Police Lt. Dan Stanek, who heads Washington’s crime unit, will now serve as acting officer in charge for the city’s police department.
Mayor Brenda Davis said Stanek will serve in that capacity for the next 30 days.
Davis met with Stanek briefly Tuesday, the day after the police union appealed to City Council to have her removed as head of their department.
“I’d like to reassure residents that the city’s police department will be functioning as we always do,” Davis said.
Stanek has been on the force for 22 1/2 years.
After the 30-day period, Davis hopes changes will have been made in the police department. Unlike the city’s fire department, where the fire chief is not a member of the labor union, the police chief is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police union. Davis believes the two previous police chiefs’ inability to segregate themselves from the union members contributed to the discontent.
“That’s always going to be an issue, when you’re part of the brotherhood and you’re in an administrative role,” she said.
There may be a request to have City Council abolish the chief of police position and replace it with the position of superintendent of police. Doing so would allow the city to hire someone from outside the department.
City solicitor Lane Turturice said he was studying the state’s Third Class City Code.
“There is a mechanism through which the City Council, by ordinance, can essentially reorganize the police department,” he said, but added, “the mayor has the absolute right to name who she wants.”
An early intervention plan completed by the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development in 2007 to help the city hold off bankruptcy indicated the police department had too many people in managerial roles.
A city the size of Washington should have one lieutenant, said Davis. Instead, the city has six.
John Hritz, president of FOP Lodge 95, appeared before mayor and council at its agenda meeting Monday. Hritz called Davis a “bully” and “micromanager” and asked that she be removed.
City Council took no action and there is doubt it could remove her as head of the department.
Davis wasn’t ruffled by the call for her removal, saying Tuesday she has broad shoulders and can face harsh criticism.
She defended her actions, saying there was a difference between micromanaging and accountability. Accountability, she said, means officers return telephone calls and follow up on incidents.
If she was a micromanager, she added, she would be questioning anyone arriving five minutes late for work.
“I’m not sitting over there and watching the time clock. Lord, I don’t have time for that,” she said.