A former Lexington assistant police chief and current head of law enforcement for Fayette County Public Schools has been named chief of the Lexington Police Department.
Lawrence Weathers becomes the second black man to lead the city’s police department. The first was Anthany Beatty, who held the position from 2001 to 2008.
At a news conference Monday, Mayor Jim Gray said Weathers was an obvious choice to lead Kentucky’s second-largest police department.
“He is universally respected,” Gray said. “Public safety is a top priority for our citizens and for me. Lawrence Weathers is a strong believer in community-oriented policing and in developing partnerships throughout the community. I believe those are important keys to improving public safety.”
Weathers, 54, started with the Lexington Police Department in 1989. In his 27 years with the city, Weathers worked in patrol, narcotics, internal affairs, training, special operations and community services as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer. He retired from the department on July 1, 2016.
Weathers then became head of law enforcement for Fayette County Public Schools.
“I’ve had the unique opportunity to be part of two wonderful police families — the Lexington Police Department and the Fayette County Public Schools department of law enforcement. Being a part of these two families has allowed me to develop friendships and partnerships within the departments and within the community…” Weathers said Monday in front of a crowd that included Fayette County Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk and former police chiefs Beatty and Mark Barnard.
“As your chief, please know that I am dedicated to continuing to build a police department that focuses on issues concerning not only the community but also our officers,” he said. “I will openly address public safety concerns and strive to promote justice, fairness, integrity and respect both internally and externally.”
In a 2016 interview, Weathers said he took the job with Fayette County Public Schools because it allowed him to stay in Lexington.
“I never wanted to be one of the professional police chiefs you see that go from city to city and straighten out departments and then move on,” Weathers said at the time. “This job [at FCPS] came open at the right time and still allows me to stay here locally. It has some things that I find really interesting, working with kids and the community.”
Weathers replaces Barnard, who retired in January after serving three years as chief. Assistant Chief Ron Compton was acting chief. Weathers was a finalist for the chief’s job three years ago but the position ultimately went to Barnard.
Gray said it was tough to choose between Barnard and Weathers three years ago. When Barnard retired, the city called Weathers to see if he was still interested in the job.
Weathers said his time working for the school system will help the city develop a more comprehensive solution to juvenile crime.
“We need to bring everyone to the table,” Weathers said.
Jason Rothermund, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge No. 4, said Weathers is well respected by his peers.
“I don’t have a single person I have more respect for than Lawrence Weathers,” Rothermund said. “The way he treats people … all people. Our officers are very excited about the opportunity to have him back because of those attributes he has as a leader.”
Weathers is from Lexington and grew up on the north and east side. The father of three graduated from Bryan Station High School and has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Eastern Kentucky University. He has nine siblings.
His brother is former University of Kentucky basketball star Jack “Goose” Givens, who led UK to the 1978 NCAA Championship.
Givens, who attended Monday’s news conference at the government center, said he’s proud of his little brother. Weathers has always been able to talk to and develop connections with people from all walks of life and treats people with respect, Givens said.
Weathers has trained with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies and he will be able to bring “ a lot of good ideas to Lexington,” Givens said.
“I have to say, as a big brother I’m just beside myself; for him, his family, his wife and his kids and for all of us,” Givens said. “When you have 10 kids… and you have a brother that has accomplished what he has accomplished, it’s just a proud day for our family.”
When asked if his younger brother got into any trouble as a child or if he annoyed his siblings, Givens refused to tattle on Lexington’s new police chief.
“As a big brother, he was subject to a lot of punishment from myself,” Givens said. But Weathers also meted out punishment to his younger brothers, he said.
“He learned to love. From our mom, we learned how to care for each other,” Givens said. “That respect that I talked about, started at home. He’s accomplished a great thing here today, but there are a few things, well, I’ll keep under the rug.”
Weathers will start March 5. His salary is $163,889.44.