WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — West Memphis’ Police Chief Michael Pope said serving the city was an honor, but cites other endeavors and goals pointing him in a different direction in his resignation letter.
That letter was made available to WREG three days before he’s set to leave the job he’s held for six months.
We talked to the mayor, Marco McClendon, Thursday who said the chief is resigning because of better opportunities that he wants to explore, but he would not elaborate on what those opportunities are. However, the mayor did emphasize that Pope is still employed with the West Memphis Police Department.
“I love Chief Pope,” McClendon said. “He’s a great individual, and I continue to have a great relationship with him.”
We also reached our to Pope directly for a comment and are waiting to hear back.
When the resignation was announced, there were some accusations due to the recent handling of evidence of the West Memphis Three murder case, going back to 1993. McClendon said Pope leaving has nothing to do with the case.
Earlier this year, WREG investigated allegations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation of a police major back on the job. When we asked a city spokesperson if those allegations had anything to do with Pope’s resignation, he told us, “absolutely not.”
McClendon said he is concerned about morale in the department but is working on a plan to fix it.
“I think we’re working on a plan right now where we can fix some of the low morale to bring that up as well as have adequate staffing in our police department,” McClendon said. “Continue to promote diversity within the department; I think our department is on the right track of moving forward, and we’ll continue doing that.”
The city tells us while the department is currently down 10 officers, there are nine set to graduate from the academy in late January and five certified officers who have applied since the salary has increased from $42,000 to $46,000 a year plus benefits.
A search committee will be looking for the city’s next police chief. In the meantime, an assistant chief will take on the top job.
Pope’s last day is set for December 24.