Mayor Anna Berry said she had appointed Jerry Waldrop as the city’s new police chief out of eight applicants for the job. Waldrop is currently a captain with the Smyrna Police Department in Georgia, but will soon retire.
Berry said Waldrop would be sworn in on Sept. 29 during the council’s next meeting and would start work on Oct. 1. Berry could not provide information on Waldrop’s salary since the council had not hashed out all the details of its budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
“I feel we are very fortunate to find someone with Mr. Waldrop’s extensive experience to serve as chief of police for the city of Heflin,” Berry said.
The city has needed a new chief since Berry, along with Councilmen Johnny Heard, Jerry Gaines and Kenneth Du-Hon voted to fire former Chief Ty Payne in May for alleged insubordination. In the interim, Capt. A.J. Benefield has been running the department.
In response to the firing, Payne filed a June lawsuit against the city, mayor and the councilmen who voted to fire him.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy to retaliate against Payne’s use of his First Amendment rights by firing him after he complained certain actions the city clerk and Berry were undertaking would compromise the safety and integrity of police operations and expose the city to legal liability.
The lawsuit is still pending.
Despite the recent history with the former chief, Berry said she did not expect Waldrop to make any drastic changes to the police department.
“I think he is going to evaluate where we are,” Berry said. “I don’t think he will walk in and just make changes.”
During a Tuesday phone interview, Waldrop said he had no plans for any changes to the police department, at least not in the near future.
“I think it will take three to six months to evaluate and see what we have,” Waldrop said. “And I need to talk to city leaders to see which way they want the department to go.”
Waldrop said the Heflin job came at the right time since he and his wife had recently decided to retire to a small farm they had purchased in Cleburne County.
“The county appears to be a wonderful place,” Waldrop said. “It was just a fluke that I heard about this position opening.”
Waldrop has spent nearly 31 years with the Smyrna Police Department, which is comprised of 93 sworn officers, 21 jail personnel, 22 full and part-time communications officers and 13 administrative support personnel.
During his time in Smyrna, Waldrop has supervised many aspects of the department, including communications, pa-trol and detectives. His current assignment is commander of the criminal investigation division, where he supervises a staff of 21 employees, including detectives, other supervisors and civilian personnel.
The entire Heflin police force currently consists of 12 employees.
“I’ve got a good bit of supervisory and management experience,” Waldrop said. “And I have written and managed the budget for our communications department, which is around $800,000 … about the size of the entire Heflin Po-lice Department budget.”
Waldrop said he looks forward to taking on the position.
“The people in Heflin and Cleburne seem to be very delightful and I am very honored I was accepted to take this job,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting busy and seeing what I can do to keep it a good operating police de-partment.”
Contact staff writer Patrick McCreless at 256-235-3561.