After just four years in office, the Robstown City Council has replaced the city's chief of police with a 20-year veteran of the department.
City officials said Friday that Johnny Brown, 51, a former patrolman who has been with the department for about 20 years, had replaced outgoing police chief Carlos Pena, also 51. Pena has been with the department for 27 years.
"There'd been some concern among the council members in terms of performance and morale that the council decided to address," Mayor Rodrigo Ramon Jr. said Monday.
Ramon said the city council had received word from officers within the police department that problems had arisen, which needed to be looked at.
"The feedback we got back was morale was down and manpower was low," Ramon said. "What we were hearing from the (police) department was we needed a change."
The term for chief of police is two years, with an evaluation taking place every six months, city officials said.
City secretary Paula Wakefield said the candidates for a new term as police chief, Pena included, were each interviewed Sept. 27 by the city council in executive session.
"They were brought in and asked, separately, questions individually," Wakefield said.
Afterwards, the council reconvened in open session and voted unanimously on various appointments within the city administration, with the only change being chief of police.
"That was a surprise to us," Wakefield said, referring to those not serving on the city council.
Councilwoman Sybil Tipton, however, disagreed.
"When you're appointed, no one is appointed forever," Tipton said. "The former chief of police, he knew that coming in."
Pena, meanwhile, will not be leaving the department. He will instead revert back to being a patrolman, which was his position before he was appointed chief of police.
According to Chapter 143.013, section C of the Local Government Code, "if a person is removed from the position of department head, the person shall be reinstated in the department and placed in a position with a rank not lower than that held by the person immediately before appointment as department head. The person retains all rights of seniority in the department."
"(Pena), before he was appointed chief of police, did not have sergeant or lieutenant status because he hadn't tested for them," Wakefield said in reference to Pena not being given a higher position.
Tipton said she and other city council members respect Pena's decision to remain with the police department.
"My hat goes off to him," Tipton said. "Everybody was just in awe of him sharing his feelings and thoughts with us that he wishes to continue serving, for however long, the city and its citizens."
Brown said raising morale in the department is going to be his primary focus.
"Just to kind of get the morale up, stop some of the crime that's been going on, burglaries and narcotics, and boost the morale in each division of the department," he said.
Meanwhile, Brown said he's grateful to be given the opportunity to lead the police department and assist the community in feeling safe.
"I'm really excited," he said. "It's been a long time coming. Hopefully I can provide the best service that the citizens need."
In the end, Ramon said Brown's leadership is exactly what the police department needs.
"We understand there's going to be an outlined plan of how he's going to proceed," Ramon said. "I think with the proper direction, morale can come back up."