A 25-year veteran of the Beckley Police Department arrived at work Friday attired in a coat and tie instead of a standard uniform, ready to begin work as the new chief of detectives — and work to fill very large shoes.

Capt. Greg Tanner, 47, was selected to replace Capt. Cedric Robertson, a 30-year veteran who retired Friday. Tanner is the department’s former night-shift commander.

“It’s good to have a change,” he said. “It will take time to adjust to the differences in the job. ... With road patrol, you really just take the initial call, do patrols and crime prevention. But I am learning the functions and responsibilities and getting to know these guys (in the detective bureau) a little better.”

While he may not know the younger detectives very well yet, he noted he is already well-acquainted with Lt. Jeff Shumate, a detective who has been with the department for 16 years.

Detectives, Tanner said, get to see investigations to the end while road patrol officers are limited on the amount of follow-up they can do because of the large volume of calls they have to handle. Night-shift officers are hindered even more when it comes to following up on cases because businesses are not open and most potential witnesses are in bed.

“You wouldn’t have cooperation from witnesses if you woke them up,” he said.

Tanner does not foresee making any changes in the bureau, he said, because Robertson ran it so well that he sees no reason for doing so.

“If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it,” he said. “(Robertson) volunteered to show me how all the functions of this job works, plus I still have Shumate. I have a lot of good people. I’m very lucky in that respect.”

He admits stepping into the shoes of someone like Robertson — highly respected by his colleagues in law enforcement and throughout the Beckley area — is somewhat intimidating.

“A person who had that many years is going to be missed,” Tanner said. “... But we’ve got to go on.

“Capt. Robertson is one in a million. I have all the respect in the world for him.”

While he does not want to change how Robertson ran the detective bureau, he does want to see something else end — the sale and use of illegal drugs, something he said he considers the biggest crime problem in the city. The drug trade often leads to other crimes such as theft because people will often steal for drug money.

“Sometimes, people involved with drugs are violent and carry weapons, and the public is afraid to give information,” Tanner said. “We have to work on getting more trust of the public.

“It was once said that we are only as good as the information we get.”

Tanner said he believes trust, as well as treating all members of the public with decency and respect, is an essential part of being a police officer. Those people who must be treated with decency and respect include those whom officers arrest.

“If you treat people fairly and respectfully, things will work out,” he said. “Those you arrest must be treated as human beings and treated fairly. Treat people as you want to be treated — the Golden Rule.”

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Becoming a police officer was a childhood dream come true for Tanner. When he was a child, his mother worked at Beckley National Bank, where he met the late Charlie McCormick, a city police officer. He has a photo of himself, a small boy at the time, sitting on McCormick’s lap. He said he always looked up to McCormick.

“I guess it was because he was an authority figure,” he said. “It’s like how a child is amazed at a firefighter, or amazed at a (police officer’s) gun. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it was. I just looked up to him.”

When Tanner began his work at the Beckley Police Department, McCormick had retired as a police officer, but was working a civilian job in the photo lab. The two would talk often.

“I don’t know if I even told him how big of an influence he was on me when I was a child,” he said.

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The Beckley Police Department has been hit hard with retirements recently. Besides Robertson, Capt. Gary Lemon, a 31-year veteran and supervisor of field operations, retired Jan. 6, and three lieutenants, Marvin Robinson, Stan Sweeney and Randy Kountz, retired before the end of 2005.

Nevertheless, Tanner is confident the department will stay the course.

“We were all trained by people who left, and we had good teachers,” he said. “Chief (Billy) Cole is a good leader who will keep the ship right.”

— E-mail: apridemore@register-herald.com

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