Town officials mum on probe into Smyrna PD operations

Norman Wood

Joanne Masten

SMYRNA — So, what’s going on within the Smyrna Police Department?

Town leaders were mum after meeting privately in executive session on Monday night regarding Police Chief Norman Wood and an investigation into allegations about police operations.

The mayor and town council did not discuss issues during the public part of the open meeting, officials said.

After review, the Attorney General’s Office determined no criminal prosecution was warranted, but cited “legitimate concerns” raised by the Smyrna Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 22 against Chief Wood deserving attention by Mayor Joanne Masten and town council members.

Citing her departure as mayor at the end of April, Ms. Masten declined comment Tuesday, explaining, “because my term is up at the end of this month. I did not file for reelection so it makes it hard for me to discuss the future.”

Thus, Ms. Masten opted not to discuss whether any more police-related information would be made public.

Ms. Masten suggested calling Town Attorney Barrett Edwards, who she said attends all council meetings. An attempt to reach Mr. Edwards on Tuesday was not immediately successful.

Chief Wood, who did not attend the executive session, declined comment Tuesday.

Attempts to reach council members Vice Mayor Peter Retzlaff, Alvin C. Pope and John Embert III via e-mail received no immediate responses. Council members Valerie M. White and Robert C. Johnson returned messages, but declined to comment.

Also Tuesday, an FOP spokesman said the union was prepared to comment publicly, but a work training session made it difficult to respond promptly.

In a letter revealing investigation results on March 27, the Attorney General’s Office urged the mayor and council to examine allegations made by the FOP following a no confidence vote of Chief Wood last year. The vote on June 22, 2016, was 15-0 with six abstentions. Chief Wood, a union member, was not present.

The Attorney General’s Office took no position on whether Chief Wood followed department policy and procedures during incidents alleged by the FOP.

On July 18, 2016 FOP representatives reportedly met in closed executive session with mayor and council to discuss concerns the union  alleged in a letter.

The FOP also detailed claims to the Delaware Department of Justice, prompting an investigation.

“Our lack of confidence in Chief Wood ’s ability to lead our agency is a direct result of his inability to establish a strategic organizational mission, failure to lead by example, inability to inspire and motivate others, poor communication skills and failure to coach/develop his employees,” the FOP stated in the letter.

“Although these characteristics are difficult to quantify, they are deemed critically important for leaders to exhibit and to the overall success of any organization.

“More specific areas of concern for our membership is his lack of adherence to or holding others accountable to our own identified core values of; Integrity, Human Life, Accountability, Community Partnerships, and Professionalism.

“The lack of leadership displayed by Chief Wood and the lack of unity and consistency among our top leadership has created a culture within the department that is not conducive to our overall mission of public safety.”

The letter raised issues that “should be scrutinized by the Town Mayor and Council,” the AG’s office found.

The Attorney General’s Office declined to disclose what specific concerns it had and pointed to town officials for further review.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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