With the resignation of former Police Chief Mike Fitz, then interim Chief Michael Connor took over before he was seriously injured in an automobile accident. Now serving as interim Chief, Jared Smith is on the list of four final candidates named by Mayor Dexter Jones to fill the position in a permanent status.
Finalists named by Jones are interim Kingston Police Chief Jared Smith, former Kingston Police Chief Mark Borgschults, Officer for the World Congress Center Walter Harrell and former Acworth Police Officer Mark Truslow.
"They're all good candidates but we're just re-reviewing their experience, education and their backgrounds in general," Jones said. "We really need to get a chief in place because the chief is the one that leads the entire department.
"Even in a city this size, we have problems just like any other city except it's on a smaller scale. We have the traffic problems, we have the drugs problems, we have the juvenile problems, the domestic violence -- it really runs the gamut out here. So we really want to get somebody that's experienced in all of that. In particular, whichever one of these guys comes forth, we want them to be experienced in the management of other employees, of other officers, and we'll be looking to see specifically what their history is in that."
The issue of police force was addressed at the July combined meeting of the city council in which members of the council, including Louise Howell, voiced their opinion on the matter. Speaking again to the matter, Howell commented on the position of police chief and raised concerns over Kingston's ability to pay a chief what he deserves.
"I think it's always better to have a chief because that way he can be over the rest of them. But of course we're making it pretty fine with Jared like he is but I'm sure he's not satisfied because he probably feels like he needs to be making the money of the chief rather than just a patrolman," Howell said.
Smith has not been given a raise since his title was changed to interim Police Chief, and although Howell believes that coverage could be altered or expanded to better fit Kingston's needs, she is unsure of the city's financial ability to hire more officers.
"There's just so many people that live alone, I mean you know they just don't feel like they're really safe, even with the security systems," Howell said, adding that solutions may exist with only two officers, if need be, by staggering schedules to provide overnight protection leaving a gap in the morning hours. "There's just a lot of mischief going on. ... I would feel better and I feel like a lot of the other older people here in town would [with overnight protection] because most of the time your crime isn't done in the early morning hours like from 6 [a.m.] to 12 [p.m.]. I would like to have three so that we could have 24-hours but I don't know that we would be able to afford that but we might. We'll just have to wait and see I guess."
As she mentioned, 24-hour protection has been a goal but the feasibility of that desire is currently unknown. The city is awaiting the results of an audit currently being conducted to see exactly where it stands financially.
Jones has been adamant on increasing police protection since his inauguration in January, yet through attrition and injury the police force has dwindled to only two full-time officers. Connor, however, will be physically able to return to full duty in about a week, Jones said.
"As I expressed to my city council and the citizens of Kingston -- it wasn't a decision that I wanted to make hastily. It's something that I definitely want to put a lot of thought into, ask a lot of questions because a police chief is a very powerful position," he said.
Jones said he expects to have a final candidate for police chief presented before the council for approval at the August city council meeting.