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A difficult choice! Youngsville chief hopefuls introduced
Acting Chief Joe Kimball seeking job

YOUNGSVILLE -- Interim Police Chief Joe Kimball represents a steady influence who's had a hand in selecting a number of the officers who currently fill the town's ranks.

Knightdale Police Lt. Greg Whitley offers a fresh face and a bit more experience.

Both men had a chance to sell themselves to the community last week.

The chief of police position has been open since June when former chief Daren Kirts abruptly retired.

Town Administrator Phillip Cordeiro tabbed Kimball as the town's interim chief and began a search that elicited 60 applicants.

Whitley and Kimball made the final two and, after a closed-door session with town commissioners, both men introduced themselves to the public during a Sept. 26 meeting.

Kimball, who went first, told those who gathered in the Youngsville Community House, that it was the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick started his law enforcement career.

"The neighborhood I lived in lost between six and 10 people in the attacks," said Kimball, who grew up in the northeast and had a career in the health club industry before becoming an officer after getting his law enforcement certification in 2009. "Since then, I wanted to be involved with law enforcement and that's what inspired the change."

Kimball worked with the Durham police department before coming to Youngsville in 2010.

Whitley, who's been an officer for 19 years -- in Smithfield and most recently as a lieutenant in Knightdale -- said he feels like his love of small towns and law enforcement would be a perfect fit.

"I love small towns," he said, noting that he grew up in Panther Branch and has lived just outside Youngsville for the past six years.

" ... Rather than coming into a town the size of Knightdale and catching up with those best practices as chief of police, I think it's a great opportunity for a new chief to be able to grow up with the town and share in those similar experiences."

Following introductions, both Kimball and Whitley were able to address the public -- through a pre-arranged format -- about the same issues: Community policing, traffic/congestion, and a new initiative they would look to start as chief.

Community policing

"[Community policing]," Kimball said, "is something that's very dear to me."

He said it's a partnership between police and the community and "this partnership with the community is essential for our collective success in creating the community we all want to be in."

He said he'd continue to make sure officers are trained in the finer points of community policing and encourage his officers to take active roles in the community.

Kimball said he's taken pride in never missing the informal sessions to meet with the public through the Coffee with a Cop event.

"... Over the last four months, I've made it a point to get more involved in the community," he said. "We started a blood drive that will happen in November.

"... I'll continue to attend neighborhood meetings, talk about neighborhood watches and how to keep families and their homes safe.

"... I'll continue to visit businesses and listen to concerns and pro-actively work with them to bring about a safe and welcoming environment."

Whitley said he would continue the town's efforts to reach out to residents through social media and other means to provide tips on how residents and business owners can stay safe.

And, he said he'd like to expand the Coffee with a Cop event and include Shop with a Cop, working to find families that could benefit from having police help with making Christmas joyous for disenfranchised kids.

"A positive influence in the community starts with the youth," Whitley said. "Having them have a positive experience with law enforcement is very important."

Whitley said he also wouldn't shy away from hearing exactly how residents feel about the job that law enforcement is doing and how they can do things better through a citizens' customer service survey.

"What better way could we serve the community than by having a good idea and understanding of what the issues are, both good and bad, as far as what the department is doing," Whitley said.

Whitley said he'd also work to host open houses at the police department, giving residents dedicated time to bend the ears of officers and the chief.

"I know how uncomfortable it can be to speak in an open forum in a full house [at a board meeting]," Whitley said. "It's much more personable when you can stop by and talk to the chief."

Traffic/congestion

One of the more persistent issues in Youngsville is traffic -- specifically congestion on Main Street and speeders who use town side streets to avoid it.

There are some long-term solutions with traffic signals and road widening at some trouble intersections, such as Five Points and Cross and Main streets.

But, he has some short-term solutions, too.

"The first thing to me is boots on the ground," he said. "To the extent that officers can ... we'd get to these locations and monitor traffic, see when it's backed up and [direct traffic to] get cars moving," he said. "... [that's] one thing we could immediately do."

Whitley noted he would take that same approach for school traffic if necessary.

As for speeding, Whitley said he'd work with the State Department of Transportation to identify trouble spots and then set up officers to monitor those areas for speeding.

"... I don't want to waste time running radar when we don't know the best times to do it," he said.

Through all of this, Whitley said, it would be an ideal time to evaluate the police department's personnel and determine if they need more resources placed on traffic and speeding issues.

Grants could help fill out the time ranks if that proves necessary, he said.

"... If we're having traffic-related issues, it's the perfect opportunity for adding personnel to focus on traffic-related issues," he said, noting that the focus doesn't just have to be traffic.

"Those officers have the time to focus on those issues as well," he said. "It's needs-based policing."

Kimball said data collection would play a key role in how he dealt with traffic congestion and speeding, also.

"It will be a great starting point in our discussions," he said. "We'll be able to make informed decisions based on the data, as a foundation, and the voice of the community."

Solutions he doesn't see working, Kimball said, is using traffic calming devices like speed bumps, or closing streets to thru traffic.

Speed bumps and closing streets, Kimball said, just filter traffic to other roads and the issues remain.

Initiatives

An innovation that Kimball said he'd like to bring to the police department is a K-9 unit.

Kimball noted that the police department and the sheriff's office had an incident where they were looking for a home break-in suspect and the sheriff's office canine unit helped locate a stolen cache of weapons that, if not located by police, would have wound up on the streets.

A K-9 unit for the town, Kimball said, would help foster relationships between the town and residents because "we are at a time where we are rebuilding relationships between the community and the police that need to be repaired," he said.

"... A K-9 unit can provide a great ice breaker for members of the community and spark conversations with officers."

But, K-9 units, Kimball said, are more than community ambassadors. "They can benefit the town [financially] for funds we get from narcotics stops," Kimball said. "We can use those funds to put back into the department."

Whitley said his initiative circles back to his commitment to community policing.

He would look to start a citizen's police academy -- which, through ride-alongs and other activities, tries to give residents a taste of what officers go through on a daily basis.

"I don't think there is any reason we wouldn't have buy-in [for the academy]," Whitley said. "From what I've been able to tell, Youngsville is a close-knit community and its residents are dedicated to the well-being of the town."

At the end of the meeting, attending residents were able to fill out a card that identified what they liked about each candidate.

Cordeiro said he anticipates making a decision on whom to hire by the first week of October and, following negotiations, make an announcement by Oct. 11 or Oct. 18.


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