Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew D. Benz is retiring in two weeks, after meeting earlier this month with the supervisor, the town’s labor attorney and town attorney.
Benz said he decided about a week ago that Jan. 3 would be his last day, bringing a nearly 25-year career in the police department to a close.
It was an unexpected move from the 51-year-old chief.
“I sat down with Town Board representatives and had some discussions about the police department and my position,” Benz told The Buffalo News. “After discussing it with my wife and family, I decided the time was right to retire.”
Town Board members said they have let the five police lieutenants know the position is open, and they are eligible to be appointed temporary police chief at the board’s reorganization meeting Jan. 2.
A Civil Service test must be given next year, and the final candidate would be selected from the top three candidates surfacing in a new Civil Service list.
Board members said they were disappointed in the retirement.
“I think what kicked it off is, obviously, with new dispatch coming in, there’s going to be a lot of new duties in the department and all that,” Councilman David Kaczor said. “I think he just decided, looking ahead, that maybe it was time.”
Board members said they were planning to change the structure of the chief’s salary.
“Actually, the new structure allowed him to make more money than he did right now,” Councilman Eugene Majchrzak said. “There would be a base salary, then there would be a half dozen incentives. Like any incentive program, some were very easy to achieve and some you would have to stretch to achieve.”
Board members said they plan to put a performance-based incentive program in place for the new chief.
“This was not based on any issues related to performance, or any of that,” Kaczor said.
The five lieutenants have until Friday to let the supervisor know they are interested in the position. The candidates will be interviewed by the board at an executive session at 5 p.m. Dec. 27.
There are no sergeants, captains or assistant chiefs in the department. Board members said they don’t know if they will hire a new officer, and said they might reorganize the command structure.
Benz said he does not have specific plans for the future.
“I think, at this point, I plan to spend some additional time with my family,” he said.
He said he would be evaluating opportunities that come along.
“I feel like I had a very rewarding career,” he said.
In his career with the Orchard Park police force, Benz had served as a detective lieutenant, road lieutenant, patrol officer and DARE officer. He was promoted to assistant chief in October 2006 and became the department’s fourth chief in its 80-year history when he was promoted to chief in February 2008. .
The Town Board and police chief seemed to have some moments of disagreement in recent years, particularly over a study of the department.
The Town Board paid $54,000 in 2011 for the seven-month study by the International City/County Management Association, or ICMA. The association was asked to study the possibilities of a merger or sharing of services with other departments, as well as all department operations. The report was controversial and led to packed Town Board meetings, although the town followed the recommendation to hire civilian dispatchers.