Middletown acting police chief retiring in April, chief remains on leave after 8 weeks

Eric Crank has served nearly three decades with the city police department after serving in military.

Longtime Middletown police officer and current Acting Chief Eric Crank will retire in April, and the leadership of the department remains uncertain with the chief on paid leave for reasons city officials still have not shared after two months.

After military service, Crank joined the force in November 1995 and rose through the ranks to one of two deputy chiefs in the administrative office of embattled Chief David Birk.

On Dec. 20, Crank was named acting chief when Birk was placed on paid administrative leave “until further notice” by City Manager Paul Lolli. Crank officially gave notice of retirement the first of January.

The 58-year-old told the Journal-News the retirement timing has nothing to do with Birk’s situation.

“I have been on the fence. Anybody who knew me, particularly my wife and son, knew I had been on the fence since last year,” Crank said. His wife Lynn is a Middletown dispatcher. “It was not secret to my family, but I think it was kind of a surprise to the city and others that people started inferring that I was leaving because of the whole Birk thing, and that was not it.”

After struggling about the retirement decision, Crank said he just knew it was time. He wants to spend more time with family, including a new grandchild.

“I have dedicated close to 33 years between this and the military. I am just tired of wearing a uniform. I am tired of shaving everyday. I am just tired. That’s all,” Crank said.

His retirement date is April 19.

Posting of testing and assessment process for Crank’s deputy chief position has been released. It is open to sergeants and lieutenants. Testing will be held in March. Crank said there are four officers signed up for testing, with includes a written and interview process.

Deputy Chief Andy Warrick remains in the department’s second top spot.

Crank made it clear he’s “tired of hearing” about a perceived division in the police force.

“Everybody here has their own personal opinions about what happened. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the military or your local government or police department, whenever there is a change of command in a situation like this, everybody always thinks there is a big division. Not true,” Crank said.

When he was made acting chief he told the department, “This is a situation that is beyond our control. You can have your own personal opinions, but it can’t affect our jobs moving forward.”

Crank added, “I have heard this over and over again. There is no A team and B team here. There is no infighting. We are focused on our jobs.”

When Birk was placed on paid administrative leave, he left the city building after turning over his gun and badge.

A letter presented to Birk in Lolli’s office says Birk is to remain on leave “pending further review of matters relating to your employment.”

Eight weeks later, no information has been released from the city about who is conducting the investigation, when it will be completed and if it involves any alleged criminal wrongdoing.

Lolli stated at the end of the December letter to Birk: “Please note that this administrative leave is not a disciplinary action or adverse employment action.”

Stephen Imm, Birk’s attorney told the Journal-News on Jan. 8, “I don’t believe that the chief has done anything to merit any disciplinary action.”

Imm said he is unaware of any criminal allegations against Birk. He added as far as he knows the investigation into the issue is being conducted internally, but he is unsure by whom.

Lolli said “no comment” late last month when asked to shed light on the investigation.

“It is being handled internally through the administrative route,” Lolli said. “He was placed on administrative leave, and the matter is still being looked into. Period.”

He declined to name the person investigating or if any of the allegations are criminal and are perhaps being investigated by a police agency.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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