There are 9,000 people in Chillicothe served by a police department of 20. With only 15 of those on street patrols, the recent loss of four experienced officers has put a strain on staffing and raised eyebrows over the reasons behind the staff shortage.
"Any time you have people leave who have 10 years, 15 years, 20 years in the department," said City Administrator Ike Holland, "you lose that history and experience, so it impacts the department."
Three of the vacant positions involve investigations into wrongdoing, but Holland says the department still has a strong reputation and residents should not see any impact in service.
"You can overlap the shifts to cover people," he said. "We know based upon our service calls what our peak hours are for calls, and so we make sure in particular that those are covered."
The first officer to go was a sergeant who left two months ago for active duty in the military.
Then came a series of suspensions, all within a week.
One involved a wreck last summer on V Highway. An officer now faces misdemeanor charges, accused of covering up a DUI wreck by taking the driver and passenger to his house, then returning to the car to remove a bottle of Captain Morgan rum and the women's cell phones.
Officer Brent Schade, who has six years on the job, was placed on unpaid leave last Friday.
Earlier that week, on Jan. 19, Sgt. April Locke and Capt. Tony Kirkendoll were placed on paid leave pending an unrelated investigation. Locke had eight years of experience with the department. Kirkendoll had 15. Both resigned Monday night.
"With personnel matters," Holland said, "as a matter if policy, we don't get into the details or describe what that investigation led to."
The officers may have resigned, but the investigation is still unfolding.
"There are still some things that came out in the last week that the police chief is still pursuing," said Holland.
He said the investigation, like any internal investigation, will be widespread, looking not just at what sparked the investigation.
"Sometimes you go down a path and it will take you down another path," Holland said. "So I always keep that open so that if we need to go down that road, we take it."
In the short term, he said, the staffing shuffle may involve putting administrative leadership on street patrols and counting on the sheriff's office for backup. Finding a long-term fix is something they don't want to rush because it could be an opportunity to reorganize for the better.
"We are going to take our time," he said, "especially since we are able to cover the shifts."
KCTV attempted to reach the named officers but their most recent listed addresses led to either darkened homes or residents indicating the people in question no longer lived there.
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