CENTERVILLE -- After abolishing the director of police services position in a 3-2 vote Tuesday, one of the dissenting council members said creating the civilian position may have been a mistake.
Councilman Jonathan Nichols also said that when hired, city employees should be given the opportunity to do their jobs.
“We probably should have gone about finding a police chief in a different manner in the first place rather than have Ed Tucker step down and take the director position, but hindsight’s 20-20,” Nichols said. “Going forward, we need to give somebody else enough time to get in the job and do it.”
Councilman Cameron Andrews, who cast the other dissenting vote, declined comment on the decision.
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The director of police services job was created in July following the June resignation of Police Chief Sid Andrews.
The new position was immediately filled by former Councilman Ed Tucker, who resigned his Post 3 seat to take what was initially to be a part-time job to provide administration leadership at the department.
Tucker is a veteran educator and Georgia Army National Guard member.
Lt. Phillip Pritchett, the head of Centerville’s patrol division, took over law enforcement leadership at the department.
Then in early September, after what Nichols called only “weeks on the job,” the council placed Tucker and Pritchett on non-punitive administrative leave and gave leadership of Centerville police to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office for 90 days. The council asked the sheriff’s office to investigate undisclosed problems in the department.
On Sept. 10, Capt. Ronnie Harlowe of the Sheriff’s Office was named to lead the Centerville department. Pritchett, still on administrative leave, left the department Sept. 18.
Councilman Micheal Evans, the council member overseeing police department matters, said there was no communication with Tucker about abolishing his job, which effectively terminated his role with police, though he remains on administrative leave.
Voting in favor of eliminating the position were Evans, Councilman Randall Wright and Mayor John Harley.
Harley said Tuesday’s decision was a “move in a different direction” in dealing with problems at the department.
He also said the city would move ahead by drafting a new chief of police job description. The mayor gave no timeline for seeing a new chief in place at the department.
The council met for three hours in a closed session discussing the personnel issue prior to meeting in the regular session Tuesday.
In another police matter Tuesday, Harlowe got approval from the council to spend $12,906 for 12 body cameras for police.
The body cameras will replace smart glasses the department purchased and has used since earlier this year.
In February, Andrews told the council that 12 new pairs of smart glasses, including batteries and related items, would cost the city $9,200. Harlowe said arrangements had been made to return the glasses for a refund of about $9,000.
Harlowe told The Telegraph that body cameras were better suited for Centerville use. He said they were smaller, more stable, were not prone to falling off as glasses could and provided significantly better battery life than the smart glasses.