By Wendy Holdren
Effective at 2 p.m. Friday, Mayor Bill O’Brien replaced Beckley Police Chief Tim Deems. Capt. Lonnie Christian will serve as acting police chief until approved by Common Council members Tuesday night.
“I have spoken with each council member individually and I have their support,” O’Brien said.
He said he has full confidence that council will approve Christian as the new chief.
Former Chief Deems will remain at BPD as a senior captain.
“(Deems) is a fine police officer and I am happy to say he will continue on the Beckley force. He has much value in his 23-plus years on the force.”
O’Brien hosted a senior staff meeting Friday at the Beckley Police Department to announce the changes in leadership.
He said he decided to choose a different leader for the police department because Christian’s management philosophy better mirrors his own.
He describes his management style as one of openness, energy and communication.
“When I interviewed Lonnie, I thought, ‘Here’s a man who knows policing.’ He’s highly educated and highly motivated.”
O’Brien said Christian’s rapport with his officers is excellent, but he will also be able to effectively direct them.
“I feel with this new outlook, we could utilize the men and women of the current force to better and higher standards. We want to continue to work with the public to show them we are here to protect and serve.”
The decision was not an easy one, O’Brien said, as he has spent three weeks as mayor before making the decision, but he said he is very excited about the new chief.
“Everyone I have talked to has had an upbeat attitude about this.”
At its Jan. 14 meeting, council approved an increase in the police chief’s salary from $64,924 to match the salary of the fire chief at $68,440. O’Brien said Christian’s salary will reflect that raise.
As for other adjustments within the city, O’Brien said, “There will be some other changes.”
Common Council meets Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Council Chambers.
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