Washington mayor Brenda Davis deals with police chief revolving door

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 10:45 p.m.

Washington police are seeking their fourth leader in less than two years, and residents and business owners are divided over what's causing the turnover.

Capt. Robert Wilson on Monday notified Mayor Brenda Davis via text message of his intention to retire, effective that afternoon. He could not be reached.

Davis, who appoints the police chief, took a positive tone despite allegations of ongoing friction between the police and City Hall.

“We're going to continue as we've always been doing,” said Davis, 41. “And that's to protect the city of Washington and its residents.”

Davis and city council members on Thursday could appoint Detective Lt. Dan Stanek as officer-in-charge of the 30-member department.

“We want to make sure business goes on as usual and runs smoothly,” said Stanek, 44, a 22-year veteran of the department.

Stanek said he would be interested in becoming police chief if that is what city officials decide. City officials are exploring their options, including looking outside the department, Davis said.

Wilson served on Washington's police force for nearly 26 years. He took over after the sudden resignation in February of Chief Robert Lemons, who resumed his duties as a lieutenant. Lemons could not be reached.

Former Chief Roger Blyth retired in January 2012, just before Davis became mayor.

“I don't know who's to blame or what's to blame, but there should be more cooperation,” resident Martha Barbarossa, 79, said of the department. “We're never going to get anything accomplished if we keep fighting with ourselves.”

Ken Miller, owner of Buy & Sell Outlet resale shop on South Main Street, blames the mayor for “overlording” the police department.

“It's a control issue,” said Miller, 46, of South Strabane. “It's (the chiefs') relationship with City Hall that seems to be the problem.”

Of allegations that she micromanages the department, “I would ask that they be specific,” Davis said. “I call it accountability. And there is a difference between micromanaging and accountability.”

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 95, the police union for Washington, this week asked council members to strip Davis of her powers over the department. Council did not act on the request.

The turmoil at the top occurs amid a spate of recent shootings, including a murder-suicide downtown and a home invasion last weekend on East Katherine Avenue.

Davis said those crimes could have happened anyway. “You can't predict those,” she said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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