The Mayor and Aldermen met Monday night with each of the three men who have applied to become the next Smithville Police Chief.
The interviews with Larry Parsley of Lenior City, Kenneth Smith of Watertown, and Randy Caplinger of Smithville were conducted, one at a time, in an informal workshop setting at city hall.
Each applicant was questioned by Alderman/Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks, Alderman Shawn Jacobs, Alderman Steve White, and Mayor Taft Hendrixson. Aldermen W.J. (Dub) White
and Cecil Burger asked no questions during the workshop. The same basic questions were put to all three men.
The aldermen took no action Monday night. It's not yet known when a decision will be made on the selection of a new police chief.
Parsley, who is a retired Lieutenant of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, was the first to be interviewed. In his opening remarks, Parsley mentioned that he once lived here. "I was raised in DeKalb County and lived on the Cookeville Highway. I left here in 1969 and went in the service. I live in Lenoir City right now. I'd like to move back to Smithville. I'm retired from the Tennessee Highway Patrol."
If hired by the city, Parsley pointed out that he would have to renew his POST certification since he has been retired from the THP for almost seven years. "Two years ago they changed the law. Now if you've been retired five years, you have to go to a three week school at Donelson, which I will do on my own, I don't want it to interfere with the City of Smithville. There's a $750 charge but I'll pay that out of my pocket, because one of your requirements is that (the chief) be POST certified. I am certifiable. It's a three week school and I was going to try and get in it before you hired and get it over with, but they just have a school twice per year and the next school is July 19th through August 5th. If I were God blessed enough to get this position, I will go on my own time. It's Monday through Friday, so I could work the weekends when I come back or whatever I need to do to make up the time. I'll pay for the cost of it. When I retired, all you had to do was go down there and take a test and as long as you passed it, you were POST certified. But they changed the law two years ago and I didn't know it."
Alderman Jacobs said he wants the next chief to develop a true criminal investigations division within the police department and asked Parsley what experience or special training he had in regard to criminal investigations.
In his response, Parsley suggested that as a member of the THP, he had some training along this line and had assisted other law enforcement agencies in their crime investigations." I've helped the county and city in Knoxville, Lenior City and Loudon County on several cases, where we've stopped people on the Interstate. I've gone to several schools that the Secret Service taught and some other schools. We had schools there in Knoxville with the Knoxville Police Department that I went to."
Jacobs said he wants the next police chief to do more to address the problem of drugs and property crimes in this town. "That is my number one priority. I want to see a first class investigative unit in the city police department because of the drug trade here and all the property crimes that result from the drug trade."
Jacobs then asked Parsley if he would have any problem taking the initiative in spearheading a department like that and seeing that the officers get the kind of training so they could spearhead investigations on their own.
Parsley replied, " I welcome it. Smithville has grown a lot since I left here in 1969. They need something like that here."
Parsley added that he would be visible in the community. " I'll go around town and I'll meet with every business owner in this city. I will step foot in their door, meet them and talk to them. I'd like to meet with the school superintendent, the principals of each school, and the teachers whenever they have a teacher's meeting to assist them anyway I can."
Mayor Hendrixson stressed that the police chief should be more active. "We would like to have a working chief, not just someone who is in the office all the time. On occasion, we would like for the chief to be out on the road with the officers."
Parsley said that would not be a problem for him "You will see me on the road probably more than you want to. When I go to work, I'll come to the office. If I have phone calls I need to return, talk to you gentlemen, or talk to citizens, I'll do that. I'd like to have an officer at each school zone every morning and afternoon and If I have to cover one of them, I will. I won't be somebody who will come in the chief's office, go in and stare at the wall eight hours a day. I'm not made that way. I'm a people person and I'll be out (on the streets). I'll assist them (officers) any way I can and I will be available seven days a week, twenty four hours a day. If one of my men calls in sick and I don't have enough help, I'll come in and work the road."
Alderman Meeks pointed out that "the chief's job is a 24/7 position and there is no overtime."
In response to a question from Alderman Steve White about handling drug cases, Parsley said "I've got some people I've worked with, I would call them and get them to assist me here in the city, as far as putting some undercover people here because I know there is a little drug problem here."
In closing, Parsley said "I'd like to have it (police chief) and if I'm God blessed enough to get it, I'll do you a good job."
The mayor and aldermen then turned their attentions to Smith, who is currently serving as Chief of Police of the Lakewood Police Department at Old Hickory in Davidson County.
In his opening remarks, Smith said that he is 45 years old and resides in Watertown. "I've been in law enforcement for 26 years. I started in 1984 as a reserve officer at Mount Juliet and I've worked my way up through the ranks at Mount Juliet and then I went to work for the Lebanon Police Department full time in 1986. In 2006, I left Lebanon and went to the Mount Juliet Police Department, they wanted me to head up the traffic division they were starting up. I went down there and established the traffic division and then had the opportunity to advance to the Lakewood Police Department in July, 2008, where I am still employed presently as the chief of police. I've held that position for almost two years."
