Mayfield police chief weighs in on resignation of 2 officers
Mayfield Police Chief Bryan Morrison says he will continue to support two former officers who were recently under investigation.
Chris Watkins and Shannon Keller were suspended from the department earlier this month. Keller resigned on Monday and Watkins resigned on Friday. Both are accused of violating department regulations.
Morrison says he’s known Keller and Watkins for a number of years, and would write them a recommendation letter if they asked.
"One of them I started with from day one. And the other one I grew to know really well, and I believe he had a long life in this type of work," says Morrison.
Morrison admits he doesn’t know the details of why Watkins and Keller were suspended, because he’s been out sick. In October 2015, Morrison was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. A few months ago, he went to Nashville to have the tumor removed, but there were complications and he ended up staying there for nine weeks. He’s still recovering, but Morrison says it feels good to be back home.
"I’m getting stronger each day, and I’m ready to get back and get everything back to normal again," says Morrison.
Morrison says he hopes to be back at work by the end of July. When that happens, he’s going to look into the situation involving Watkins and Keller, and he says he’s going to make sure that whatever happened doesn’t happen again.
"That will be No. 1 priority," says Morrison. "Everybody makes mistakes, you know, and things get lost in the loop."
Nathan Kent will serve as Mayfield’s interim police chief while Morrison is out sick. Kent is a former post commander for Kentucky State Police. He will start his new position on July 11.
Mayfield Mayor Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell says with the resignations of Watkins and Keller, four positions are now open at the department. With the sudden shortage in staff, she says other officers have stepped up.
"They’re just really good troopers about it," says Rochetti-Cantrell. "They’re wanting to help. They’re wanting to make sure that Mayfield is as safe and protected as it has ever has been, and that has never been compromised in any of this."
She posted this statement on her Facebook page, Tuesday, in which she mentions why she accepted Watkins’ and Keller’s resignations:
"The Police Officer’s Bill of Rights (KRS 15.520) prohibited me from making any comments or releasing any records during the internal investigations of the Mayfield police officers. I realize that some may not have agreed with my decision to follow this law but, as Mayor, I had no choice and must respect the law. Just prior to me filing administrative (not criminal) charges against the two officers, the officers resigned. They both were entitled to a public hearing which would have allowed the citizens of Mayfield to hear the allegations against them and would have given the officers the opportunity to respond, but they chose to resign instead. At that point, I was faced with a difficult decision. I could accept their resignations, which would mean that the allegations against them would not be made public or I could refuse to accept the resignations, file administrative charges, and drag the City and the Police Department through a long, drawn-out, difficult, and expensive process, with the City receiving significant media attention for negative, rather than positive reasons. I decided that accepting their resignations was best for the City of Mayfield and the Police Department. As mayor, my ultimate goal will always be what is best for the City of Mayfield, not based on what I think the public opinion will be of me or whether I will lose votes. Those who know me know that every decision I make is guided by prayer, seeking direction from the One who has great things in store for Mayfield. Some decisions are more difficult than I would like to have to make. If the citizens of Mayfield don’t like the decisions I have made, then they should express it in the election. If I lose this office because I am doing the right thing – and sometimes the most difficult thing – then so be it. But until then, I will continue to do what is best for the greater good of our community."