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Chester County fires 2 police officers

CHESTER -- Two Chester County sheriff's officers were fired earlier this week, officials said, but within minutes, they were hired to fill other county posts.

Sgt. Jamie Mitchell and Lt. Calvin Reynolds, both veteran officers, were fired Monday, according to sheriff's Chief Deputy Bernie Culpepper.

"We all serve at the pleasure of the sheriff," Culpepper said, referring to outgoing Sheriff Robby Benson. "The sheriff instructed me to tell them that their services were no longer needed."

Culpepper declined to identify the reason for the dismissals, citing the terminations as "internal."

Telephone calls to Benson -- who was defeated by Richard Smith in the Nov. 4 election -- were not returned. Mitchell and Reynolds were hired before their dismissals to work for sheriff-elect Smith, who takes over the department in January.

"He's going out on a bad note," Smith said of Benson. "It's distasteful and not very professional."

Smith, who was attending sheriff's school earlier this week, is slated to be sworn in Jan. 6.

Last day

On Monday, Reynolds reported to work at 7:30 a.m. He was let go around 10 a.m., he said.

Then Mitchell was fired.

"The exact words were, 'You are terminated as of now,'" Mitchell recalled about being fired by Culpepper.

Mitchell worked in investigations. Reynolds supervised school resource officers. Both said they don't know why they were terminated.

"They're good officers," Smith said. "I just don't understand why they were terminated. It's politics. I hate it for them."

Mitchell has worked for the sheriff's office a little over 11 years, spending nearly eight years working under Benson. Reynolds, whose law enforcement career spans 25 years, worked 10 1/2 years with the sheriff's office.

Reynolds said he has never violated department procedures.

"I'm hurt and disappointed because nobody gave me a reason," Reynolds said. "But he's the sheriff. That was his decision and I respect that, but I don't agree with it."

Mitchell, who is related to Smith, also was stunned by his abrupt termination. "I hate it happened," he said. "I think it's more that Richard (Smith) is my brother-in-law."

Smith said both men will resume their respective duties when he takes his post in January.

Moving on

Within minutes of their dismissals, Chester County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey hired Reynolds and Mitchell.

"I knew that something was up because someone called me," Roddey said. "I moved them right over. They won't lose any time. They won't lose anything."

Mitchell and Reynolds will work with the county's road department in administrative-type positions, Roddey said. They will receive the same pay as before their terminations, he said.

"They let them go right at Christmas time," Roddey said. "It's pretty bad. Why should they be penalized and lose seniority? ... The sheriff can hire and fire at his pleasure, but I don't have to go along with it."

Mitchell and Reynolds will remain employed with the county until they return to their respective posts, Roddey said.

Interview board

Weeks before the terminations, Reynolds, Mitchell and five others served on a board that interviewed candidates for posts under Smith. Reynolds said he got permission from Benson to serve on the board.

Mitchell and Reynolds were fired less than 10 days after the group finished interviewing. The other five on that board were not employed with the sheriff's office, officials said.

It is not clear if serving on that board played a role in Benson's decision to terminate Mitchell and Reynolds.

"I'm taking the time now to get my head straight, and then Jan. 6, I go back to work for the sheriff's office," Reynolds said.

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