By Charles Sercombe
There may be a new police chief named next Tuesday.
Or maybe not.
City Manager Bill Cooper said he will present a candidate for the position at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The council has final approval of who will be appointed to the position.
Cooper has been Acting Chief for the past several weeks while two top Lieutenants in the department tested for the position.
As it turned out, Lt. Ron Mathias is the leading candidate for the job, but his appointment could be anything but easy.
Mathias was named two years ago in a lawsuit two filed by officer Dennis Nunlee, who asserted Mathias used racial slurs. Nunlee also said Mathias refused to offer training to him, saying “We don’t train the black officers, just the white officers.”
Mathias has denied the allegations.
Nunlee at the time was one of three African-Americans working in the department.
The city eventually settled the matter for $330,000. There were some in the department who privately said that Nunlee used the lawsuit to settle a personal score, and also used the issue to “win the Hamtramck lottery.”
Despite the lawsuit, Mathias served as Interim Chief for five months before a new chief was appointed. Marek Kalinowski eventually took that job, but he recently retired.
Cooper said the lawsuit and allegation against Mathias were “overblown” but conceded there’s a “potential problem” with the appointment.
So far, two councilmembers, Cathie Gordon and Catrina Stackpoole, have said they will oppose the appointment. Councilmember Stackpoole said Mathias “would not be the right representative.”
Gordon said it’s been “many, many years since we’ve had a qualified chief.”
“We need a strong personality to turn the department around,” she added.
It’s unclear what the legal ramifications would be if Mathias is denied the appointment. The chief’s appointment is partially dictated by union contract.
Mathias has been with the department for over 20 years.