Lowell council appoints interim police chief
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent March 14, 2013 9:34PM
Lowell Police Chief John Shelhart. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:11PM
LOWELL — Town officials tapped an interim police chief Thursday after a series of special Police Commission and Town Council meetings set to replace Chief John Shelhart.
Cpl. Eric Matson was named the interim chief by a 3-2 margin without any discussion during the Town Council meeting. Councilmen Craig Earley and Phillip Kuiper voted against the appointment.
Shelhart announced his resignation March 4 and it is effective Saturday. Friday is Shelhart’s last official day of work.
Police Commission members met Thursday in executive session to discuss a possible replacement for Shelhart. In the open meeting that followed, police commissioners decided they were not prepared to make a recommendation to the Town Council for the interim chief. Matson’s name was not among those discussed during the Police Commission meeting.
During that meeting, Scott Tokash also resigned his position as assistant police chief and will return to the rank of sergeant within the department, according to Town Council President Edgar Corns.
The appointment comes on the heels of a unanimous 4-0 vote Monday by the Town Council to hire a consultant to conduct a procedural audit of the Police Department and Police Commission. Councilman Philip Kuiper was absent.
“There’s a little uproar in the Police Department,” Corns said of the audit prior to the meetings.
After the meeting, both Earley and Kuiper said they voted no not because they did not believe Matson could do the job, but because they did not have time to process the information presented during executive session and make an informed decision.
“I’m not prepared to make a logical decision until I decipher the information,” Earley said.
Both men said much work needs to be done before a permanent chief is hired.
“We need to conduct a search outside the police department,” Kuiper said.
Corns said he would be open to an outside search, but officials needed to act quickly in the meantime to ensure the Police Department and clerk-treasure could continue with town business.
“If we have a search, it needs to be open to local officers, too,” Corns said.