Mayor dismisses Russell, police chief of 10 years Nevin recommends Meekins as successor

April 16, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The mayor of Hampstead fired the town's chief of police yesterday, saying that the 62-year-old law enforcement veteran has failed to keep pace with the town's rapid growth.

In a statement, Mayor Christopher M. Nevin said his decision to dismiss Kenneth F. Russell was based on conversations with many people in town, including members of the Town Council, who will vote on a successor April 30.

Mr. Nevin said Kenneth Meekins, 42, of Hampstead, who retired last year after 23 years with the Baltimore County Police Department, is his choice to assume the $33,000-a-year post. The Town Council must approve the hiring.

Mr. Russell joined the Hampstead force in 1981 after 23 years with the Baltimore Police Department. He became Hampstead's police chief in 1986.

Before leaving his Finksburg home to undergo back surgery that

he said he had delayed since August, Mr. Russell called his firing "a heck of a rotten way to put a 62-year-old man out of work."

Mr. Russell said he got no specific answer when he asked why he was being fired and whether he had done anything wrong.

"All the mayor said was, 'You are a good person, a good police officer, but it's time for a change.' "

Mr. Nevin would not elaborate on his reasons yesterday, saying only that everyone he had talked with agreed a change was needed.

Mr. Russell said the mayor and Town Council members have mostly been inaccessible.

He said he was called into the mayor's office April 5 and told that a change was being made.

"When I said, 'Well, there's no sense in going to Ocean City [for in-service police chief training April 8-12]', the mayor told me to go anyway at the town's expense," Mr. Russell said. "He said I may need my certification to get another job."

Mr. Russell said it was unclear whether his back injury, which he aggravated Feb. 2 when a prisoner assaulted him at Carroll County General Hospital, would be covered by workers' compensation.

"This is no attempt on the part of the town to get out of any workmen's compensation case," Mr. Nevin said yesterday. "If he is entitled to workmen's compensation, he will get it. He has insurance coverage."

Mr. Nevin said he considered no one besides Mr. Meekins to replace Mr. Russell.

"Kenny [Meekins] is my neighbor and good friend," Mr. Nevin said. "He has served on the town's Planning Commission and has a vested interest in Hampstead. His resume speaks for itself."

Mr. Meekins was a lieutenant when he retired in Baltimore County, where he supervised the investigative services unit for the internal affairs section from 1988 to 1993. From 1993 until his retirement, Mr. Meekins was community outreach commander.

Until the Town Council votes on whether to hire Mr. Meekins, Sgt. Russ Horn is the acting police chief, Mr. Nevin said.

If approved, Mr. Meekins will supervise a staff of two officers and a recruit who is expected to graduate from the Howard County Police Academy in June.

Mr. Meekins has served on the Hampstead Planning Commission for about five months. He said yesterday that he will resign that post if approved as chief of police.

"It would be presumptuous on my part to say what I would like to do before I have been approved by the council," Mr. Meekins said. "I will say that it is great when you have the opportunity to make a significant contribution in your hometown, where your children are growing up.

"I'm going to take it, if I have the opportunity."

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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