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Alton police chief fired

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Former Alton Police Chief Kevin Jotz. File Photo
Less than three months after the Alton Board of Aldermen commended Police Chief Kevin Jotz for his dedication to duty, the board fired him when he refused to resign.

Jotz said he was fired in closed session Feb. 13 for "not getting along with the Oregon County Sheriff's Department" and for having a "bad temper."

Mayor Richard Haigwood declined to comment on the matter, and said meeting minutes will not be available to the public until the board's March 12 meeting.

Haigwood instructed Clerk Sherri Orr to not release the unapproved draft minutes, stating the minutes "do not exist" until approved by the board.

Oregon County Sheriff George Underwood said in a telephone interview Feb. 27 that he doesn't believe Jotz was fired for the reasons Jotz stated, although the board was correct.

Underwood said his department had issues with Jotz leaving town without telling dispatchers and for interfering with county business.

The city promoted Jotz from part-time patrol officer in May 2010 to full-time chief. Before moving to Alton in 2009, Jotz worked 15 years for the Los Angeles Police Department, where he received the Medal of Valor for helping rescue a 6-year-old girl from a burning apartment building.

Jotz said the Alton board commended him in November 2011 for "going above and beyond the call of duty," working 24-hour shifts without a day off from Oct. 7, 2011, until Thanksgiving day.

"I knew the job when I stepped into it," Jotz said via telephone on Feb. 27. "I never did it for the money. I did it for the community."

Jotz said citizens alerted him that his job was in jeopardy, although all four aldermen told him he would not be dismissed unless he had committed a crime.

Jotz said he was shocked when the board's vote came back unanimous on Feb. 13 to ask him to resign. He said he was terminated, in part, for investigating a county deputy who has since resigned.

"It's much easier to sacrifice me than to not get along with the sheriff's department," Jotz said. "If a crime involves a deputy in the city, I'm going to investigate it."

,Jotz said he also disagreed with the board by insisting the city purchase it's own software license for CrimeStar instead of illegally using the county's license for the police data system.

The city purchased its own CrimeStar program in February for $3,000, after sharing the program with the county since 2003.

November election

Jotz said he has no intention of suing the city for his job. He filed early on Feb. 28 to run for Oregon County sheriff, as did Underwood.

Jotz, the grandson of a Newark, N.J., police officer, and brother to a Las Vegas police officer, said law enforcement is his life. If elected as sheriff, he said, he will do his best for the community.

Underwood said he will not turn the campaign into a "mud-slinging competition," and will support whoever is elected to the position.

"If the people don't want me as their sheriff, then I don't want to be here," Underwood said.

Jotz, a Republican, signed the county's check-in sheet at 5:50 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, followed by Underwood, a Democrat, at 6 a.m., with the official signup at 8 a.m. No other candidates filed for the position as of 10 a.m. Filing closes for all county offices on March 27.

Local law enforcement wages

At the end of his employment in Alton, Jotz earned $8.75 per hour, 50 cents per hour more than the city's two patrol officers.

By comparison, Thayer Police Chief David Bailey is paid $18.43 per hour. Thayer's highest-paid senior officer, Lt. Josh McDaniel, earns $14.25 per hour. Thayer's least experienced patrol officers and dispatchers earn $10.50 and $9 per hour, respectively.

Underwood, whose salary is set by state statute, earns $39,000 per year. Due to a state Department of Public Safety grant, all Oregon County deputies now are paid at least $28,000 per year.

"The grant certainly helped my staff tremendously," Underwood said. "If not the lowest paid in the state, we were pretty close."

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