Longtime New Buffalo Chief of Police out of the job
NEW BUFFALO, Mi.— It was standing room only as the New Buffalo City Council approved the separation agreement for Chief Larry Pitchford. Many are speculating, it didn’t start off as a mutual decision.
Pitchford, who worked for the department for over 40 years, wasn’t there but many others were looking for answers.
“One of the things I can say that was bothering him is that he isn’t here to watch out for his guys and it’s a family,” says Ezra Scott.
Scott is a Berrien County Commissioner and close friend of the former chief.
“He should have been able to go out on his own terms. The city manager said ‘we are going to move the police department in a different direction’ and he ‘wasn’t part of the plan,’” says Scott.
City Manager Dave Richards wouldn’t say what led to the dissolution of the partnership. He could not comment on it since it’s a personnel matter.
Some speculate it all stems from an issue regarding surveillance videos taken in August of 2016.
A city employee was allegedly caught on camera making threats about other city workers. Chief Pitchford reportedly discovered the tapes and brought them to city officials. Several months ago, a judge proceeding over the case ruled Pitchford did the right thing.
“A city employee wanted some bad things to happen to a couple different people and I was one of the people that was mentioned,” says Donna Messinger.
Messinger is a former city councilmember who chose not to run for reelection after last year’s controversy. She was among the few people who were able to view the video.
“Chief Pitchford was also one of the people talked about on the video. So the city employee has never had a liking of him and wanted to have him terminated so my belief is that’s why he was terminated at tonight's meeting, that’s why he’s gone,” says Messinger.
Ray Kirkus is a former member of the city’s Planning Commission
“I think it’s very odd. There were no issues with the chief as far as I know and he’s been here for 40 years. It’s my understanding he was trying to retire anyway. So I think it’s ironic that they would pull this kind of shenanigan put him on administrative leave and then scramble for some sort of separation agreement,” says Kirkus.
The city can’t say yet where it plans to take the department without Pitchford.