The day after longtime Aberdeen Police Chief Randy Rudy was informed his contract would not be renewed and he was being put on immediate administrative leave, a city council member is claiming the chief’s dismissal has less to do with pointing the police department in a new direction and more to do with a small town political grudge.
With the Aberdeen City Council split 2-2 Monday night on the future of Rudy’s career with the city, Mayor Mike Bennett cast the decisive vote to break the tie and send Rudy packing. Rudy, who served a decade as Aberdeen’s chief of police and whose contract expires January 24, 2011, was put on immediate paid administrative leave.
Aberdeen City Councilwoman Ruth Elliott, who cast one of the two votes to renew Rudy’s contract, said Monday’s vote was a political hit that’s been years in the making.
“Politics as usual,” Elliott said Tuesday night.
Elliott is alluding to the scene three years ago, when then-mayor S. Fred Simmons was running for re-election against Bennett. Even though Bennett spent nearly four decades in law enforcement with the Maryland State Police, Aberdeen’s officers were said to heavily favor Simmons – a civilian insurance agent who carried a gun, joined the police on raids, and had bolstered the department with funding and support.
On Election Day, Aberdeen police officers lined the streets outside the Senior Center while city residents voted. Simmons supporters asserted the police presence was nothing unusual, as the officers were there to protect the polls and those who weren’t appeared in plain clothes. Bennett supporters claimed the strong police turnout gave the wrong impression and it might have been a political stunt to show which candidate the police were endorsing.
Even though he defeated Simmons and was elected mayor, Bennett never forgot that day, Elliott said.
“The ‘getting even’ is all about the election in 2007 when Rudy and his men paraded along Franklin St. showing support for Simmons. [Bennett] has had his sights on Rudy since that time,” she added.
As far as Bennett’s claim that Rudy’s dismissal was about the department becoming “more community policing oriented; interacting with the community,” Elliott finds that excuse doesn’t hold much water.
“Chief Rudy is the only Chief I can recall who rode a bike around town so he could observe his men and also see more closely any violations. He also got to talk to the citizens more. That’s a good way to get to know the people and they appreciated it. He was always very professional and knew how to communicate to get the best results. I cannot remember a time, when I asked for assistance on police issues, requested by citizens, that he didn’t go above and beyond to assist,” she added.
Bennett has installed Aberdeen Police Captain Henry Trabert as acting police chief and insists a thorough and methodical process will be undertaken to select a new chief, probably sometime in the early months of 2011. Over the last few years, several names have been bandied about as possible replacements for Rudy – including a few with MSP ties and closely associated to Bennett.
“I don’t know who is in line for the Chief of Police job. I hope the position will not be filled by anyone in close association with the selectee. We shall see. The good of the community and its citizens will always be my priority. Life goes on. What’s done is done. Our loss is another’s gain,” Elliott said.
Rudy will spend the next three months earning his remaining police chief paychecks from home, a paid break that Elliott said might be welcomed by the embattled chief – even if his departure from law enforcement is only temporary.
“I am sure the Chief is most likely relieved. He has been under a lot of stress the last few years. I know his services are being requested already by other agencies as we speak,” she added.