Morrow narrows police chief search to three

MORROW — Only three candidates remain in the almost two-month search for Morrow’s new police chief.

The city received 25 applications for the position when it opened the search April 17. The applications have been under review by both an outside panel of law enforcement officers and citizen panels since then.

Some residents have complained that names of candidates haven’t been released sooner. City Manager Ronnie Few has repeatedly assured residents and members of the council that names would be released as soon as the process narrowed the candidates down to three and and background checks were conducted.

Mayor J.B. Burke has also said the process needed to move at its own pace.

“I think the mayor and all the council members agree that we don’t want to hurry,” he said at the June 8 council meeting. “We aren’t going to push it.”

Still, some residents spoke out in meetings over the past two-months urging the council to thoroughly vet the candidates and make sure all background information about them becomes public.

Morrow’s history may explain some of the public concern.

The city’s former police chief, Chris Leighty, resigned after he was hired as the new director of public safety for the non-profit Midtown Alliance in Atlanta — but his predecessor Chief Jeffery Baker resigned a month after one of his own officers arrested and charged him with DUI in 2011.

Baker had already come under fire in 2008 after the Georgia Peace Officers Standards Training Council investigated accusations that he falsified firearm training documents by signing his name to a roster for a class he didn’t actually attend.

Morrow residents were also concerned when the council hired Few as city manager even though half the council and Human Resources Director Rebecca Zebe didn’t know who he was at the time, according to a previous Clayton News Daily article. A search of news reports from Few’s previous places of employment show he has been involved in more than one scandal during his career.

Residents may be worried, but council members and Few have repeatedly assured them the search for a police chief will be transparent and thorough.

“The City of Morrow is moving through this process as quickly as possible while still being aware of the importance of this position to the City of Morrow Police employees, residents and businesses,” stated a press release from the city.

Clayton News Daily received the three candidates’names and resumes after press time July 15. Read their credentials below.

Cpt. Gregory Tatroe — Tatroe has worked in the City of Morrow Police Department since 1998. He has served as commander of the Uniform Patrol Division since 2010 and worked before that as the interim police chief from the time Baker resigned in December 2011 until Leighty was hired in April 2012.

“My resume will verify that I meet all the necessary experience, educational and skill-based requirements for this position,” Tatroe said in his cover letter. “However, what my resume may not fully indicate is the level of dedication I offer to the City of Morrow.”

Tatroe said he would plan to “introduce new programs that further promote Morrow’s reputation as a safe, attractive community” if he became chief.

“I envision the police department doing even more to make Morrow the type of community that encourages businesses and families to make it their home,” he said.

Melvin Douglas, Jr. — Douglas has worked as an investigator in the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office since May 2012 and was named Investigator of the Year there in 2013. Before moving over to the DeKalb DA’s office as a paralegal in the white collar crime unit in 2010, he served in six different departments of the East Point Police Department for 26 years.

“I am truly interested in employment with the City of Morrow as the Police Chief,” Douglas wrote in his cover letter. “I have over 30 years of experience in law enforcement and 14 years of command experience, all with the City of East Point Police Department.”

He said he could provide strong leadership to the department.

“I have the ability to lead and get the job done,” he said. “Because of my skills, extensive knowledge and leadership qualities, I am a great candidate.”

Kennis R. Harrell — Harrell worked as Lithonia’s police chief from November 2010 until December 2011. His resume makes no mention of what he has done since December 2011. He also served in 10 different positions within the DeKalb County Police Department for 23 years — including deputy and assistant chief of the Field Operations Bureau.

“In these troubled times, I have many years of experience and expertise in law enforcement,” Harrell said in his cover letter. “I know I can add to public safety within the community.”

He said he can not only lead, but train officers to improve safety.

“I possess a high energy and stride level and strive to complete assignments with top-notch efficiency.” Harrell said.

Clayton News Daily could find no mention of questionable conduct in any of the candidates’ work histories. Few will interview all three candidates before they are interviewed by the mayor and council.