Kingston mayor suspends police chief
by Matt Shinall
Feb 15, 2011 | 4611 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just hours before the city of Kingston's regular meeting Monday, Mayor Dexter Jones notified Police Chief Walter Harrell that he was placed on suspension.

After a round of public comment, Harrell addressed the mayor and council to informally petition the action and make his case. With him was the handwritten notice on a piece of paper signed by the mayor and torn from a legal pad earlier that day citing "insubordination."

"Part of the reason is that I'm just not satisfied with the amount of time that you are giving the city of Kingston," Jones said. "I simply need more out of you than that. ... The hours that you are working are not acceptable."

The decision to suspend Harrell began with a meeting Monday in city hall between the chief and mayor discussing Harrell's work schedule to better cover nights and weekends. The city has been left with only two officers including the chief since two officers were laid off in November.

"We're the city of Kingston, we're not Hawaii Five-O, we're not New York PD. We cannot afford to have a chief of police, one of only two officers, that comes over here and sits down in the office from nine to five and then goes home," Jones said. "We need a police officer, we don't need you to come up here and run this town. We need you to help protect the citizens, we need you out here patrolling."

Jones argued that Harrell had not given full service to the city due to two part-time jobs he has kept while employed as chief. The mayor added that complaints had been heard about the chief not being seen in the community.

"If the city paid me enough to where I wouldn't have to have two, three jobs, I'd be smiling everyday here but I knew what I was getting into when I took this job. So, it couldn't have been about the money, it's the love I have for the city of Kingston and the citizens," Harrell said. "As chief of police I'm usually here Monday through Friday answering complaints, doing paperwork that's required by law that has to be turned in and I get out and ride some."

As for complaints within the community, a crowd of residents attended Monday in vocal support of the chief. Twice when questions were asked of his performance, visibility and candor, guests quickly acknowledged their faith in Harrell's ability.

"Since I took this job as chief of police, I had visions of coming here doing the right thing, getting people motivated and bringing money into the city of Kingston," Harrell said. "When you hired me, you hired me to do the right thing and I told you that's the only way I operate."

When the matter of part-time employment arose again, Harrell noted that those obligations had never interfered with his duties to the city.

"There is nothing I feel like I have done to disgrace this city, only thing I try to do is make this city better," Harrell said. "You can call either of my bosses and they will tell you that this is my first love. I take care of home first."

With the mayor's decision occurring in the late afternoon, councilmen were not made aware until shortly before Monday's meeting. Councilman Chuck Wise expressed his displeasure of having found out after work hours. With similar circumstances arising last month with the city clerk, Wise was saddened to see the situation unfolding Monday.

"I'm sad, I'm hurt to even open my mouth because we're going round and round on this stuff every week. I'm embarrassed, I'm embarrassed to keep running my mouth and trying to do the right thing. I think I'm speaking in the correct way but I'm hurt by all this stuff, it's embarrassing," Wise said.

Harrell is expected to file a written complaint with the council to gain a formal hearing on the matter of his suspension.

On Monday's agenda was the acceptance of the 2009 audit and a resolution to apply for a federal grant for a historic mural of the great locomotive chase. Both items were approved.