Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin, saying the city needed “someone who can bring a fresh, new management style” to the Jonesboro Police Department, named Rick Elliott police chief.
Elliott, 55, who began his career in law enforcement by serving for two years as a reserve officer at JPD before working for 11 years as a Blytheville police officer, returned to Jonesboro in 1992 where he attained the rank of lieutenant before being named chief Thursday.
Elliott replaces Michael Yates, who resigned Aug. 25 in the wake of a controversy involving a newspaper reporter. Perrin had suspended Yates for a month without pay after details of postings on Yates’ personal Facebook page surfaced regarding his comments critical of a Jonesboro Sun police reporter. She resigned, saying she did not feel safe.
Perrin had ordered Yates to apologize to the reporter and the newspaper and said he must complete training regarding online posts. After meeting with Perrin, three days after the suspension, Yates resigned.
Elliott has a wide range of experience, serving in both patrol and criminal investigations before recently being assigned to police administration. He also has served as commander of the crisis negotiation team and is a certified hostage negotiator. Perrin said Elliott is widely sought as a national speaker on school safety, a subject about which he learned a great deal following the Westside Middle School shootings in 1998.
In remarks after Perrin introduced him, Elliott said “public safety is not a spectator sport,” urging members of the community to become involved in reporting and preventing crime. In return he said, “We will work to earn your trust. We will commit ourselves to reducing crime, fear and disorder in our neighborhoods. We will treat you with dignity and respect, which I consider our down payment in earning your trust and confidence in us.”
Elliott said his promotion from within sends a message to members of the department that can aspire to become the leader of the agency, which has 153 certified officers and approximately another 50 employees. The annual budget of the department, which Perrin said was the largest of the city’s departments, is approximately $10.9 million.
Perrin said after Yates resigned, he began a search for Yates’ successor and narrowed it to a short list in his mind of about three persons. By mid-week, he said, he had decided upon Elliott.
“As mayor, I have many responsibilities but none that I have taken more seriously than naming our new chief of police,” Perrin said.
Elliott, he said, is someone “who has the immediate trust of the citizens, the administration and the department itself.” He called Elliott a “respected, tenured, experienced law enforcement officer who will serve this department and this community well.”
Elliott said he will turn his attention first to vacancies within the department. “We’re 10 (officers) short,” and though the department will conduct entry-level testing soon, he will seek to increase the pool of applicants.