The Bradford City Police Department officially has no chief as of 12:01 a.m. today.
Mike Close retired as of midnight, leaving the post temporarily vacant. Close has been on leave since Sunday, when he was charged by Pennsylvania State Police with assaulting a woman in Bradford.
Mayor Tom Riel explained Wednesday that while the position of chief is vacant, there is someone handling the duties until a new chief is named.
“Monday morning an administrative order was issued having Lt. Carl Milks, who is senior ranking officer in the department, assume all administrative duties of the police department until further notice,” Riel said.
The mayor said Milks was not named interim chief, but is “just assuming the administrative duties of the position.”
“I hope someone may be named in the very near future,” Riel said. “If it takes a little time, it takes a little time. We have to do what’s best for the department and the city.”
Meanwhile, since the charges were filed against Close, Riel has come under fire for comments he has made in media reports. Some have gone so far as to equate Riel’s comments regarding Close’s accomplishments as police chief to the mayor condoning domestic violence.
Wednesday night, Riel said, “I — in no way — condone domestic violence of any type.”
He said his comments were regarding Close’s professional career — nothing else. From a personal standpoint, Riel would say only that the matter is in the hands of the legal system.
“I’m a firm believer that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and we should all await the outcome of the judicial process before rushing to pass judgment,” Riel said.
He added that it would not be appropriate for him to comment on any city employee’s personal life.
Close’s retirement leaves the city police department with 16 officers. Should Riel choose to promote a new chief from within the department, there will be only 15 officers. However, the mayor said it is too early to speculate on whether an officer who had been laid off due to budget constraints might be brought back.
“We’re playing it by ear right now, since this has transpired,” Riel said.
Officer Tony Lama returned to the department when former chief Roger Sager retired at the beginning of March. One other officer who had been slated for lay-off at the beginning of the year was kept on when Officer Jim Erwin announced his intention to retire.
Right now, the only officer who remains laid off from the city police force is Mark DeLuca.