Photo by Curt Yeomans
Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke (from left) swears in new Police Chief, Christopher Leighty, on Tuesday night. Leighty’s wife, Susan, held his childhood Bible.
New Morrow Police Chief Chris Leighty stressed the need for city’s police and residents to work together for the good of the community as he began to take over as the town’s new top cop Tuesday night.
Leighty, 51, was sworn in to his position by Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke during a meeting of the Morrow City Council, although his first official day will be April 9. Afterward, he pledged transparency and integrity from a police department whose last permanent chief, Jeff Baker, resigned after he was arrested on a DUI charge last November.
But, it was the theme of what the city could accomplish through unity that Leighty continually came back to as he addressed the city’s residents for the first time.
“The police department does not stand alone,” said Leighty, before he turned his comments to the more than 20 Morrow police officers in the audience. “I am humbled and honored to be your police chief, and I look forward to the challenges ahead. There is nothing that we, together, cannot overcome.”
Leighty, a 22-year employee of the Atlanta Police Department and former U.S. Marine, said Wednesday will be his last day with his former department. He added that he will begin the process of transitioning into his new position by the end of the week. Although he was technically still the commander of the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 5 precinct on Tuesday night, he wore a Morrow Police uniform for his swearing in.
“When you hear the words ‘duty,’ ‘honor’ and ‘integrity,’ those aren’t just words to me,” Leighty said. “I have lived those words my entire life. I have served in a uniform in some capacity for the last 32 years. ... I can assure you that as we move forward, we will conduct our business transparently, and with nothing but the community in mind. We will serve that community, and we will communicate with that community.”
Leighty said he sought the Morrow police chief position because it had been a long-time goal of his to someday become the chief of a small-town police department. He said he was born and raised in the small town of Southpoint, Ohio, and currently lives in Covington with his wife, Susan.
“The City of Morrow has this unique aspect in that it’s a small town, and it has a lot of big-city amenities,” Leighty said. “It has Clayton State University here. It has the Georgia Archives. The mall is here, and probably 200,000 people travel every day up and down the interstate. ... So, it’s not your typical small town. It has some big-city issues that, collectively, I think we’ll be able to address.”
As for Morrow Police Capt. Greg Tatroe, who has served as the department’s interim chief since Baker resigned, city leaders announced plans to help him advance his career on Tuesday. City Manager Jeff Eady said the city council is putting money aside in its next budget to send Tatroe to the FBI Training Academy. Eady explained it will be done to thank him for stepping in as the department’s interim leader.
“The council just thought it was a good way to recognize him for holding the department together for so many months,” Eady said. “We wanted to do something that would benefit him professionally.”