Police chief airs staffing woes

December 16, 1997

Police chief airs staffing woes


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge did not expect this year to shape up this way.

When he started in the post in January, Aldridge said he had a core of good officers to turn around the troubled department.

However, since he started at the 11-officer department, three officers have resigned, two have been suspended pending an internal affairs case, one has retired and one is out with an injured back.


One officer has been hired as a replacement and a job offer has been extended to another, Aldridge said.

"In some ways, we're having to tear down to the base and build back up. It's a harder task than I thought," Aldridge said.

Aldridge, who retired from a 32-year career as a high-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration official, said the past year as a small-town police chief has been extremely frustrating.

"I didn't take this job to be in it forever. I took this job because I was told there were many problems in this area," Aldridge said.

Former officer Chris Colbert said he left because he was offered a job to manage a bank with pay and benefits he found too good to pass up.

"I did not want to leave law enforcement," Colbert said.

Colbert said the loss of the officers, including the two on suspension, hurts the department because those were the younger officers "willing to go out and stir stuff up."

"It hurts tremendously," Colbert said.

Aldridge and Charles Town officials said they could not discuss why the two officers are on suspension, saying it is a personnel matter.

The two were suspended more than two months ago and have been on paid leave until their case goes to a civil service commission hearing.

"We're in a valley right now, but we'll we'll bounce back and bounce back for the better," Aldridge said.

Aldridge said the department is still providing 24-hour coverage in town, though it has stretched the remaining officers thin.

Aldridge said he's had a half day off in the past five or six weeks and other officers are working a tremendous amount of overtime.

Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton said he is not worried about what has occurred at the department.

"I'm pleased with the way things are going at the police department," said Hilton, who was briefed by the police chief about some of the changes in an executive session at Monday night's council meeting. "I think the chief's doing a good job.

"Things happen in cycles. We're going through changes at the police department," Hilton said.

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