By JESSE BURKHARDT
Faced with a lack of support from members of the White Salmon City Council, Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Bruce Brending has decided to resign his position as chief and retire from the Police Department.
Brending's resignation will be effective on Aug. 21.
In an Aug. 6 letter, Brending informed the mayors of Bingen and White Salmon of his resignation.
"This is not an easy decision," Brending wrote. "However, given the current budget discussions and comments made, which I believe clearly show the intent of the White Salmon City Council, there is little else I can do. I have attempted to negotiate a new employment contract since June, and there has been no positive movement in resolving this issue. Additionally I, as chief of Police, will not be put in a position of putting the community or the officers at risk needlessly. The comments made by White Salmon council members clearly demonstrate that their viewpoint is there is an over-abundance of law enforcement officers providing more service than is needed."
Brending has served as a police officer in either Bingen or White Salmon for more than 23 years. He began serving as police chief of the joint police force serving the two cities in June 2007.
Brending explained that he believes the actions of the White Salmon City Council -- as highlighted by the Aug. 3 joint meeting of the Bingen City Council and the White Salmon City Council -- revealed that White Salmon's council members do not appear to value having a local Police Department.
"I personally and professionally believe the discussions about decreasing the current double coverage, and possibly the 24-7 coverage, create enormous liability," Brending explained. "I as the head law enforcement officer for the city cannot in good faith endorse or support any such decrease."
Brending said the council's lack of support for the police force gave him no choice but to resign.
"It has been my highest honor to serve the citizens of these two communities. I hope I have helped make a small positive change in my 23 years serving here," Brending wrote. "I will, however, not be forced to manage these fine men and women in such a way that puts them or the citizens needlessly at risk."
White Salmon Mayor David Poucher issued a short statement after receiving Brending's letter of resignation.
"Chief Brending has worked as a uniformed officer for more than 23 years," Poucher said. "The last three years have been as chief. Chief Brending will be missed, as he has been an excellent chief for the city."
On Monday, Poucher added that he was sorry Brending is stepping aside.
"He's done a good job and I was disappointed to see him go, but I understand why he's retiring," Poucher said.
Poucher added that he will now have to begin a search for a replacement. The inter-local police coverage agreement between Bingen and White Salmon stipulates that White Salmon's mayor has final responsibility for the hiring and firing of the police chief.
"We'll have to have an interim chief until we find an individual to fill that position," Poucher said. "I definitely want to talk to Bingen and get their thoughts and input."