Pasco hires police chief with 18 years of experience

Pasco's new police chief comes with 18 years of experience as chief in four Michigan towns.

Robert Metzger replaces Chief Denis Austin, who retires Wednesday.

Metzger is to meet Wednesday with Pasco City Council members, some city employees and law enforcement officials.

Metzger, who retired almost a year ago as the chief for the Sylvania Township in Ohio, doesn't officially start in Pasco until the end of September.

City Manager Gary Crutchfield said Metzger's experience is one reason he felt he would be a good fit for the job.

Crutchfield said he was looking for someone who will maintain the positive changes that Austin has made, including lowering the city's crime rate below the state average.

Metzger can grab the reins and go so the 77-person Pasco Police Department doesn't lose momentum, he said.

And, Crutchfield said, Metzger understands community-orientated policing, although his last two communities did not have as much gang activity as Pasco.

Austin, Pasco's chief since 1995, implemented the community approach that emphasizes officers working closely with citizens and focusing on services, not just responding to crimes.

Crutchfield said he hopes Metzger can strengthen current programs and work with neighboring agencies to improve collaborative efforts.

Metzger also has extensive experience with unions, Crutchfield said.

The Toledo Blade, an Ohio newspaper, reported that Metzger retired suddenly from Sylvania Township in September 2010 when the town was undergoing some labor disputes, including dismissing the township administrator.

Crutchfield said the firm hired to do a thorough background check, including interviewing two of the three trustees for Sylvania Township, determined the situation was perfectly understandable.

Of the two trustees, one wanted Metzger to leave and the other said Metzger had done a wonderful job improving the police department and credited him with helping meet accreditation standards, Crutchfield said.

Since then, Metzger has done consulting work for police departments and the Michigan State Police.

He has a master's in criminal justice management from the University of Detroit and a bachelor's in criminal justice sociology from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan.

Metzger has been involved in the International Association of Chiefs of Police and wrote articles for the organization's magazines, Crutchfield said. He also has acted as a mentor chief to new police chiefs in Michigan.

Metzger was one of five candidates for the position who visited the Tri-Cities in July.

Crutchfield said he asked Metzger to commit to staying in the community for at least five years.