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Jackson Under Fire - Benefits of Chief's Training

By Keli McAlister
By kmcalister@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. - Jackson Police Chief Gill Kendrick makes no apologies for spending at least 28 days in 2011 away from Jackson while on the clock. He maintains his time at meetings of the Tennessee and International Associations of Chiefs of Police are vital and provide an opportunity to learn about new crime-fighting practices.

What are the direct benefits the city sees from his participation? That question was posed to the chief and was met with a 14-second pause before he answered. "There was one particular training that was given to us from a Clarksville instructor who talked to us about litigious situations that we look for as far as hiring and making sure we're getting better quality officers," he said.

His two other examples include a picture book that could eventually be used by officers faced with language barriers and a practice called DDACT. DDACT is a data driven way to increase patrols around high crime areas in hopes of catching criminals committing less serious crimes, like driving offenses, before they ever get a chance to commit a violent crime. But neither has been implemented in Jackson. Kendrick said DDACT is being tested by some units but will not go department-wide until after a new records management system is installed.

Updating the department's computer system is not the only change Kendrick has spearheaded. He added a number of administrative positions, including two deputy chiefs and an administrative assistant.

Deputy Chief Barry Michael oversees crime fighting and investigations, while Deputy Chief Gerry Campbell oversees records, equipment and facilities. Both were promoted from captain by Kendrick, a few months after he took over.

Lt. Melinda Wyatt, who previously commanded the Auto Theft and Financial Crimes Units, was appointed as administrative assistant in July. Kendrick describes her role as one similar to his in finding new programs that could help curb crime. "She is looking into gun violence," he explained. "She's looking at performance measures." When asked if she was primarily in a research role, he said yes.

Chief Kendrick has also taken two long serving patrol officers off the streets and added them to his administrative ranks. Officers Brien Turner and Francis Yalda are now responsible for installing and maintaining the computers in every patrol car. "They're jobs probably could be filled by civilians, but ones cognizant of the type of equipment an officer would need," he said. "You need a law enforcement mindset to understand that marriage of technology and need."

Kendrick argues under his watch he has hired civilians for jobs previously held by gun-carrying officers and that balances out the ratio of officers on the street.

Despite having an extra layer of administration to oversee every aspect of the department's operations, Kendrick says he still has plenty to do. "My plate is full," he said. "I want to go around the agency and engage the people here to get a pulse for how people are doing." He said he also stays busy in the community. "I want people to feel like they can reach out and touch the chief and he's not in a room with the door shut where we never see him," he explained.

Unlike many positions in the city with this type of influence, Chief of Police is an appointed, not elected. The chief answers straight to the mayor, serving at his pleasure.

When asked if he felt there was any reason to consider a change of leadership at the Jackson Police Department, Mayor Jerry Gist said, "No. i do not."

Chief Kendrick will celebrate his three year anniversary with the department on November 16.
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