Sussex County Delaware

F.I. Loses Half of
its Police Force
 
Fenwick Island ...

Resignation of 3 Officers
Repeat of 2002 Resignations

By KERIN MAGILL
SC Online Content Editor

The Fenwick Island Police Department will again be cut in half within the next two weeks after a retirement and two resignations in the past week.

Sgt. Michael Bruette will join the Bethany Beach Police Department, and Officer Peter Brennan would say only that he is joining another nearby department. Major William Manning, a 16-year veteran of the force with a total of 40 years in law enforcement, is retiring.

The result of the three departures is that in two weeks, Fenwick Island's police department will consist of Officer in Charge Glenn Hudson and two patrolmen. Those officers, Ethan Kaplan and Robert Smull, have been with the department for about six months.

Fenwick Island's commissioner of public safety, Edward "Buzz" Henifin, initially refused on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2003, to comment on how the town would handle the departure of the three officers, saying he "can't comment on personnel matters."

When told that the departure of half the force was more a public safety issue than a personnel matter as exempted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Henifin said he didn't agree with that assessment.

The FOIA states that personnel matters are only exempt as they pertain to the "competency and abilities of individual employees ..."

Henifin did say that the town will have "coverage". He added the department "has an allowance for one chief and five officers," but would not elaborate on how or when the town plans to fill the vacancies or cover for the departing officers.

This is the second time in a year that half of the force has left Fenwick Island en masse. In January 2002, when Dickerson was chief, three of the six officers at the time resigned.

That was one of the issues that led to Dickerson's suspension in August and Hudson's hiring, first as a "consultant" and then as "officer in charge", in September.

As a consultant, one of Hudson's tasks was to develop a plan for recruitment and retention to ensure that the police department wasn't hit with a major lapse in manpower again.

Bruette's last day on the Fenwick Island payroll will be Feb. 5. He said he is joining the Bethany Beach force because it offers "a better package overall," including a higher salary and better benefits, than Fenwick Island.

Bruette served on the Fenwick Island force for five years. Following Dickerson's dismissal, Bruette was named officer in charge, but later resigned from the post. Henifin was in charge of the department for 11 days after Bruette resigned from the position.

Hudson was then named officer in charge until at least the day after the termination hearing for Dickerson, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Roxana Fire Hall.

Manning has been on vacation and sick leave since November and will not return to work before his retirement date of Friday, Jan. 31. He recently underwent throat surgery. Manning has been outspoken in his support of Dickerson and has been at odds with most of the town council for some time.

After suspending Dickerson in late August, council bypassed Manning as officer in charge. When asked why Manning had been bypassed by residents during a meeting in November, council members said they had "trust and communication issues" with Manning.

Brennan submitted his resignation on Friday, Jan. 24. He joined the department in March 2002.

Of the remaining officers, Kaplan had resigned in November after only joining the force over the summer. He subsequently withdrew that resignation.

Council also eliminated the position of administrative assistant to the chief of police in November. Sherry Jordan, who held the position for 5 1/2 years, assisted with the department's computers, filing, mail, phones and grant applications.

Dickerson has filed a lawsuit against the town over the suspension, claiming he was only suspended because he reported alleged misuse of COPS Grant funds to the Department of Justice, which has resulted in an investigation by the DOJ.


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