After weeks of controversy and a 1,000-signature petition, Yeadon’s borough council is poised to vote in coming days on whether to fire Police Chief Anthony Paparo.

Council President Sharon Council-Harris said in an interview Tuesday that the vote could come as soon as this week, and she’s confident she has the support of a majority of the seven-member council in a move to oust the chief.

She and other detractors say Paparo has been a poor steward of borough resources, costing the town $387,000 to settle a union grievance that he hired too many part-time officers — reinforcements he said he needed to supplement the force during the height of COVID-19 and civil unrest in 2020. His supporters, including hundreds of people who signed a petition to keep him on the job, say he’s a stellar law enforcement official with a solid record who’s being targeted because of the color of his skin.

The uncertainty over the chief’s future has divided the town and stoked racial tensions in the 11,500-resident community that borders Southwest Philadelphia.

On Monday, Council-Harris offered Paparo, who’s led Yeadon’s 21-member police force since 2018, a chance to resign with three months’ salary. He declined, setting the stage for a vote to remove him.

“I’ve worked hard to build a good connection with the community, and these people are literally trying to destroy me,” Paparo said in an interview. “If I didn’t love this community as much as I do, I’d quit from stress. But I’m not going to let this community down, and I’m very humbled by their outpouring of love and support.”

Dozens of residents crowded into the borough hall Monday night to voice their support for Paparo, who goes by the nickname Chachi, during a council caucus meeting.

That sentiment echoes the online “Keep Chief Chachi” petition, which has gathered about 1,000 signers complimenting his work ethic, demeanor, and presence in the community.

The controversy began in January after Council-Harris and three colleagues took control of council after winning the November election. Councilmember Learin Johnson called one of Paparo’s subordinates, who is Black, and asked if he’d be interested in taking over as chief. Paparo’s supporters interpreted the move as racially motivated.

Yeadon Mayor Rohan Hepkins and Councilmember Liana Roadcloud told The Inquirer that Johnson specifically mentioned Paparo’s race in conversations about the plan to oust him.

“They’re wrong, dead wrong, and no one deserves to go through this, regardless of race, creed, or nationality,” Roadcloud said. “That is a good man, a hardworking man, so there is no reason for this type of behavior.”

Since taking over Yeadon’s police department after 32 years as an officer in Upper Darby, Paparo has worked to build trust between police and residents of the predominantly Black Delaware County borough.

He holds monthly coffee meetings with residents to discuss neighborhood issues and hosts an online radio show providing regular updates about what his officers are doing. In 2020, he started a “love garden” in the borough to serve as a gathering space and screened a movie for both officers and the residents they serve about racial profiling and how to improve community relations.

Hepkins said he has been an asset to the community.

“If you could clone Anthony Paparo, he would be the prototypical chief you’d want to run your police department,” Hepkins said. “Most mayors would love him, because he was able to deliver for us what every municipality wants during the pandemic. Those are the facts; they’re incontrovertible.”

Not everyone shares that view. Council-Harris said Paparo has trouble “staying in his lane” and has overstepped his boundaries by taking on responsibilities beyond the traditional role of a police chief. Some residents, she said, have told her the chief was unresponsive to their complaints about crime on their blocks. . And she said Paparo’s refusal to resign after councilmembers made clear their displeasure with him was “the height of irresponsibility and insubordination.”

As for the suggestion that race played a role in the move to replace him, she noted that Paparo was chosen as chief from a field of qualified candidates that included Black applicants.

Her main objection to keeping him, she said, involves a $387,000 payment the borough must make to settle a grievance filed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing its officers. In 2019 and 2020, Paparo hired part-time officers to supplement the force and exceeded the number of hours he was allowed to use for such extra help, violating a provision in the collective bargaining agreement with the union. The FOP filed a grievance and won.

The resulting penalty, Council-Harris said, represents about a quarter of the borough’s property-tax revenue, and put a strain on the town’s budget. And she said it led her and others to question Paparo’s management of the department.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to manage this town, and it’s not racist or biased. We have to make a selection of the best people,” Council-Harris said. “Decisions have to be made out of accurate data, not conjectures based on people’s personal or political preferences.”

Michael Neilon, a spokesperson for the FOP’s Lodge 27 in Delaware County, said the union repeatedly warned Paparo that he was at risk of violating the contract, but he did not make any adjustments.

“All we want to see is that there’s a path to hire full timers and find a way to get out of this staffing crisis,” Neilon said. “But continuing to balance the sheet with part-timers is unacceptable to the union and unfair to the rank-and-file officers who may want to work the extra shifts and get overtime.”

Paparo defended the use of part-time officers, saying the department was short staffed in those years because of COVID-19 and had to ensure that the borough was protected during periods of civil unrest.

“At end of the day, tell me your life or your business isn’t worth $387,000,” said Paparo, who noted that Yeadon suffered no damage during demonstrations in 2020, while a mile away, Upper Darby’s business corridor was seriously vandalized.

“I did the right thing protecting people,” he said. “You want to fire me for doing the right thing? Fire me.”