Council does not reappoint police chief

Phil Breeden

MIDDLETOWN – With no fanfare, Town Council announced Monday that it would not reappoint R. Phillip Breeden as its chief of police.

Council then proceeded to appoint Officer Warren M. Houde as its interim chief.

After the meeting, Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV, Councilman and Public Safety Committee Chair Scott Fink, and Town Manager Rebecca Layman all declined comment on why council chose not to reappoint the former chief.

In the wake of Breeden’s ousting, officers Douglas B. McNeill and Jerry Sanders, along with Administrative Assistant Janet H. Smith, resigned with their chief, according to Harbaugh.

As of Monday evening, the only two members of the department are Chief Houde and Detective Steve Goldizen.

When asked for comment on the officers’ resignation, Fink and Harbaugh declined.

Layman said the two did so out of solidarity with Breeden.

“Their heart wasn’t in it,” she said. “They left with their chief.”

Though council announced the change Monday night, several citizens had caught wind of the action before the meeting and spoke out on Breeden’s behalf.

Marshall “Mark” Brown spoke critically of the council at large and accused them of extracting revenge against the former chief.

“Tonight I am speaking out on the unethical and irresponsible actions of the mayor and four members of council for using their official status to settle a personal vendetta in firing Chief of Police Phil Breeden,” he said during the citizen comment section of the meeting.

Brown went on to accuse Harbaugh of calling the sheriff to request protection for himself and the members of council.

In response to this, Harbaugh said he called Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland to request extra patrols through the town to compensate for the short-staffed police force. He denied requesting any kind of security detail.

Along with Brown, John Blaisdell spoke in defense of Breeden during the comment forum as well, and requested the rationale behind the refusal to reappoint him.

“For firing him, you’re going to have to come up with a pretty good reason,” he said.

Though she didn’t know about Breeden’s departure until murmurs broke out before the meeting, Martha Ingram said to council that she too was unhappy with the news.

“I was saddened to hear he was dismissed,” she said.

Though he served as the chief of police for 11 years (according to Fink), Breeden has faced the ire of council in the past. According to a December 2015 article in The Northern Virginia Daily, council suspended Breeden around that time due to citizen complaints lodged against him.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com