Captain Peter Davis, the highest-ranking officer in the Springfield Police Department, announced that he was resigning his position and retiring from the force altogether at the Springfield Township Committee meeting Wednesday. His resignation came shortly after Springfield Deputy Mayor Bart Fraenkel said a majority of committee members indicated they did not support naming Davis acting chief.
The announcement was met with surprise and controversy. Davis was credited by many members of the community for turning the force around after taking over for unpopular Chief William Chisholm.
"I've seen steadfast improvements since the chief retired," Fraenkel said during the meeting.
Nevertheless, issues stemming from a legal action Davis brought against the township seem to have made officials wary of naming him acting chief. A 30-plus year veteran of the Springfield police department, Davis led the force since April.
Davis' future with the force had been discussed at the closed executive session prior to the regular committee meeting. During the regular meeting's public comments, Police Auxiliary volunteer Bobby Abraham asked the committee about Davis' future with the force. After briefly consulting with Township Attorney Jeffrey Lehrer about whether information from the executive session could be shared, Frankel said the township committee discussed making Davis the acting chief of police, a proposal the majority of the committee did not support.
Davis spoke immediately afterwards.
"Apparently I don't have the support of the township committee," Davis told the committee. "I'd like to put in papers for my resignation as officer in charge and put in retirement papers."
Committee members emphasized that the matter had not been voted on. Lehrer expressed concern about the legality of discussing the subject of an executive session in public (Fraenkel said that under his understanding of the rules, talking about Davis was fair game). He also noted the absence of Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady, an active member of the National Guard who was unable to attend the meeting because of a military obligation.
"I'm surprised the conversation elevated to the point that it did without the mayor present," Lehrer said.
Davis led the force since the retirement of controversial police chief William Chisholm. Davis filed a lawsuit against the township in retaliation for allegedly unfair treatment by Chisholm. The Township did not admit to the allegations, but paid Davis $100,000 in March 2010 (court documents from the suit are available online here via the Libertarian Party Open Government Advocacy Project).
Davis believes the committee was not willing to make him acting chief because of the lawsuit. "They're not judging me on the job I did," Davis said shortly after his announcement. "They're judging me on the politics."
Adding that his last day on the force would likely be in July or August, he said, "I can't stay here and work for these people."
Township Administrator Anthony Cancro noted that Davis had already filed retirement papers, effective in November, and that the announcement only accelerated the process. Officials said the captain's announcement was unexpected nonetheless.
"Captain Davis wasn't privy to our discussion," committee member Marc Krauss said. "I was surprised by his resignation."
With Davis gone, the highest-ranking officers in the force are sergeants. The township voted last year to create a public safety director position that would have authority over the police and fire chiefs. That position has not yet been filled.