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New Paris police chief offers experience

PARIS — Kevin Sutton sits behind a desk in his office on the third floor of the Paris Municipal Center, wearing a gray jacket and a reddish tie. In the near future, Sutton plans to ditch the dressy wardrobe; he's worn a suit more in the past three weeks, for various meetings and a visit by the governor, than in the past several years.

"To me, it all starts with your appearance," Sutton says.

The uniform he will wear as he mingles with business owners and residents in the city of 9,000 represents integrity, character and leadership, Sutton says. In taking the reins of the Paris Police Department, Sutton wants to exemplify those traits.

Paris Mayor Mike Thornton, who swore in Sutton as police chief on Jan. 26, said he had received numerous calls from people recommending Sutton for the job.

More than 50 people applied, and the number was narrowed to 10 before the longtime Lexington officer was selected.

Sutton spent about 31 years with the Lexington police department and retired last year as an assistant chief.

"We couldn't be any more fortunate in the city of Paris than what we are right now," Thornton said. "I feel like this is the best hire that the city of Paris has seen in 20 years."

Thornton said he's confident Sutton can lead a young staff and build a strong relationship between the police force and the community.

Former Lexington police Chief Anthany Beatty, who promoted Sutton to assistant chief in 2005, said Paris residents will benefit from Sutton's leadership and experience. Sutton oversaw the bureau of community services and administration while serving under Beatty. He also was head of the department's emergency response unit, which he joined in 1983.

Beatty called Sutton a sensible leader with integrity and dedication.

"It's a good choice," Beatty said. "We're proud of him."

Sutton stepped down as emergency response unit commander in July 2008, and Lexington police Chief Ronnie Bastin recognized his dedication to the unit with a Distinguished Service Award.

During Sutton's time with ERU, the team responded to more than 450 "high-risk situations" and resolved "each one without ever having to take the life of another person," the letter says.

Following Beatty's departure in late 2007 to become assistant vice president for public safety at the University of Kentucky, Sutton and two others, including Bastin, applied to replace Beatty.

Sutton says he cherished each of his promotions and that becoming a police chief was not the goal when he started a career in law enforcement.

"I never thought I'd be more than a beat officer," Sutton said.

Despite advances in his career, Sutton said there's nothing like being on the street. That's where Sutton plans to spend much of his time in Paris. He said he wants the people in Paris to see him and get to know him. And he might drop by locations where officers have responded to calls.

Sutton said he's ready to return to work after retiring in January 2009. Sutton said it was time to step away and allow others to advance. Then, last fall, the position to replace former Paris Police Chief Tim Gray was advertised.

"I felt like I still needed another challenge in my life," Sutton said.

Law enforcement is his passion, something he'd done since he was 22, and something he says he wasn't ready to completely give up. So he applied for the Paris job.

"I thought it might be a good opportunity and good change of pace for me," Sutton said.

He said it's too early to discuss specific goals for Paris police, which consists of about 25 officers, but he's optimistic.

"I think we're really going to be able to do some good things," Sutton said.