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Police Chief Says 'Irreconcilable Differences' with Mayor Over PD Led Him to Quit

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(KCEN) – Officer Michael Lugo revealed his reasoning to KCEN Thursday following his resignation as interim police chief in Little River-Academy.

Lugo, formerly the town's reserve police officer, stepped down Wednesday after less than two weeks on the job as chief.

The reason essentially boils down to philosophical differences: Lugo wanted to run the department one way, the mayor a different way.

So after just ten days as interim chief, Lugo turned in his badge.

The official resignation letter is pretty straightforward; the document states simply that Lugo resigned as of 8:59 Wednesday night.

But in a statement sent exclusively to KCEN, Lugo wrote he quit because of "irreconcilable differences regarding the future and direction of the police department."

“I felt he would have been a good addition to this town," said David Borders, fire chief at Little River-Academy VFD.

Borders was the witness for Lugo's resignation. His signature is one of three on the official letter, along with Lugo’s and Mayor Ronnie White’s.

“He said it was nothing personal,” said Borders, “just he wasn't going to be able to go the route that he was asked to go."

“His times are modern times,” said former mayor pro-tem Otis Beck, “and our beliefs, or our mayor's beliefs, is old times."

Beck held the mayor pro-tem spot for 24 years, until he was voted out this year. The entire time he was in office, White was in the mayor’s office.

Beck said Lugo had a more proactive view of what police work should be, a view White didn't share.

“We're still living in the past," said Beck.

For his part, White didn't want to go into specifics of what led to the resignation, but he did deny claims there was a conflict between Lugo and himself.

“We had discussed how to do different things,” said White, “and of course everybody's got their own opinion."

"In the past it has been that the mayor does not agree with the police department, and the police department doesn't agree with what he wants,” Beck said.

And there have been a lot of chances: Since 2008, Little River-Academy has had six different chiefs of police.

"The other chiefs that have started here have lasted usually two to three months, maybe a couple of them a little bit longer than that,” said Borders, who’s seen a parade of police chiefs in his eight years as fire chief.

City Council minutes at the city offices show that between October 2008 and August 2009, three different police chiefs were hired, and then resigned.

Now Lugo, after just a week and a half on the job.

"He said there's no hard feelings between me and you,” White said. “He said, I'm just going to resign."

Lugo wrote in that email he hopes to see "the establishment of a proactive local police department in the future."

Beck also wants to see a more contemporary police force.

"We're not in the horse and buggy days anymore,” he said. “We're in modern times. And you've got to go with changes."

Beck also said he doesn't think the mayor, who is a good friend of his, should be directly in charge of the police department.

But when we asked if he thought it was time for a change in city leadership, he said that's up to the voters.

Both Lugo and White say there are no hard feelings about parting ways, and, in fact, Lugo wrote in that email, "I believe my decision is mutually beneficial to both the city and myself."

Lugo also wrote it's up to voters to get involved with their city council, police and fire departments to help shape how they're involved in the community.

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