The Bennington mayor on Thursday fired the town’s police chief over a long-standing dispute about reserve police officers.
The issue came to a head this week at a City Council meeting, when Mayor Mary Johnson dismissed the town’s two reserve officers. Johnson has pushed for certified police officers to replace reserve officers. Certified officers have more training.
Attempts to reach the former police chief, Les Johnson (no relation to Mary), were unsuccessful.
Council President Gary Sather said he was disappointed with the mayor’s decision. He said he supported the reserve officers.
“The reserve officers are well-trained for the work that they do,” he said.
Mary Johnson, a former Omaha police officer, said the problems included the city’s reserve officers working more than the 100 hours per year allowed by the state.
She complained to the State Law Enforcement Training Center. The director of the center suspended a reserve officer for working more than 100 hours in Bennington and Valley.
“They broke the law,” she said of her Police Department.
Les Johnson said at the City Council meeting that he believed reserve officers were allowed to work 100 hours with each department, rather than overall. He lauded their credentials and said he had started out as a reserve.
But Mary Johnson said it was her duty as mayor to ensure compliance with state law.
Les Johnson had been police chief about seven years. He can appeal the dismissal to the council.
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