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Allen tapped as new Jonesboro police chief

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After a long and exhaustive search, the City of Jonesboro may finally have a permanent police chief as of Tuesday morning.

According to Jonesboro city officials, former Grantville, Ga. police chief Winston Franklin Allen, Jr., 48, has accepted an offer from the City of Jonesboro to become its new police chief. Pending the results of a criminal background check, the Jonesboro City Council will vote to install Allen during its next regular council meeting on Monday.

Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox said the city council voted unanimously following an executive session last Wednesday to extend an offer of employment to Allen, a former lieutenant and chief investigator for the Lake City Police Department. The annual salary for the position will be $55,000 a year, Maddox said.

"The council ranked the six candidates that we had," Maddox said. "With his experience and training, he was what the council considered the best qualified candidate.

"We're a small town and we have had a hard time competing for the top notch people because of the money. I think we have the best candidate we can right now, and I think that is going to provide some stability to the department," said Maddox.

The office of police chief in Jonesboro has been a revolving door since the December 2008 retirement of former chief, Wayne Rowland. Once Rowland left, Brad Johnson was promoted from major to chief, and served for five months, before he was fired by Mayor Maddox for alleged insubordination.

Tim Jessup, a major at the time of Johnson's firing, was made interim police chief, and was promoted to permanent police chief in December 2009. On Jan. 7, after only five weeks as chief, Jessup resigned to take a position as an investigator with the Clayton County Sheriff's Office.

Lt. Wayne Woods, of the Jonesboro Police Department, stepped in as interim chief following Jessup's departure, and Lt. Dree Scales of the department was voted in as interim chief in May.

The installment of Allen would make him the fourth top cop the city has had this year. Maddox said the top three candidates for the position were Allen, Scales, and Freeman Poole, former chief of the State Farmers Market Police in Forest Park.

Maddox, however, said Allen would bring with him 28 years of law enforcement experience, as well as the ability to instruct Jonesboro police officers in several POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) disciplines.

"He has been the chief of a comparable-size police department," Maddox said. "He's a certified chief with Georgia POST, so that helps. He is also certified as an instructor of several POST classes, so that that will improve the training with our officers. Our officers have to have so many hours of training in order to keep their POST certification ... he'll be able to hold a training class."

According to Maddox, Allen is qualified to instruct POST courses in defensive tactics, speed detection, TAZER use, firearms use, and security and integrity.

Allen, a Griffin native, said Tuesday he has accepted the Jonesboro City Council's offer and is awaiting their approval. After more than four years as the police chief of Grantville, Allen said he left his job on July 23 to pursue what he believes is "a great career opportunity" in Jonesboro.

"I've reached a point in my career where I've had extensive leadership and management training," Allen said. "My goal is to work very closely with the mayor and city council and to be able to utilize my leadership skills and my formal education to bring stability to this department."

Allen said he first entered law enforcement in 1982 as a detention officer with the Spalding County Sheriff's Office, eventually becoming a uniform patrol officer, and later a narcotics officer within the office. He stayed with Spalding County until 1995, taking one year off between 1990 and 1991 to work as a deputy U.S. Marshal, specializing in prisoner transport, witness protection, and courtroom security.

From 1995 to 2002, Allen worked as lieutenant chief investigator for the Lake City Police Department. In 2002, he went back to the Spalding County Sheriff's Office to lead the department's criminal investigation division as a captain. In April 2006, he became chief of the Grantville Police Department.

"I still consider Lake City as part of my extended family," Allen said. "It's [taking the position in Jonesboro] kind of like coming home."

While Allen said he would take his cues from the Jonesboro City Council, he said he would use his small-town police chief experience to make the department more visible in the community.

"I've learned how to develop programs that interact with the community," Allen said. "Even though Jonesboro is still a metro Atlanta city, it still has that small town atmosphere. My goal there, just like it was in Grantville, is to create a public trust in the police department. I think with my skills, my education, and my training ... I can bring a new dimension of policing to the Jonesboro city police department."