A former Cedarville police chief who was fired from his position last week without notice is still in shock, he said.
Mark Gentry, who was hired in mid-August as Cedarville chief of police, is "shocked" and "surprised" after Mayor Glenanna O’Mara unceremoniously fired him during a meeting Oct. 2, he said.
Six other officers - four reserve and two part-time - chose to leave after Gentry was fired.
"I’m just numb about the whole thing; I couldn’t believe it," Gentry said.
O’Mara fired him without warning and gave no reason for his termination, he said.
"She said it would probably be better if I didn’t know," Gentry said, calling the statement "mysterious."
Gentry was most surprised, he said, because he felt things were going well at the department. They were close to reaching a goal of "24-7" coverage for the city with certified officers, something he said is now "way out of reach."
Gentry also had been speaking with Cedarville school officials about creating a position for a school resource officer directly before meeting with the mayor on the day he was fired, he said.
"We were making improvements, and the mayor had been bragging on me up to that day," Gentry said.
When asked about the firing, O’Mara said it was a personnel issue within the city and could not be discussed, but added that Gentry had done "no wrongdoing of any kind in the department."
O’Mara noted that Arkansas is an "at will" employment state, and neither employers and employees are required to give notice for terminations or resignations. The decision was discussed by all city council members, O’Mara said. She did not say if all agreed with the firing.
Though fired as chief, Gentry also gave his resignation from the Cedarville Police Department as an officer, he said.
"She didn’t want me to be chief, so I felt my effectiveness as a police officer was over," Gentry said.
With the six other officers leaving, only one reserve officer and one part-time officer remain on duty. They have been under the supervision of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, which, along with the State Highway Department, has been acting as backup for the Cedarville officers, O’Mara said.
"There was never a lapse in safety coverage" in the city, O’Mara said.
Before being hired as chief in August, Gentry had been acting chief since former chief David Goss stepped down June 10 while struggling to recover from neck surgery.
At the time, O’Mara said Gentry was chosen "for the continuity and the stability of the police department."
Gentry had been with the CPD since September 2012 and has more than 31 combined years in law enforcement.
Gentry plans to focus on his work at Cornerstone Bible Center, where he has been pastor for the past 12 years, he said. He is not "digging any more into" the reason he was fired, "though with others looking into it more may come out later," he said.
A new chief, Joe Johnson, has been selected to replace Gentry, O’Mara said. Though Johnson was not available for comment, O’Mara said his paperwork should be processed this week. City officials also are looking over applications for new reserve officers, she said.
O’Mara said there is no "ill will" toward Gentry or any of the officers who resigned.