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Former Salem Police Chief Defends His Resignation

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Officers from the city of Salem's police department resigned Thursday night.

It's a situation that former chief Robert Willis said has been building for some time, and his decision to leave the department was made public at Thursday's city council meeting.

Earlier in the week, Willis said he was issued a reprimand for working overtime, which is paid by a grant the city received, not from the city's general fund. Willis said that reprimand was the final straw. Willis said he loved his job, but he was fed up with conflict between him and city council.

"I've put my heart and soul into the community, and I've made a lot of positive changes, or at least the feedback I've received from people in the public, there's a been a lot of good things that have happened since I've been down here and there are a lot of good people in this community," said Willis.

For the city, it couldn't have come at a worse time, as its annual Apple Butter Festival is in full swing. The Harrison County Sheriff's Department and state police are providing security for the festival and the general area, as the city tries to move forward.

"Next step is to try to work something out with the county or to start over again with out police department, hire a new chief, hire an officer or two," said city manager Joe Davis.

Salem did not have 24-hour police coverage before, but residents are upset that they've lost the coverage they had, and some people want the officers back.

"It was really good. They had the city and town at heart, I believe. I'd like to see them back," said resident Bob Husk.

But Willis said that may not be possible. He said he wouldn't take the job back even if it were offered again.

"They've not lived up to anything they've promised me," Willis said.

The Harrison County Sheriff's Department and state police will work after the festival as well to keep the city protected. Davis said he has a meeting next week with Sheriff Marano and Commissioner Ron Watson to discuss what the city can do next.