RED WING, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Red Wing City Council fired the city's police chief on Friday, citing a lack of trust and failures on the chief's part to support policy.
Chief Roger Pohlman was notified by letter on Friday of his termination. The letter was delivered after a special session of the council where the council went into a private executive session with the city attorney before voting 6-1 to deliver the letter. In a statement Saturday, the chief says he was given the choice to resign before being terminated.
In the letter, the council says the decision followed a review by members.
"Several Council members responded that they did not trust you," reads the letter signed by council president Becky Norton. "This is a major concern for the City because of the importance of the Police Department’s work. If the majority of the Council does not trust you, it cannot rely on you to perform the important work of the Department."
Norton also cites a lack of support by Pohlman for council projects, saying Pohlman was seen as a "stumbling block rather than a productive participant in the work" along with a failure to communicate with the council. Click here to read the full letter.
In a statement Saturday, the chief said he chose not to resign, and in turn retain some benefits, because he felt his oath of office wasn't done.
"I am proud to have served the people of Red Wing over the past eight years – leading an outstanding group of dedicated police officers that would be the envy of any small community anywhere in America," the chief said. "I loved my job. And our record of keeping Red Wing safe, engaging our citizens through community policing, and keeping an open-door policy with respect for all, speaks for itself. Nothing the Council says or does can ever change that."
"It’s much like going before a firing squad and they always offer you some last words before they shoot, I feel he didn’t get a chance or opportunity," Red Wing Mayor Michael Wilson said.
"It grieves me to see this and I think our community has lost a great man," Red Wing City Council Member Kim Beise added.
The council’s letter to Pohlman alleges in-part that he was unreceptive to input and portrayed council members as "anti-police."
"They’re talking about a different person than I know," Wilson said. "What came out is I guess just some things that the council members came up with."
Councilmember Kim Beise was the only no vote in Friday’s 6-1 decision. "The police chief’s performance was satisfactory and if he had areas to improve on he should’ve been given the time to do address those," Beise explained.
"Even by looking at the evaluations that he had: gold stars all the way," Wilson continued.
"Other councilmembers saw it differently," Red Wing City Council President Becky Norton said. "We are asking for clear communication and for more participation."
"It’s not a matter of going in a different direction, if I was a citizen I would think that the council holds its officers to a high standard," Norton added.
"We all can’t agree on everything and I understand that," Wilson said. "But he’ll talk and work with anybody and work the issues out and get to the bottom of it."
Now the mayor has concerns about morale in the police force.
"They considered him a very good leader," Wilson said. The police force will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to begin moving forward.
Full Statement from former Chief Pohlman
After deciding, in secret and behind closed doors, to "move in a different direction" with respect to the Police Department, the Red Wing City Council presented me with two options: Resign and retain some earned benefits or receive a non-disciplinary termination of employment. My oath of office to the community and Police Department is not completed, therefore resignation was not an option.
I am proud to have served the people of Red Wing over the past eight years – leading an outstanding group of dedicated police officers that would be the envy of any small community anywhere in America. I loved my job. And our record of keeping Red Wing safe, engaging our citizens through community policing, and keeping an open-door policy with respect for all, speaks for itself. Nothing the Council says or does can ever change that.
I want to thank the countless citizens of Red Wing who have reached out now and in the past with their support. High on that list are my fellow military veterans, Hispanic Outreach, our Faith-Based groups, business owners, some former City Council members, and our State Representative Barb Haley.
At this point, I don’t know what the future holds. But I know it will involve public service, and a continuing commitment to making the world a better place, however, and wherever I can.