Cottage City officials will soon be looking for a new chief of its five-officer police force as the department’s chief submitted his resignation.
Chief Pablo F. Mitchell submitted his resignation to the town’s four commissioners June 19 with his last day in office scheduled to be July 27. The resignation comes as some of the town’s 1,300 residents question the impact of changes to the police force on its ability to attract and retain officers.
Mitchell said he was not leaving for a new job and had no immediate plans.
“I’m just going to be looking at different things to do,” he said.”It’s just my time.”
Mitchell’s efforts to get new equipment such as radios for the police force were praised by Town Commissioner Chairwoman Phyllis Robinson (Ward 3).
“Certainly we will miss him. He has been with us for many years,” Robinson said. ”He has made a great contribution to Cottage City.”
Mitchell came to the city about five years ago as a sergeant before being promoted to lieutenant and becoming the town’s part-time chief of police in 2009. Working in the small town was the latest stop in a more than 25-year career in law enforcement and security work at varying levels of government, he said.
“It’s great to be a chief in such a quiet town,” he said. “Everybody knows who the chief is.”
The news of the chief’s impending departure was shocking, said resident Corey LaBoard of the 4100 block of Parkwood Street.
“I'm shocked and disappointed,” said LaBoard, adding he worried about the city’s ability to maintain its existing police force. “I think we're going backwards instead of forwards.”
Former commissioner Aileen McChesney, who used to serve as the commission’s liaison with the police, stated that cost-cutting measures such as doing away with a take-home car program and a restructuring of the town’s pay-for-performance scheme reduced the town’s ability to attract and retain officers.
“I’m surprised he stuck it out as long as he did,” said McChesney, who resigned in May citing an inability to work with the existing board. “I would expect that everyone who is given the option will leave.”
Mitchell said it was his choice to leave and he is not being forced out.
“I’ve received adequate support from the commissioners over the years,” Mitchell said. “There is no mean reason for me departing.”
To those that worked under Mitchell, he was known for his tough love for officers, said Pfc. Melvin Brown, a community services officer.
“He was hard on you like a drill sergeant,” Brown said.
Mitchell’s departure marks a loss for the area, said Bladensburg Town Administrator John Moss, the former Bladensburg police chief, who frequently worked with Mitchell.
“Chief Mitchell is a great chief. He understood the principles of working with people in collaboration and working with people to create a safer community,” Moss said. “I’m saddened by his leaving and I’m sure others will be.”
During five years as chief, Moss said he usually had at least weekly contact with Mitchell to discuss issues affecting the area.
Cottage City will now begin a search for a replacement chief, said Demetrius Givens, a commissioner at large who is also the commission’s liaison with the chief and the police. Mitchell’s position is part time, however the commission would like the next chief to be a full-time town employee, Robinson said. The commission aims to have someone in place prior to fall, Robinson said.
“We’re not going to rush the process,” she said. “We’re going to find someone who is compatible and has a vision of community policing and wants to work with us in that agenda.”
While Mitchell departs the area, the town and the police will move forward, Givens said.
“We appreciate his service to the town,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our direction towards community policing.”