Midway police chief fired

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Future of Midway Police Department uncertain

By Alice Du Pont

After only three months on the job Marcus Williams, Midway police chief, was fired during the regular August 4 council meeting.

The council voted 3-2 to terminated Williams.  Voting to fire the chief were Mayor Ella Barber and council members Charles Smith and Allean Robinson. Council members Delores Madison and David Knight, voted to keep him. Council member Chuck Willis said he had to leave the meeting early because of a death in his family and council member Jerrod Holton also left the meeting prior to discussion on Williams fate.

The city was in jeopardy of losing its ability to access the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office dispatch services and some felt that it would place the citizens in jeopardy. Sheriff Morris Young sent a letter to the city last month saying as of Aug. 7, dispatch would no longer answer Midway calls. The reason, the letter stated was the number of calls, over 2000, coming from Midway and that dispatchers were overwhelmed. "I've talked with Sheriff Morris Young and he told me absolutely (dispatch services would be discontinued) as long as we have Chief Williams. My only option is what to do to keep Midway with a police department. I have told the chief that the sheriff did not even want there ( at a meeting of the manager and sheriff in late July to discuss the letter and seek a resolution) meeting). We cannot survive without GCSO and Leon County Sheriff's Office. I asked Young if he would resign but GCSO said we had to remove him. Morris Young will send someone over to supervise our office. The sheriff said he would not help us if Chief Williams was here,' said Interim City Manager Roosevelt Morris. "He is a good person. I believe he can accomplish what he wants to and in time he will be an excellent chief, if he will step down on a different level," suggested Robinson.

Council member Delores Madison said she too talked with Sheriff Young concerning the letter to discontinue dispatch services. "He wanted to send one of his deputies to run our police department. I asked if an apology from Chief Williams would help and he said 'he needs to listen to me when I'm trying to talk to him' " she said. Williams said he cannot help that he was hired from the outside as chief but he would not allow the police department to be a puppet. "This is not a biased police department. We don't arrest this one and not that one. I brought my wife here and we've made Midway our home. Yes, we've issued 300 citations, answered over 2,000 calls and made 45 arrests. Two letters were written by two elected officials. If we were wrong Florida Department of Law Enforcement would have been over here," Williams said.

He admitted that there were over 2,000 calls to dispatch but said it was a matter of officers' safety when they request driver license and license plate checks. "I respect him, he is the sheriff and I respect every council person but you need to let the city manager be the city manager. The city manager is in a hostile work environment, all of the directors have been fired. Please don't make a hasty decision," Williams said. Midway Officer Carlos Redding, told those residents remaining after the meeting went on after midnight that Sheriff Young is an elected official and he urged them to write letters and remember the nights events at election time.

"We've been here all night long, I recommend we terminate the chief and look for someone else," said Council member Charles Smith, rubbing his forehead. "I'm not ready to give up on Chief Williams. I would like to see him work this out with the sheriff," said Council member Madison. While the council voted to oust Williams, many citizens were solidly behind him. "There may be issues between the sheriff and the chief and we have to suffer and I don't think it's fair. Are we willing to let our sheriff do this to us. Our sheriff is an elected official and he's telling us that our chief has to go. The sheriff wants to tell us what to do. If he doesn't like a person, we have to let him go?" asked Eunice Murrray. "Were allowing others to make decisions for us. What if they don't like to next one?" Murray continued.

One woman said it takes a deputy from 45 minutes to an hour to answer a call in Midway depending on where the nearest deputy is at the time of the call. "Nobody, she said, comes from the GCSO to Midway, they're playing political polo with us." "The sheriff has put the city between a rock and a hard place and it's not fair. You should do for all what you do for one. The bottom line is that we cannot afford a police department. He (Williams) said he could get us a dispatch for free or pennies on the dollar," said Council member Holton, indicating that he was willing to try Williams' solution. Council member Madison said the council voted, in the May meeting, to give Williams the tools he need for the police department. "We felt safe in our homes and we've begun walking in the evenings. Now, I feel like Midway is a stepchild. We were promised a school, a public library. They are against everything we try to get. We are taxpayers and have noting to show for it," she said. Mayor Barber said she had been in constant touch with the sheriff, who she said was on cruise, (he was actually at the annual meeting of the Florida Sheriff's Association in Daytona Beach) and she knew things that other council members did not know and the City of Midway would not be without police protection.

In other matters: • Council member Delores Madison said she received correspondence from the United States Department of Agriculture notifying the city that it is in jeopardy of losing funding to hire an engineering firm to plan for central water and sewer plant and utilities. She said the reason given was that the City of Midway is "unstable" at this time. • Council member Holton asked developer Lex Thompson to reconsider withdrawing an application to voluntarily annex 92.81 acres off County Road 159 for upscale homes. The lots would begin at $75,000 but other commissioners balked when Thompson said the 1 to 20 acre homes would be on septic tanks. "We're already having problems. If you can't do a sewer, don't bring it to Midway," said Council member Smith.