La Porte Mayor faces backlash after appointing new Chief of Police

LA PORTE, Ind. -- La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is facing backlash over his recent appointment to Chief of Police.

The city’s chapter of Fraternal Order of Police shared a letter with the community Monday, saying they feel Mayor Dermody not only violated a city ordinance, but also is unethical in his decision by not hiring from within and promoting current La Porte police officers.

The mayor told Tuesday evening’s packed city council meeting that he was following state law when he appointed and swore in Richard Buell as the new Chief of Police for the La Porte Police Department in early February.

“State law trumps the ordinance, and it allows the executive to appoint, like many communities are, who they feel is the best person,” says Mayor Tom Dermody.

He says that the state law overrides the city code which requires the mayor to choose a chief from the current department personnel and requires that officer to have served at least five years with the department immediately prior.

The mayor wanted the city council to update the city ordinance to match the state law in Tuesday’s meeting, but the council voted against making the amendment.

The mayor and city attorney says that doesn’t really change anything.

Chief Buell began his career at La Porte and advanced through the ranks, but then went to work for the La Porte County Police Department for 20 years.

The local police union, La Porte FOP Lodge 54, is not in favor of the appointment.

“When you have a mayor who keeps saying we’re going to reward the people that are here, this is evidence of him not doing that, bringing in somebody from the outside in,” says Captain Robert Metcalf with La Porte FOP Lodge 54.

Captain Metcalf says retention has been on a decline the last five years and worries this appointment will only continue the revolving door of officers.

The FOP and members of the public wonder why a qualified, current LaPorte officer that applied for the position wasn’t chosen.

Mayor Dermody says it’s because he has heard concerns from current officers about the three that applied.

“Through this interview process I’ve heard from officers about concerns with internal candidates that were applying,” Mayor Dermody says.

Captain Metcalf isn’t sure there is anything legally that can be done to reverse the approval, but Mayor Dermody is sure Chief Buell will serve as a great leader for young and upcoming officers at the department.

“We have some great young officers that I think will benefit from his strong leadership and his successful track record,” hopes Mayor Dermody.

“Whatever comes about, at least it’s come to light, we let the public know how we feel, and we let the mayor know how we feel,” Captain Metcalf says.

Chief Buell is already actively serving as chief.

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