Three of the longest-tenured Union police officers have left, or soon will be leaving, the department.
Union Police Chief Norm Brune told The Missourian he is retiring March 15.
Union City Administrator Russell Rost said Capt. Kyle Kitcher and Lt. John Biser also have departed and are no longer employed by the city.
“It’s been a very difficult few days,” Rost said. “We’re going to get through it.”
Brune said he decided to retire last week. He has been chief since 2006 and has more than 40 years with the city.
Brune informed the city of his decision on Feb. 28, Rost said.
Rost would only confirm Biser and Kitcher are no longer employed by the city as of Friday, March 1. He said he could not comment on the matter any further because of personnel laws.
Brune and Union Mayor Mike Livengood also would not comment on the matter citing personnel laws.
Union aldermen held a special meeting Wednesday, Feb. 27. The lone agenda item was a closed session regarding personnel.
Rost said aldermen took no action during the executive session. He would not comment on the nature of the conversation or if it was related to the Union Police Department.
Brune said he was not asked to retire and was not being disciplined. He said he had been thinking about it for a while and just decided now is the time.
Rost confirmed Brune’s statement. He said he was “shocked” when Brune notified him he would be stepping down.
“Norman and I have been friends since 1982,” he said. “I knew he turned 65 a couple of years ago and he, like me, has talked about it a time or two, but I didn’t anticipate it.”
Rost said the city will miss Brune and would welcome him back if he changed his mind.
“If he came in tomorrow and said, ‘I’ll stay,’ I would say great,” Rost said.
Kitcher started his career with the Union Police Department in July 1990. He was named a detective in 1998. He was promoted to detective sergeant in 2003 and later became captain and assistant police chief.
Kitcher was named the 2001 Officer of the Year by the department. The following year, 2002, Biser earned his first officer of the year award. He also was recognized with the honor in 2015.
Biser, who had been the detective sergeant with the department since 2010, was just promoted to lieutenant this year. He had nearly 20 years with the city after joining the department in 2000.
According to an organizational chart prepared by Brune earlier this year, the chief, Kitcher and Biser were three-fourths of the top of the command staff.
With their departures, that means Lt. Andy Parker is the highest-ranking officer left in the department.
Rost said he’s planning to meet with the remaining members of the department’s management staff to figure out a plan moving forward.
“The key is stabilize the department,” he said. “The next big step is to find a new police chief. Once that’s done, they will come in and reestablish the management that they need to run the department.”
Rost said an interim chief had not been decided as of Monday morning, but one would likely be needed once Brune’s retirement begins.
“We need to see where our gaps are going to be and how we’re going to fill them,” he said. “That’s the big question and hopefully we can come up with something to get us by until we can make the best decision.”
Rost, who has a background as a police officer, said he likely will fill some temporary role within the department during the transition.
“Obviously, I’ll have to be more involved,” he said. “I’m not going to be the interim police chief, but I know the functions and the duties involved. I will be over there helping where they need me.”
The process for finding a new chief figures to be lengthy. Rost said the city likely will spend weeks, if not months, trying to find the right candidates.
“It’s not something you fill lightly,” he said.
The city may hire a search firm to help with the search, Rost said. Some area departments, like Washington, have used a firm to identify possible candidates.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had to hire a chief,” he said. “We’ll be looking at all the possibilities, but it’s just too soon at this point.”
Rost said because the departures are all coming from the management side of the department, the public likely won’t notice any changes.
“We have some things, some adjustments to make in the interim,” he said. “I think we’re going be al lright. There won’t be any less officers on the road.”