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New chief takes the reins

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By Stephen Lega

The City of Lebanon has a new chief of police.

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Joseph Bell was sworn in as the chief Saturday afternoon following a special-called meeting of the Lebanon City Council. Wally Brady was sworn in as the new assistant chief.

Bell is the first African-American to serve as Lebanon's chief of police.

After taking the oath of office, Bell said he has been working toward becoming a chief for 20 years. He added that fairness would be his main focus as the new leader of the department.

"Fairness is going to be the main thing," he said. "Everything else will fall in line from there."

Bell joined the Lebanon Police Department in 1975. In 1979, he completed Department of Criminal Justice training. He has served as a patrol officer, sergeant, and as the acting chief on three occasions - for about three months in 1993, from December of 1995 through September of 1996, and June through October of 2000. In August of 2001, he was promoted to captain, and he served as a lieutenant under recently retired Chief Shelton Young.

Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw said he selected Bell to serve as chief because of his 35 years of experience at every level of the department and because of his understanding that the department needs to make some changes.

"He understands what the main obstacles and issues are going to be with the department for the next five years," Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw added that the police officers need to understand that Lebanon is a small town police department, not a metropolitan department, like Louisville or Lexington.

"We have to earn the trust and the respect of the community," Crenshaw said. "Any public official has to do that."

At the same time, Crenshaw said Bell is aware of his weaknesses, and Brady will complement Bell's leadership.

Brady joined the Lebanon Police Department in 1982. He has worked as a supply officer, a sergeant and a school resource officer. Brady studied police administration at Eastern Kentucky University, where he received an associate's degree in 1982. He completed Department of Criminal Justice Training in 1984.

Bell said that he is pleased to have Brady as his assistant chief of police.

"I'm just glad that I have a friend that can do this job as well or better than I can," Bell said.

Bell added that he expects a lot of restructuring within the department.

Brady may continue as the school resource officer through the end of the school year, but Bell said a new school resource officer would likely be selected for the 2010-11 school year.

Crenshaw added that Brady is one of the most outgoing and personable people that he knows. He also said he hopes Brady will continue the relationships he has built with the youth during the last few years.

Crenshaw, City Attorney Kandice Engle-Gray, Josh McKay, Lisa Nally-Martin and City Administrator John O. Thomas served on a panel that interviewed candidates for police chief. The panel interviewed the five in-house applicants for the position, but chose not to interview the two outside applicants.

Crenshaw said Bell and Brady were the unanimous selections of the panel.

Crenshaw conducted more interviews with Brady and Bell before making his final decision.

During a special-called meeting of the city council Saturday, Bell thanked the council for placing their trust in him and Brady.

"We will do the best we can," Bell told the council.

Council concurs

Mayor Gary Crenshaw told the council during a special-called meeting Saturday that he'd made his decision after hours of interviews. He also asked the city council's concurrence with his decision to promote Bell and Brady.

City Councilman Bill Pickerill pointed out that while the council could concur, the decision was the mayor's to make.

The council then gave its unanimous concurrence to Crenshaw's decision to promote Bell and Brady.

Before the meeting ended, Councilman Kenny Marrett said he would like the police department's new leadership to work on burglaries, which he said is a concern of several citizens.

Marrett pointed out that 55 burglary cases were opened in 2008 and eight were cleared. He added that 88 cases were opened in 2009 and 14 were cleared.

"I'm hoping this team can help improve those numbers," he said.

Bell said after the meeting that the department would focus on everything, and he would provide updates to the council on the department's activities.

On the issue of burglaries, he said that citizens should be aware that in many instances the person who commits a burglary is someone who knows the homeowner.