After what the Jacksonville mayor called a "tough year for all of us," a new police chief was ceremoniously sworn into office Friday.
Addressing a room full of residents and officers, Mayor Gary Fletcher made a passing reference to the contention that's embroiled the city's Police Department.
In March, the Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified the previous chief, Geoffrey Herweg, from serving in the role because he'd been convicted of filing a false police report.
And in recent months, three lawsuits have been filed that take aim at the Police Department, including litigation that argues "chaos" plagued the agency while it was under city leadership.
"It's been a long year. It's been a tough year for all of us, and I know that," Fletcher said Friday.
The mayor said he wants Jacksonville to get a "fresh start with a fresh chief."
"I certainly am looking forward to this new beginning for all of us," Fletcher said.
John Franklin, a 59-year-old former Chicago police commander, was sworn into office while wearing a suit, because his uniform was not quite ready. Franklin and his wife, Verlane, circulated through the crowd, mingling with people before the ceremony began.
During his brief address, Franklin said he looks forward to meeting with members of the Jacksonville community, including the area Boys & Girls Club.
"Please understand that my door will be open. My phone will be on," he said.
Before retiring in 2010, Franklin spent more than 27 years with the Chicago Police Department, according to his resume. He also served as police chief in Dolton, Ill., for two years, from May 2013 to May 2015, the document said.
During his time in Chicago, he commanded just under 300 officers, according to a biography provided by the Jacksonville mayor's office.
As the Jacksonville chief, he'll oversee a department authorized for 65 sworn positions and receive an annual salary of $82,100.
It was Franklin's big-city pedigree that impressed Jacksonville City Council member Terry Sansing.
"Chicago is tough," Sansing said. "We're talking about somebody that comes from the trenches," he said, adding that Franklin's extensive background will make him "aware of what the rank and file are going through."
Franklin said that in the coming weeks, he's willing to meet with "really just any group of people that either wants to establish or re-establish ties with the Police Department."
That includes the lieutenant who heads the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, Franklin said, adding that the chief's "not promising him anything."
Franklin also said he reinstated April Kiser as Police Department spokesman. Kiser had filed a lawsuit alleging she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex.
Franklin said he also has shuffled some people back to their original roles after a series of transfers angered many in the department.
"I have made some moves already," Franklin said. He noted that he reinstated the head of internal affairs.
As for relationships with his support staff members, "I think I have done a lot to build trust already," Franklin said.
From the back of the room, Ronald Coleman watched as his former partner took his oath of office. He and Franklin worked together in Chicago.
Coleman, who lives in Little Rock, smiled as he described Franklin as "too smart" and "very good with people."
"He should have been a politician," Coleman said.
Don Reynolds, president of the citizen's police academy, said he's been impressed, so far, with Franklin. The academy often funds initiatives to support the law enforcement agency, he said.
For instance, someone noticed that Jacksonville officers who were working at the scene of a traffic accident Friday were sweating and overheating, Reynolds said. So the academy will start fundraising to get a cooler to hold ice and water in each patrol car.
Seeing a new chief raise his right hand Friday was a relief, Reynolds said.
"We've needed one for quite a while, now."
Information for this article was contributed by Ryan Tarinelli for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Jacksonville Police Chief John Franklin (center) talks with attendees before his swearing-in Friday at the city’s police station.
Metro on 06/02/2018
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