Sparks flew at the Freeport Village Board meeting Monday night when the Police Benevolent Association president questioned the mayor about the "chain of command being disrupted today," leaving the village police without a chief or second or third in command after the demotion earlier in the day of the deputy chief.
Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick confirmed that the deputy chief was reassigned, saying her contract had expired and the position is not a civil service title. "We're looking for new leadership," Hardwick said.
The official was demoted to lieutenant.
PBA President Shawn Randall said that the police chief, Michael Woodward, is on vacation and the assistant chief has been out sick for several weeks.
Murmurs arose from the crowd as Randall and Hardwick traded comments.
When Randall questioned Hardwick as to who was in charge, Hardwick said, "the chief," and then, "the assistant chief," who he said was available by cell phone, and then, "there's a lieutenant."
As the exchange escalated, Randall said: "There's no leadership in Freeport police department come tomorrow."
"That's not true," Hardwick replied, "and this is not the place to pull a stunt" like this.
Hardwick then offered to meet with Randall and some two dozen PBA members immediately, but Village Attorney Howard Colton then told Randall privately that Hardwick would meet them Tuesday.
Randall said the village had asked the deputy chief to perform the chief's duties Monday, which he said she declined to do because it amounted to working "out of title."
"We feel the community should be made aware and officers and members of the police department need direction," he said.
Chiefs are the only personnel authorized to discipline the police force and approve payrolls, Randall said.