Former Chaffee chief leaves new post

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Former Chaffee, Mo., police chief Martin Keys didn't have much time to get acquainted with his new job as a Scott City police patrolman.

After just a week on the job, Keys submitted his resignation to his new boss, Scott City police chief Don Cobb, expressing a desire not to cause unwanted attention and controversy after his turbulent year as chief in nearby Chaffee.

"He didn't want to be a distraction to the department," Cobb said Wednesday morning. "He appreciated the chance that we gave him, but he felt it's a little too soon."

Cobb said Keys worked five shifts -- an entire workweek -- before giving his resignation Sept. 1. The resignation came just two days after an article about his Scott City hiring was printed in the Southeast Missourian.

Keys has no number listed in local telephone directories, and the Southeast Missourian has been unable to contact him.

The Scott City Council voted unanimously to accept the city police board's recommendation to hire Keys as a patrolman at its Aug. 20 meeting. Police board president David Crader said after the hiring that Keys was recommended based on his qualifications and his openness about what happened while he was chief at Chaffee.

Most of Scott City's eight council members either declined to comment on the matter or didn't return calls from the Southeast Missourian on Tuesday. Council member Mike Ellison, a former member of the city police board, said the council voted unanimously to hire Keys because it trusts the recommendations of the police board, which thoroughly reviews each candidate.

Keys' resignation was discussed briefly at the city's last council meeting Sept. 5.

Keys officially began his duties as Chaffee's police chief in August 2006, replacing former chief Jeff Womack, who died while in office. Keys' time as Chaffee chief was a rough one, with controversies and high turnover plaguing the department. The controversy began in September with a police chase initiated by officer James Backfisch because of a traffic violation that resulted in two deaths and three ongoing civil suits against the city.

In February, another officer was charged with patronizing prostitution. Those charges were dropped after witnesses recanted their testimony, but the accused officer, Daniel Ayers, alleged the charges were a setup after he threatened to expose wrongdoing within the department.

Cobb said he's disappointed to lose a qualified officer but that he understands Keys' decision.

"I'm not sure I might not have done the same thing," Cobb said.

Keys left on good terms. "He thanked us and walked out the door," Cobb said.

The open position has already been filled, Cobb said, and Scott City has "a really good police department and we're really doing well."

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