Police chief to retire at end of month

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Austin police chief Paul Philipp will be retiring at the end of the month because of a recently filed complaint against him, ending a 31-year run with the department.

Details of the complaint are unclear, but the chief said in a written statement that the allegations are largely untrue and unfounded. He did not elaborate further on the nature or source of the complaint, though he did write that it involved alleged “misconduct.”

City administrator Jim Hurm did not comment when asked about the complaint early Tuesday.

However, in his statement, Philipp does make reference to the recently concluded Curt Rude trial immediately before addressing the complaint. Rude, a long time police captain in the department, was sentenced on a felony drug charge in December and officially dismissed by the city shortly thereafter.

The chief said the Rude incident — which, including the initial charges and the trial, spanned more than two years — was hard on him personally and hard on the department as a whole.

Philipp also said the recent complaint against him warrants investigation, which would “impair” his effectiveness as chief.

He added that he didn’t want to bring further controversy on the department, calling his retirement the “best” thing for Austin.

The city will now be tasked with replacing Philipp, who served as chief for 18 years, rather quickly.

Philipp said that by Austin charter, the mayor is in charge of the department, and he said he expects Mayor Tom Stiehm to direct the department’s future.

Stiehm, who retired from the Austin Police Department after more than 20 years in 2006, did not immediately return a call for comment, but Hurm did say the mayor would play a role in the process.

However, Hurm said the mayor would not directly run the department himself. Instead, he said the mayor and city council will likely look at filling the position with an interim hire as soon as possible.

The city administrator added that “major” city positions, like that of the police chief, typically take at least three to four months to fill permanently.

The Austin Police Civil Service Commission, which oversees candidate testing and submits finalists to council anytime a new cop is hired, is scheduled to meet Thursday. Philipp said that meeting was scheduled before his announcement and other issues are on the agenda, but Hurm said he imagines there will be some discussion of the chief position.

With the retirement, the police department will be the second city department to see a top official step down within the last month. On Dec. 31, fire chief Dan Wilson ended a nearly 26-year run in Austin.

Like Philipp, Wilson is the subject of an ongoing workplace investigation. However, unlike the police chief, Wilson has said his decision to retire came long before the investigation started.