Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Council chases off police chiefs

By November 15, 1976, six police chiefs in less than 12 months had said goodbye to the city of Echo, and trouble with the city council was the culprit most often named.

The revolving door began in February, when Bonnie Rogers, who had served for more than a year, left for a better job offer. Her replacement, Frank Batrell, stayed for several months but quit because he had “too many bosses.” His replacement, Alan Berg, quit soon after he was hired. In a Nov. 5 article in the East Oregonian, chief number 6, Antone Wasilk, said he was resigning for medical reasons; he had been on the job less than three months. He was hired to replace John Swartrauber, who resigned after only a week on the job. In the article, Echo Mayor Irvine Howard said the troubles had been exaggerated and that most of the chiefs left because “their wives didn’t like it here.”

A follow-up article on Nov. 15 interviewed Wasilk, who pointed the finger squarely at the Echo City Council, saying their “interference” was aggravating his blood pressure. Council members constantly called him, he said, asked him where he was going when he left town and questioned his decisions. He said Mayor Howard was “the only one who seemed to think I was doing a good job.”

David Milliken, a former Echo resident who also served as a reserve police officer there, supported Wasilk’s claims, saying he thought the resignations of Wasilk and some of his predecessors were precipitated by something other than “their wives not liking the city.” Milliken, a former Air Force security policeman, served as a reserve officer in Echo for two weeks before being removed following an alleged incident involving a councilman and Wasilk.

When John Rosenan was named Echo’s seventh police chief at a Nov. 17 city council meeting, the council also decided that Mayor Howard would be solely responsible for the police department. “If the chief is responsible to one person, it might work out better,” councilman Earl Green said. The expectations of the job, however, included that the chief must be able to take constructive criticism from the council and be on call 24 hours a day.

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