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The Branson Police Department has a new chief in place after the sudden departure this week of its four-year leader.
City Administrator Cathy Stepp named Eric Schmitt to the law enforcement department's top role at a news conference this morning.
“I’m humbled and excited for this opportunity to lead the Branson Police Department in our vision to be a source of pride for our community and accomplish our agency’s mission of protecting and serving Branson through a commitment to excellence, compassion and impartiality,” Schmitt said in a news release.
Schmitt, the department's assistant chief since 2017 who has 25 years of law enforcement experience, will lead 57 full-time employees, said Melody Pettit, communications manager for the city of Branson. The department is authorized to have 79 employees, she said, noting Schmitt has a goal of cutting the number of empty positions in half in the short term and filling all the openings in the long term.
His annual salary as chief is $121,805, said Pettit.
Schmitt shares a name with, but is not, Missouri’s current U.S. senator-elect.
As chief, Schmitt succeeds Jeff Matthews, who was named to the role in 2018.
In a statement released yesterday, city officials said Matthews and Sgt. Pat Gray resigned Dec. 12 after being placed on administrative leave in October.
City officials cited an "internal investigation."
"The city sourced the investigation to an outside organization to ensure the highest integrity and fairness to all involved," the statement reads, noting the resignations of Matthews and Gray came before the completion of the formal investigation.
In 2018, Matthews took over for Stan Dobbins as Branson Police Department chief, according to past reporting. Dobbins became city administrator in 2017.
Dobbins was fired as city administrator by the Branson Board of Aldermen in April, according to past reporting, amid an exodus of key city employees as new board members settled into their roles.
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