Albion, PA – The police chief of the Albion Borough has been suspended twice without the community being given a reason, and residents are very unhappy about it.
Albion Borough Council President Sam Steff announced that Police Chief Dan Ries had been suspended for 12 days without pay starting on July 30, his second suspension in less than a month, the Erie Times-News reported.
The controversy began after Albion Borough Mayor Jason White sent a letter to Chief Ries in March that accused him abusing data usage on his official cell phone, and demanded that he repay the borough $650 for overuse charges, WICU reported.
Chief Ries immediately paid the $650 that was requested, and thought the matter was resolved, according to WICU.
But then the Albion Borough Council suspended the police chief for 10 working days.
Chief Ries challenged the suspension on the grounds that the mayor of the borough, not the council, has authority for police discipline.
The police chief also filed a “Right to Know” form to get the records of his $650 data over usage.
Interestingly, the bill they handed Chief Ries only totaled up to $45 in extra data charges, WICU reported.
On July 20, the Albion Borough Council suspended Chief Ries yet again.
His offense the second time around? He returned from his first suspension after 10 calendar days rather than 10 business days, according to WICU.
The chief will return to work from the latest suspension on Aug. 20, the Erie Times-News reported.
The Albion Borough Police Department consists of Chief Ries and one part-time police officer, according to the Erie Times-News.
Chief Ries, who has run the very small borough police department for 12 years, has never been disciplined or suspended during his tenure prior to the council’s most recent actions.
Steff denied rumors that the council’s actions and the chief’s suspensions were a move toward shutting down the Albion Borough PD altogether, the Erie Times-News reported.
“It was never ever discussed about the police department being disbanded,” Steff said. “Last November we had a meeting with the citizens and the citizens said they wanted the police department. We’re not even considering it.”
But the police chief’s two recent suspensions have left the residents of the community frustrated and angry.
Citizens demanded answers at a borough council meeting on Wednesday afternoon, and things got heated for a few minutes.
"We want to see proof, we want to see reason, we want to see action," Linda Crosby, an Albion property owner, told WFXP.
Crosby said she wanted the Albion Borough Council to reinstate Chief Ries.
"They didn't do it professionally, they didn't do it right, they never sent letters out," she said, echoing claims by other residents that the police chief’s suspensions had not been handled properly.
When residents got fired up and wanted answers from the Albion Borough Council about the discrepancies in the phone bill the chief had been asked to pay, Steff shut down the open meeting and called the borough council members into executive session, WICU reported.
The Albion borough president blamed the controversy surrounding the chief’s suspension on social media.
"Social media, I look at it as fake news, okay, people don't know the whole story,” Steff told WFXP. “And we can't divulge the whole story because we're under restrictions of law."
Borough council members also have refused to comment of their discipline of Chief Ries, citing legal concerns, WFXP reported.
The community is fighting back and residents have scheduled a fundraiser for Chief Ries on Aug. 12 to help pay legal fees and support his family during yet another unpaid suspension.
They’re also having professional yard signs made to protest the borough council’s treatment of their police chief, WICU reported.
When questioned about how the chief’s suspension has affected safety for the borough, Steff responded that there was no acting police chief replacement for Chief Ries, but that they have officers on regular shifts, according to WFXP.