Delaware AG’s office ends probe of Smyrna police chief

 

SMYRNA — A review of allegations against Chief Norman Wood and the Smyrna Police Department concluded with mixed results this week.

While insufficient evidence warranted no criminal prosecution against the chief, the Attorney General’s office “noted a number of concerns about activities at the Smyrna Police Department that should be scrutinized by Smyrna’s mayor and council.”

The AG was responding Smyrna Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 22 claims made on July 18, 2016, regarding Chief Wood, who earlier received a no confidence vote by union members. The findings were released to the chief, mayor and council and FOP in a letter and via e-mail on Monday.

On Thursday, Chief Wood declined comment.

Mayor Joanne Masten said on Thursday, “The AG response will be addressed” at Smyrna’s next council meeting on April 3.

An attempt to reach the FOP Lodge was not immediately successful.

Through spokesman Carl Kanefsky, the AG’s office would not disclose specific concerns about Smyrna Police activities.

“We suggested they be looked at by the mayor and council,” Mr. Kanefsky said.

The allegations were investigated by the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust tasked with reviewing a public agency “to determine whether there is evidence of criminal violations that should be prosecuted,” Mr. Kanefsky said.

Deputy Attorney General Allison E. Reardon described concerns about alleged police actions as “legitimate” and worth further discussion by town leaders.

At least for now, the AG’s role in the issue is complete.

“As no further action is warranted at this time, we are closing our file in this matter,” Ms. Reardon said in the letter.

“If additional complaints or evidence are received warranting further investigation, we reserve the right to take such further action as the public interest may require.”

The AG’s office detailed the scope of its probe in the letter.

“Our investigation was limited to whether or not Chief Wood engaged in criminal activity in regard to any of the reported incidents,” Ms. Reardon said.

“While we have determined that there is insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution against Chief Wood for any of the incidents referenced in the letter, we express no opinion whether Chief Wood’s actions complied with departmental policies or procedures.”

In a letter last summer, the FOP brought complaints against Smyrna’s top cop.

“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.

Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council Executive Director Jeff Horvath also received a copy of the AG’s decision.

On March 1, former Smyrna Police Lt. Phillip Klink filed a federal lawsuit against Chief Wood, two officers and the Town of Smyrna containing allegations he claimed ultimately forced him to resign his position or be fired. He sought protection under the Delaware Whistleblowers’ Protection Act. His 20-year career with Smyrna Police officer came with coverage by the Delaware Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, according to the lawsuit.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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