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Jonesboro interim police chief replaces interim chief

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In yet another change at the top in the Jonesboro Police Department, the City Council has replaced its interim police chief, with another interim police chief.

During a special called meeting on Monday, the council voted 4-2 to appoint Lt. Dree Scales as interim chief of the department, replacing Lt. Wayne Woods, who has been interim chief since the resignation, Jan. 7, of former police chief Tim Jessup. Both interim police bosses are from within the department.

Councilmembers Roger Grider, Clarence Mann, Wallace Norrington and Joe Compton voted in favor of the switch, while Sebo and Bobby Wiggins opposed the move.

In a separate action on Monday, the council voted unanimously to advertise anew for the job of permanent police chief, with a starting salary range of $55,000 to $60,000.

"The council decided to change interim chiefs, and make Lt. Scales the interim chief until a permanent chief is selected," said Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox. "We'll be accepting applications for the next 30 days. We're going to see what we get in terms of applications. The permanent chief ... will have a probationary period. Customarily, it is six months ... It can be up to a year."

The Jonesboro Police Department's chief's office has seemingly had 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.

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 Department.

Woods stepped in as interim chief after Jessup left, making Scales the third chief this year. Scales, whose first day as interim chief was Tuesday, said Woods will remain employed with the Jonesboro Police Department at the rank of sergeant, with lieutenant's pay. He said Woods voluntarily took the rank of sergeant, so if Scales is made permanent chief, he can select his own administrative staff.

"It really was a surprise, but it is an honor to be promoted to this position," said Scales, who has been with the department for 11 years. "As I told the council, I'm not planning on making any changes right now. I'm not going to make any waves. I am just going to try to bring the morale back up right now."

If selected, Scales would be the second black police chief in the history of Jonesboro, he said.

"He [Woods] actually gave the council a letter saying he wanted to withdraw from consideration as permanent police chief," Grider said. "We felt like if we were going to re-post a job, it would be better to appoint a new interim chief. If he is not interested in being permanent chief, he has no business being interim chief."

"He [Woods] had pulled back his application to become chief," said Mann. "If he didn't want to be chief, it didn't seem appropriate for him to be interim police chief."

"Lt. Woods has been under an internal investigation for racist remarks," Compton said. "We had an officer that made a complaint that Lt. Woods had called the black officers into a group and said that they were trying to influence the race of the police chief, and he didn't appreciate that. I feel like the investigation was political more than anything ... It got to be too much drama. I didn't see how he could effectively lead the police department with all that going on."

"We already got a good look at Woods," said Norrington. "Lt. Scales was high on the list, too, so, we want to get a look at him and see how he operates."

Woods could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Sebo, who opposed the change, said she believed selecting another interim chief would only cause more problems for the police department. "As far as I know, there is no logic behind it," she said. "I gathered that for lack of better words, it was an audition. Why replace an interim with an interim? If you had problems with his performance ... that may be different, but nothing was brought to light. My feeling is that it is going to create more turmoil and dissension among members of the police department."

Wiggins also believed the change was unnecessary. "When you appoint an interim chief, you keep them in there until you get the new chief," he said. "Lt. Woods knew what was going on ... he was running the department. Now, we are changing them [interim chiefs] needlessly. I think we're just causing more problems for ourselves."