High Springs City Manager Defends Changes For Police Department
Published April 19th, 2014
HIGH SPRINGS ̶ As the police chief controversy in High Springs continues, so do the questions. Last night, we aired a report on one city commissioner who believes the investigations on the department have been brought up now to create negativity towards the former police chief. Other city officials say they are now investigating to improve the department.
Many residents of high springs have shown their frustration, or support over the city's handling of its now-former police chief, Steve Holley. The High Springs city manager says he is now looking forward to hiring a new, more experienced police chief.
There's no doubt there are concerns with the issues surrounding the High Springs Police Department. "The public has had a rough couple of years in watching what's happening in High Springs,” said Ed Booth, High Springs City Manager.
The city of High Springs claimed police Chief Steve Holley decided to take a leave of absence on his own, when in reality, City Manager Ed Booth asked him to step down or be demoted to sergeant. Booth said Holley wasn't qualified for the position. "The people that put him in that position... I mean they put a patrol man into a chief of police expecting him to operate as a police chief. He was a nice guy ̶ everybody agrees that he was a nice person ̶ but being police chief takes a lot more than being a nice person."
Booth wrote a letter to the city attorney explaining his decision to get rid of Holley. One point he brings up is that he felt Holley was resistant and wasn't taking any direction from him.
City Commissioner Bob Barnas says he wonders why this timeline wasn't presented to Holley before, giving him an opportunity to correct those flaws. "What has happened here in High Springs with the police department has all been political in my mind; a move to get rid of dispatch and now a campaign to discredit Steve Holley after he's gone. Information and investigations should have been gathered before he was let go," said Barnas.
Booth says the recent investigations are not trying to justify what he did but that he's looking into how to fix what is there. Sue Weller, Vice-Mayor for the city of High Springs says the city needs to let Booth do his job. "He is a professional, he's been in other cities... He knows what kind of problems the city has. He's been here over a year now; he's done a lot to improve the city in various areas and he's now moving into other areas that have to be improved," said Weller.
"We probably need to put less money into technology and more into fixing the police cars. We definitely need two of the positions that were taken out of the police department and put them back in and that is the lieutenant and the detective to give some structure to that organization," said Booth.
Commissioner Barnas addressed the qualifications of the now acting police chief that the city manager appointed. Barnas told us, "If Booth found Holley's background as unacceptable, why would he appoint an acting High Springs police chief with even less experience?"
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