Riverdale gets new police chief

By Ed Brock

The city of Riverdale has appointed a 31-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department to be Riverdale's next chief of police.

Riverdale City Manager Iris Jessie announced the appointment of Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Thetus Knox to the city chief position at a brief Riverdale City Council meeting on Monday. Knox addressed the council briefly, thanking council members and saying she had a number of initiatives she wanted to implement in the department.

"First of all I want to get into the Police Department and assess their system," Knox said.

Knox said she wants to look at training for officers, improve morale if it needs improving and review community policing programs as she gets the feel of the department.

"I just want to take a holistic view toward the department," Knox said.

Eventually she wants to work on getting the department nationally accredited.

In the last week it was reported that the other two finalists for the position, former Pine Bluff, Ark., Police Chief Nathaniel Clark and Charles Long, a former police assistant chief in Huntersville, N.C., had questionable employment histories.

Clark had been accused of sexual harassment in his previous job, a charge denied by his attorney Darrell O'Neal, and Long had been suspended and demoted, according to reports from the Huntersville Herald.

On Monday morning Long called Jessie in order to withdraw his name from the selection process but denied that his decision had anything to do with the reports about his history.

"It's for personal reasons," Long said, declining to comment on his demotion and suspension. "I wish Riverdale the best in choosing the right person for the job."

A member of the candidate review committee, Roland Downing, has called the selection process flawed because background checks were not conducted before narrowing the field of candidates.

Jessie said she did perform background checks on the final three candidates.

"My policy is to do background checks on candidates who are in the final pool," Jessie said. "That's just the way that I do the recruitment process."

In a statement she released after announcing Knox's appointment, Jessie said Knox "has worked in every phase of law enforcement" and "comes highly recommended from her superiors, community activists and other agencies related to law enforcement."

"I am most impressed with Deputy Chief Knox's professional affiliations," Jessie said. "Her affiliation with the Atlanta Metropol, the International Association of Police Chiefs, the FBI National Academy Associates, the Georgia Peace Officer's Standards and Training Council will be very beneficial to the city of Riverdale."

Knox was also named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2002 by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office and has won various other awards.

Council members Rick Scoggins and Michelle Bruce were the only ones to attend the meeting along with Councilwoman Wanda Wallace, who headed the meeting. Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham and Councilman Kenny Ruffin did not attend the meeting.

Scoggins and Bruce said they were pleased with Knox's appointment.

"I think it's been long overdue for us to get a new chief of police," Scoggins said. "I think we've brought aboard an individual who has a lot of bright new ideas for the city and the citizens."

Scoggins said he hopes the appointment will help the city move forward.

Bruce said she thinks Knox will "take the Police Department by the horns."

"I think she's not going to let anybody run over her," Bruce said. "She'll do a lot for the community."

Riverdale resident Charles Glover was also pleased with Jessie's choice.

"I think it will work out pretty good," Glover said. "She seems like a sincere person."