or all of such duties shall be cause for removal from office by the City Council."

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