Alderman Meeks asked Smith why he prefers being the chief of police in Smithville.
Smith, in response, said there are two reasons. " I like Smithville. I've always wanted to live in this area. The second reason is we have a group of people at Lakewood, called "Citizens to Reform Lakewood", they got a little upset at the commissioners about an ordinance that was passed, so now they have established a petition to take it before the election commission to abolish the city charter, which would abolish the city of Lakewood. It's before the election commission at this time. If they certify the petition, then it will go on the ballot August 5th. If it passes, then there will be a sixty day turnaround and Metro/ Nashville will take over and the city of Lakewood and all of it's employees will be no longer. I currently have twelve officers under me, five full time, one part time, and then I have reserves."
Smith addressed some of the training he has had and his background in law enforcement. "All of my certifications are still up to date. Throughout the course of my law enforcement career I have attended numerous investigative schools including a criminal investigations school, covering case prep and investigating crime scenes. For many years, I've also been the accident re-constructionist for the Mount Juliet and Lebanon Police Departments and currently I am the one (re-constructionist) at Lakewood, which involves fatalities. I have investigated numerous fatalities, which are crime scenes, homicides possibly. I've worked closely with the D.A's office. I've been involved in numerous crime scene investigations while I was with the Lebanon Police Department. For several years I worked the projects. I was over a group of guys. We did drug interdiction and patroled the projects"
When asked by Alderman Jacobs about establishing a criminal investigations division in the Smithville Police Department, Smith said he would see that this was done. "I feel confident that I could provide you with a top of the line investigations division."
Speaking of his experience as Lakewood Police Chief, Smith says " We work closely with the Metro Police Department. We've built a positive relationship with Metro compared to what it used to be. The officers work real good together. We swap intelligence. We assist Metro on undercover operations."
" I'm a firm believer in attacking drugs with every means possible. It's a war that will never be won, but we can make a dent if everybody works together. I'm a believer in training the officers to the fullest extent because it makes them a better officer and it makes them do a better job. It makes the police department look good and makes the city look good. It sends out a message that we're not going to tolerate this (drugs) in our town."
When asked by the mayor about his being a "working chief", Smith responded, "I'm not going to ask my officers to do something that I'm not willing to do myself."
In closing, Smith said "If I'm fortunate enough to get it (police chief), I'm confident that I can make you a police department that you and the city can be proud of."
The mayor and aldermen then met with Caplinger, who is a retired Lieutenant Colonel/Major of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and since October, 2006 has been Transportation/Safety Director for Kitchen Craft of Smithville.
In response to a question by Alderman Meeks as to why he wants to be the next police chief, Caplinger said "law enforcement has been my career. I spent thirty something years with the state. I enjoy what I'm doing but I miss the job (law enforcement) and that type of opportunity and when I saw it (police chief) becoming available, I decided I wanted to apply for it. I started in law enforcement in 1976 and stayed thirty years. You kinda get used to it after a while."
Caplinger, when asked about the status of his POST certification, said that "before I ever applied, I checked with POST and my understanding is as long as you're not out (of law enforcement) over five years, you're eligible to go back. Of course I have to send in my psychological, physical, and training records, and it takes a letter from the city if hired sent to POST. I was told that I'm also supposed to take a week of in-service for my certification."
In response to Alderman Jacobs' question about experience in criminal investigations, Caplinger said "As a supervisor I had investigators who worked for me and one thing you will not see on my resume is that for two years when I was a sergeant, I worked as an auto theft investigator, working investigations with drugs and auto thefts and when I became Captain I had the K-9 dogs assigned to me and I worked drugs with those in investigations through the Department of Safety. I've worked daily investigations when the state required, with auto thefts or whatever it may be and we used to work drugs. The Department of Safety doesn't work drugs anymore."
Asked if he would set up a criminal investigations division and make sure the officers receive the proper training, Caplinger said "I sure would. And not taking away from what we have now, but I think that's one of your number one problems that you have now is your investigations. The majority of the county's population is in the city of Smithville and that's where we have our crimes. We have a drug problem."
As for being a working chief, Caplinger said "That's what a chief should do. I did that even as a supervisor with the state as a Captain and even as a Major. I worked with my men. I mean, anybody who is above getting out and going to work at midnight with some of the officers, during the night, or whatever that shift may be, something is wrong. He needs to be out there, understand what's going on, know what the public wants, and what the officers need."
Alderman Steve White inquired about Caplinger's certifications as an instructor. In response, Caplinger said "As far as a radar instructor, I can go back for a twelve hour course to be re-certified. I'm still certified as a firearms instructor. The radar, the DUI, and the CPR training, I'm still certified on it. And it doesn't have anything to do with the job, I don't know what the city requires, but I'm a certified OSHA officer too, if OSHA ever comes in." Caplinger also has TEAMA training in handling hazardous materials.
Caplinger added that if hired, he would be willing to go to work at the discretion of the city. "I'm available 24/7. The chief's job is my number one priority, if I get it."