Acting city police chief abruptly retires

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The city of Washington is again without a police chief.


Capt. Robert Wilson, who has been serving as acting chief of police since February, announced Monday he was retiring at 4 p.m. that day.


Wilson was serving as acting police chief after Chief Robert Lemmons stepped down from that position.


Wilson, 50, declined to comment other than to say “it’s just my time.” He said he has no immediate plans for retirement.


Mayor Brenda Davis received a text message from Wilson Monday indicating he was retiring that afternoon.


“His text said his mind was made up, so I’ll take it as is,” Davis said when contacted by telephone.


Wilson’s decision comes following a violent week involving a murder-suicide on South Main Street and another shooting on East Katherine Avenue.


“It puts the city in a difficult position. Were trying to combat the crime and the drugs that are happening in the neighborhoods,” Davis said. She added that the city may have to consider abolishing the chief of police position under the Third Class City code and seek outside candidates for superintendent of police.


Monday afternoon, Wilson was packing his belongings and refused media requests for an interview. He did take time, however, to give a quick tour of the police station to two young boys who were accompanied by their father.


Shaking the young boys’ hands, he gave them a warm smile and asked, “Do you want to see the cells?”


Although she did not know Wilson’s reasons for retiring, Davis said they were to meet today to discuss what she termed Wilson’s insubordination, explaining that he had violated a directive from her when he appeared in court during a personal matter in uniform. She had instructed him not to wear the uniform even though Wilson was working that day.


Despite losing another chief Davis was looking at the change in a positive way. She added she is ready for quality leadership to move the department “in the direction that it needs to be.”


“I can’t tell you how many calls I get from residents that the police don’t want to get out of their cars or don’t enforce the ordinances. Constituents are frustrated,” she said.


In March, the city asked for letters of interest for the position of chief of police. Wilson was the only person who submitted one. But Davis said that was because of other officers not wanting to “step on Wilson’s toes.”


Ed Cochran, former city police chief, expressed amazement no one wanted to be chief.


“I never knew a time when the job was open and not a half a dozen guys wanted it … until now,” he said.


Davis expressed her displeasure, too, that no one was willing to take the position.


“It’s just unbelievable to me,” she said. “You have 31 guys over there but no one wanted to be the leader, but the one who wanted to be the leader has decided he doesn’t want to be the leader. I feel like Romper Room. Don’t get me wrong, we have some good, officers over there, but there are some who aren’t so good and they’re bringing the department down.”


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