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Brentwood’s police chief’s future to be decided today

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Published on: Tuesday, June 22, 2010

By David Saleh Rauf

The Brentwood Town Council will vote Tuesday on the future of its police chief in a move set to shape the immediate makeup of public safety in a municipality that went without its own police department for more than four decades.

Police Chief David Risik, a 12-year law enforcement veteran hired in December when the town council reinstated a municipal police department for the first time since 1972, is the only employee in the department. His six-month probation period officially expired last week but was extended until Wednesday to give council members more time to evaluate his performance, said Mayor Xzavier Montgomery-Wright.

“For me, I know where my vote is going to be,” said Montgomery-Wright, a Risik supporter. “He has come on board and has far exceeded my expectations. “

Along with Montgomery-Wright, Councilman Jeff Clark expressed support for Risik in an interview with the Prince George’s Sentinel. Clark, however, said “there are differing views of the chief” on the council, which is currently comprised of four members.

Opposition from some members of the council is apparent, Risik said. In the six months since taking the job, Risik said he’s encountered difficulty trying to get money already dedicated to public safety to properly start the department — a point of contention between Risik and the council that Montgomery-Wright also acknowledged.

“Even within our council there has been pushback on not wanting to spend money,” she said. “We got him a uniform. We got him a patrol car but it was a struggle the whole way through.”

Additionally, Risik said his contract was supposed to be extended automatically if he met the requirements of his six-month probation, which included successfully launching the department and developing a standard operating procedure.

“I got everything done. Now some of them are saying your ‘job is over,’” said Risik, 58. “There are certain members of the council trying their best to get rid of me because they don’t want the police.”

He declined to say which council members oppose him.

But Laura Atkinson, a resident who helped spearhead a petition last year to reinstate the police department, wrote in a letter to Montgomery-Wright that the “ultimate goal” of Councilwomen Marlene Robinson and Aneeka Harrison is to discredit and fire Risik.

In an interview, Atkinson said the two councilwomen have publicly voiced their opposition to the chief and intention to vote against his contract renewal.

“We want to keep our chief and they don’t’ seem to get the message,” Atkinson said. “This is a really heated issue right now.”

Robinson did not return repeated requests for comment, and Harrison declined to comment.

The town voted in October to re-establish a police department after residents noticed an uptick in prostitution, drugs and residential break-ins, Atkinson said. The town also established an anti-crime committee.

One of the committee’s key recommendations, according to a 2008 report: increase public safety spending to accommodate a 24-7 police presence in the town.

“We had a situation where crime was on the rise in our community and there was a need to bring the force back,” said Atkinson, who did not serve on the committee. “Word gets around and it was well known we didn’t have a force.”

Up until this year, the town was policed by one full-time Mount Rainier officer and several part-time county contract officers, who worked 17 hours every two weeks and were paid $30 an hour, according to the town’s 2010 budget.

The town budgeted nearly $164,000 in fiscal year 2010, which will end next week, to pay for the contract officers. But that still wasn’t enough to fully address the crime spike and needs of the community, said Montgomery-Wright.

“We pretty much did a Band-Aid effect,” she said. “We have a larger, larger, problem in the Town of Brentwood.”

As a result, Montgomery-Wright recommended increasing the town’s public safety budget by about 41 percent to $232,313, according to the mayor’s 2011 proposed budget. The increased spending would have allowed the police department to grow by hiring two full-time officers, one part-time officer and a part-time administrator.

Revenue generated from grants and speed cameras is expected to help make up the increase in public safety spending but that proposal was “wiped out,” Montgomery-Wright said. A final budget for 2011, which was passed last week but is not yet available on the town’s website, will allocate money to add two full-time officers and the part-time administrator but won’t fund the part-time officer position, she said.

But before the town can start hiring new officers, it must first decide who will lead the force long term.

Risik, a former senior corporal with New Carrollton's police department, has proven himself to be the right man for the job, said Montgomery-Wright and Clark. He has pulled the department together on his own, is responsible for writing grant proposals and has established a relationship with the community, they said.

But Risik upset Robinson and Harrison when he seized video gambling machines from a Sunoco gas station and didn’t tell them about it before calling the media, he said. Risik also incurred the wrath of the councilwomen when he cited a former councilmember for disorderly conduct during a meeting, he said.

“That’s the real impetus for getting rid of me,” he said.

When the council meets behind closed doors Tuesday it will consider several options regarding Risik’s future as police chief, Clark said.

Among them, the council could make Risik a permanent employee or opt to extend his contract for up to 90 days to allow a more thorough evaluation, he said. The council could also decide it wants to move in another direction all together and find a new chief.

If the council votes against Risik, it would have to start the process of finding a new chief from scratch, Clarke said. That would require taking a vote to advertise for the position, waiting for responses and then interviewing finalists. The process could leave the city without a chief for weeks.

“Hopefully it would be less than two months,” he said.

The council will consider a three-year contract that pays Risik an annual salary of $65,000 in executive session Tuesday evening. Results will be made public Wednesday when the council meets in regular session.

Reader Comments - 5 Total

captcha eba974dace7f4723af60d0e026bc4aa5

Posted By: maddog-forty-two-and-three-quarters On: 6/25/2010

Title: YAY!!!!!! Nina Young won!

A pro-police new councilmember has just been elected:
Yesterday's results:
127 Nina Young
92 Ron Bretemps

Posted By: Dismayed On: 6/24/2010

Title: You don't want safety?

I'm amazed that an elected official would choose crime over law enforcement. The effect of not supporting local police is that you are setting yourself upo as a target for crime. Who are the council people trying to protect by not supporting law enforcement?

Posted By: jason 40th pl On: 6/23/2010

Title: Keep the cheif fier the council !!!

Who do they think they r they cant tell the man his every moves hes law enforcement ......... If they dont shape up ill see to it that there out of office in i wouold have posted this on the lis serv it would have neve gone threw thank and my the way get up get out an vote vote nina young
June 24th town hall

Posted By: Laura Atkinson On: 6/23/2010

Title: Brentwoods police chiefs future to be deciededd today

It was a great story and and many people thought it was very accurate as well as myself..Great writing and coverage and it was a pleasure to talk to this reporter!He made it a point to get the facts correct before doing the story.He is excellent at his job and sure to check things out to find the truth.Thank you for a wonderful job!

Posted By: maddog On: 6/22/2010

Title: accountability to the residents?

wow-- two council members refuse to comment for the article. how's that for accountability and transparency? chief risik has done a fantastic job. we need to hold up OUR end of the agreement, and honor the terms of his contract, or we will as a town be open to a lawsuit which will cost us FAR more than a police department's salaries and equipment will cost.


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