Op-Ed

Lexington must be open to a police chief from outside the department

James Brown
James Brown

Let me start by thanking retiring Police Chief Mark Barnard for his leadership and 31 years of service with the Lexington Police Department. And thanks to Assistant Chief Ron Compton for his willingness to serve as acting chief. Our city is better because of the leadership and dedication of our past chiefs.

Now we need to appoint a new chief who will build on the foundation laid by predecessors but will advance the department to the next level — a chief who is tough on crime, committed to community engagement, believes in transparency, supports minority recruitment and is able to adapt to safety concerns as our city’s needs change.

I understand that our department is designed to promote from within. We owe the opportunity of advancement to officers who have come up through the ranks and offer both stability and strong leadership. Yet we must also be open to allowing someone with exceptional experience, from outside the department, prove they are worthy of the position.

The chief has to be more than capable and ready; the new chief needs to be exceptional. This person has to lead with integrity as a team builder, building trust with officers on every level. Our new chief has to be able to effectively communicate a clear vision with city leaders, the department and the community. This is vital as we develop policy, align resources and understand our role in supporting public safety. Our new chief has to have the courage to try new tactics and methods, enhance existing initiatives and even bring back successful strategies.

Lexington, like other cities, has challenges, ranging from substance abuse and gun violence to youth crimes, which the community and law enforcement are working together to address. I’m especially concerned about having stable police leadership because the 1st District has several neighborhoods that experience high levels of crime.

As we work to address varying root causes of criminal activity, it’s important that our officers continue to foster relationships in our communities and maintain the high level of training that prepares them to serve our city. It’s critical to have a chief who has a plan and a focus that will promote safety and security throughout Lexington.

I’ll end with this quote: “The right time to do the right thing is right now.” Let’s start the process to determine who is ready to become the new chief of Lexington’s finest, and lead those who have sworn to protect and serve.

James Brown represents the 1st District on the Urban County Council. Reach him at jbrown2@lexingtonky.gov/

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