LAWTON — A veteran law officer who resigned as police chief of the Lawton Police Department last week said he will use whatever means possible to get his job back.
Ronnie Smith, who served as police chief for seven years and as a police officer for 30, said his resignation Tuesday was not voluntary and that he regrets agreeing to leave.
Smith said Lawton City Manager Larry Mitchell gave him an option to resign or be terminated at a hearing last week, and that he resigned to preserve his reputation.
“I wanted to walk out with my head up, but I haven't done anything wrong,” Smith told The Oklahoman on Friday.
At issue is a decision made by Smith to rehire a former police officer being investigated by the city on complaints that he used excessive force while making an arrest.
The officer in question was fired for a similar incident, but Smith said that officer sought assistance and was rehired with Mitchell's verbal approval.
Mitchell was not available for comment Friday, and Lawton Assistant City Manager Bryan Long said he could not comment on personnel matters.
Long said the city manager's office is responsible for hiring and firing most city employees, and that Smith's resignation was voluntary and final. There is no appeals process for an employee who resigns, he said.
Long said the city holds its department officials to a higher standard than general employees, and that the city manager makes hiring and firing decisions based on the advice of department heads.
A group of Lawton business owners is circulating a petition in support of Smith.
“I'm not doing this because Ronnie's a good ol' boy,” said Mike Hodge, who owns a wrecker service and is a friend of Smith's. “I'm doing this because Ronnie was done wrong.”
Smith said he and his attorney will try to reverse his resignation through the city's personnel board.
Assistant Chief James Apple has been named acting chief.