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Alexander to remain in DeKalb in a bigger role

Ken Watts | 12/17/2013, 1:48 p.m.
Chief Cedric Alexander with Interim CEO Lee May (left) and Commissioner Larry Johnson at a news conference in Decatur Dec. 17 announcing that he will remain in DeKalb as Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety. Photo by Ken Watts

Police chief Cedric Alexander will remain in DeKalb for a bigger job with new authority and a bump in pay to $170,000 a year, Interim CEO Lee May announced Dec. 17.

Alexander will be Deputy Chief Operating officer of Public Safety overseeing the police department, fire rescue, the 911 emergency system, and the medical examiner’s office. Alexander had been aggressively recruited for several weeks by the city of Rochester, New York to be its new chief.

He said he is happy to stay in DeKalb County.

“The opportunity that’s been presented to me today is very much welcome and we’ll do everything in our power to maintain our progress and create a safe community here in DeKalb,” Alexander said at a news conference in the CEO’s office.

The announcement ends a tense period in which newly-elected Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren made it known that she wanted to bring back Alexander who impressed her and many others during his brief stint as the city’s acting chief in 2005.

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With Alexander's promotion, 23-year veteran James Conroy becomes DeKalb interim police chief.

May said he engaged in what he called his own “aggressive conversations” with Alexander to pursuade him to stay.

With the promotion of 23-year department veteran James Conroy to the new interim police chief at the $162,000 a year salary that Alexander made, it is costing the county $332,000, plus benefits to keep Alexander in the county.

Alexander said he was swayed by the chance to build on the department’s anti-crime efforts.

“We all understand what the challenges are. In spite of those challenges for the last several months we’ve seen some improvement in this community even though we have much to do related to fighting crime,” Alexander said. “Just as important, we have to show the men and women in law enforcement that they are appreciated.”

Alexander was hired in April to reform DeKalb’s troubled department after serving as TSA’s security director at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. His departure after such a short time on the job would have plunged the county into further upheaval in a year that saw the removal of six school board members, probationary accreditation for the system and the indictment and removal of CEO Burrell Ellis in a corruption scandal. The county’s reputation took another hit with a rackteering trial that ended in the conviction of former school system's COO Pat Reid, her ex-husband Tony Pope and a pending jail sentence for former school superintendent Crawford Lewis.

To keep Alexander May had to create a post similar to public safety director which was eliminated after reports that former director, William Miller, obstructed a criminal investigation. Miller retired in February after prosecutors executed search warrants at the home and offices of CEO Ellis. May called public safety director unnecessary and prone to political abuse.

During the press conference, May acknowledged his earlier criticism of the postion but said his concerns are offset by the benefits of keeping Alexander in DeKalb. He said Alexander will continue his community outreach efforts to get the public involved in crime prevention initiatives. May also praised Alexander’s reforms at the police department which had suffered from low morale before his arrival because of pay issues and bad publicity brought by the indictment of several officers in recent years.

“I’ve been very satisfied with our chief’s work here. He projects leadership. He develops leadership. And he’s a stablilizing voice here in DeKalb County,” May said.

Alexander began his law enforcement career in Miami-Dade County in 1977, where he spent 15 years as a police officer. Prior to heading the Rochester Police Department, he was deputy commissioner of the N.Y. State Division of Criminal Justice Services. He is also a licensed clinical psychologist with a doctorate from Wright State University. In 2010, he was third runner-up to George Turner for chief of the Atlanta Police Department.