Knox greets high expectations with optimism on first day

By Justin Boron

Arriving at 6:30 a.m. Monday, Riverdale Police Chief Thetus Knox worked through a packed schedule on her first day, as she made assessments that will likely shape her plan to gain accreditation for the department within the next year.

Knox, the first African-American woman to be chief in Riverdale, promised a plan within the first 90 days of her start date that would lay out the path to the department's accreditation.

The subject of accreditation was an emphasis for many council members during the selection process, said Council member Rick Scoggins.

"That was a positive thing that we wanted taken care of," he said.

Scoggins said he expected Knox to take the department in a different direction but wanted to hear officer feedback before he made an assessment of her.

"When a person takes over a leadership role, you have concerns because it reflects on the mayor and council.

"Her entrance to chief would have to be a totally new chapter," he said. "And just like a book, you have to open it and read it all the way through . . . This will not be a book that is read half way through."

Knox has greeted the high expectations with optimism.

"I'm going to assess the accreditation process," she said. "Within 90 days of entering the job, I will have a plan in place to gain it."

Knox was selected two weeks ago, sliding by her competition after one candidate removed himself from the field for personal reasons and reports of a sexual harassment history all but eliminated the other.

She said the department faces several obstacles in the road toward sewing up its internal problems and severing the presence of crime that one council member has called intolerable.

Councilwoman Michelle Bruce attested to the persistence of vice-crimes such as prostitution and drug dealing in the community, saying she was "tired of it."

The criminal activity in her neighborhood has increased to an intolerable level, she said, driving her to call a community awareness meeting at her house held on Sept. 25.

Knox said her approach to reducing the crime would not rely on an intensive strategy, but more on a "philosophical approach" to policing the community.

"I want to change the community's perception of the police department," she said.

Although Knox retired from the Atlanta Police Department after 31 years of service, she said she is relatively unfamiliar with Riverdale.

"I'm more of an outsider right now," Knox said.

She took an opportunity to get to know the community Monday by talking to citizens and riding along with officers throughout the day, she said.

Knox also held an early-morning meeting with her three commanders Maj. Paul Weathers, Maj. Todd Spivey, and Maj. Greg Barney, who served as interim police chief this summer.

At the meeting the four discussed the introduction of Comstat, which analyzes the community's most prevalent crimes and helps with deployment of officers, Barney said.

Barney also said he anticipated a positive shift from past leadership.

"You expect change with a new chief," he said. "I think she's going to move the department forward.