Deputy chief says drugs, related crime have changed policing

Tom KingFarragut

In the 1993 Knoxville Police Department (KPD) Police Academy class were four recruits who wanted to wear the uniform. They were raw rookies all – Ron Green, Kenny Miller, David Rausch and Eve Thomas. Today, 26 years down the road, Rausch is the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) after being KPD’s chief for the last seven years of his 25-year career. Thomas followed him as chief in June 2018, and Miller and Green are two of the department’s four deputy chiefs. Pretty good academy class!

Chief Thomas was to be our speaker at the Rotary Club of Farragut’s meeting a week ago Wednesday, but she was called to Nashville to meet with state legislators. Into her place at the lectern stepped Deputy Chief Miller. It was an interesting and candid presentation. As a pinch-hitter speaker, he’s darned good – and interesting.

Deputy Chief Kenny Miller

The Patrol Division that Miller commands is the largest of the KPD with 230 sworn officers and 17 non-sworn employees.

Rotary’s values are wrapped up in the Rotary motto – “Service Above Self.” Miller began by saying that the KPD’s values are closely aligned with Rotary’s. “Our job is more service than anything,” he said. “We have shared values.” To the list of values for the Patrol Division that he commands he has added kindness – saying, “We fight to maintain trust and earn trust from the people.”

He explained that policing has changed these days, moving from the long-used neighborhood-policing role to putting the focus on individuals. That largely has happened because of the increase in drug use and violent crime linked to drugs — mostly heroin, opioids and synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl.

The deputy chief also said they are having a tough time recruiting enough qualified applicants. “The good economy hurts us some. But police departments and law enforcement in general have taken a beating in the media in the last few years, and young people are not real interested,” he explained. The department is budgeted for a full complement of 416 officers, but today that number is 385.

Not too long ago he was at a police chiefs’ conference in St. Louis that included a roomful of chiefs and deputy chiefs. They were asked to raise their hands if they would recommend a career in law enforcement to their children. “Not one person raised their hand, and I was shocked,” he said.

He shared some very interesting KPD statistics:

  • 300,000 calls come in annually.
  • In 2018, 11,500 people were arrested and jailed.
  • Only 160 of those 11,500 arrests involved physical force.
  • Knoxville murders in 2017 — 33.
  • Knoxville murders in 2018 — 23.
  • There are on average three deaths a week in Knoxville from drug overdoses. “And that transcends socioeconomics and goes from the homeless to the wealthy,” he said.

Miller said that there are fascinating parts of their jobs and many sad things that they see day in and day out. “It helps you value what you have when you see how the bad decisions that people make turn out for them,” he said. “Our primary issue that we have to deal with daily are the drugs I mentioned – the heroin, the opiods and the Fentanyl.”

If you’re interested in exploring membership in Farragut Rotary, drop me an email. We meet each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Fox Den Country Club.

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