Washington mayor in no hurry to appoint police chief

February 19, 2013

Washington’s mayor said she doesn’t plan to appoint a new police chief until a grievance regarding the police department’s promotion board is settled.

“I’m in no hurry,” said Mayor Brenda Davis. “I think that it needs to be evaluated and make sure the city has a voice from here on out.”

In late January, former Washington police Chief Robert Lemons announced he would return to his former rank of lieutenant and take up his prior role as shift supervisor of a patrol unit for personal reasons.

Earlier this month, Washington city and police officials met with an arbitrator for a private grievance hearing over a personnel matter. City solicitor Lane Turturice declined to discuss the matter. Davis said she could not speak about the specifics, but she expects a decision from the arbitrator in the coming weeks.

While the mayor has the sole power to appoint a chief, Davis said the police department heads up its own board that makes recommendations on all other promotions.

Davis said the major issue she has with the current promotion system is that all the members of the department – including the chief, captain and other higher-ranking officers – are members of the union through the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 95.

“That’s where the problem lies because they’re being pulled between both the city and the FOP,” she said.

“You can’t have a managerial position in an administrative role looking out for the best interest of the city of Washington when you’re part of a union, because that’s where your conflict lies,” she added.

According to Davis, the police department is divided over the promotions process. Washington police Officer John Hritz, president of FOP Lodge No. 95, could not be reached for comment.

As for the possibility of bringing in a police superintendent from outside the department to take the reins, Davis said it is an option she is entertaining.

Andy McNeil has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2011 as a general assignment reporter. He covers courts and education, and also serves as a photographer and videographer. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College, with a degree in English; Duquense University with a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate, and Point Park University with a graduate degree in journalism and mass communication.

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