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Alexander remaining in DeKalb with bigger role

Ken Watts | 12/20/2013, 6:05 a.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

DeKalb 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 on Dec. 17 that 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, who had been aggressively recruited for several weeks by the city of Rochester, N.Y., to be its new chief, 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 had impressed her and many others during his brief stint as the city’s acting chief in 2005.

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

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

With Alexander’s promotion, 23-year department veteran James Conroy moves up to the position of interim police chief at a $162,000 annual salary.

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

“We all understand what the challenges are,” he said. “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. Just as important, we have to show the men and women in law enforcement that they are appreciated.”

Alexander was hired in April to succeed Chief William O’Brien, who retired in November 2012. He was the TSA’s security director at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport at the time.

His departure from DeKalb after only eight months on the job would have added to a round of departures that plagued the county this year.

Since February, the county has lost its chief operating officer of infrastructure, its director of Watershed Management, and its public safety director and fire chief. Its CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted and removed from office in a corruption scandal.

The county’s School System is on probationary accreditation, six elected School Board members have been removed from office, and its school superintendent has been replaced. Its chief operating officer, Pat Reid, and her ex-husband, Tony Pope have been convicted and sentenced to jail time, and a jail sentence is pending for former School Superintendent Crawford Lewis.

To keep Alexander, May created a post similar to the county’s old public safety director position that was eliminated after reports that its former director, William “Wiz” Miller, obstructed a criminal investigation. Miller retired in February after prosecutors executed search warrants at the home and offices of CEO Ellis.

When he served on the Board of Commissioners, May called the public safety director position unnecessary and prone to political abuse.