DeKalb County hired Cedric Alexander eight months ago as police chief to revamp and reform a demoralized and troubled department in a high-crime county.
He is already out of that job. County officials said Tuesday he has become so valuable that he earned a promotion to a newly created position. But that job is similar to one the county eliminated earlier this year when it was determined to be unnecessary, financially wasteful and potentially politicized.
To keep Alexander from leaving to reclaim his former job in Rochester, N.Y., DeKalb County CEO Lee May announced he was promoting him to a new position of deputy chief operating officer for public safety, akin to a public safety director position in that it oversees all public safety issues.
Commissioner Kathie Gannon said she regretted losing Alexander as police chief, where he was making headway at bolstering morale, building trust within the community and holding problem and criminal officers accountable. She acknowledged she would have preferred for him to remain a hands-on reformer rather than moving to an oversight, bureaucratic policy job.
“Sometimes you make the pie a little bigger if you want to keep the employees,” said Gannon. “I really liked what he was doing and I hope that he will continue to have a great deal of influence and that he can use this position to bring better governance to all those (public safety) departments.”
Commissioner Stan Watson contended if they had lost Alexander, it would have compounded the leadership vacuum which the police department has suffered in recent years. Watson said he understood Alexander has given a three-year commitment to stay on at his new post.
“We have had revolving door of police chiefs and there is no way we can fight crime and make the community feel safe if we are always having a new chief come in,” Watson said. “I think he’ll still have a lot to say about police services, structure and how to fight crime.”
Suspended CEO Burrell Ellis initially created the public safety director post in 2009 and filled the job with William “Wiz” Miller, who retired in February after prosecutors executed search warrants for Ellis, who faces corruption charges. A grand jury investigation of county government said Miller interfered in a criminal investigation.
May acknowledged Tuesday that the promotion was at odds with his former position on the public safety job but contended Alexander would be an asset in the post.
Alexander has already bolstered to the troubled department, which has suffered from morale over pay issues and negative publicity from the indictment of several officers in recent years, May said.
“He is a great example of what we need to be doing,” May said. “He has come in as a trailblazer and has brought stability to the police department.”
Commissioners Larry Johnson, Jeff Rader and Elaine Boyer also supported creating the new post to keep Alexander. Boyer noted that Alexander had worked closely with former Deputy Chief James Conroy, who is being promoted to chief, and she expected the two would continue to keep departmental reforms on track.
Conroy will get a $162,000 salary, which is what Alexander was paid as chief. Alexander will now make $170,000.
Rochester Mayor-elect Lovely Warren said in a news release that “it became clear we could not compete financially with an offer made by his current employer.” Reports placed the outgoing Rochester chief’s salary $129,000.
Commissioners said they hoped that the new job would result in a cost-saving to the county, since it could consolidate positions that are now duplicated at the police, fire and other public safety departments.
Rader credited Alexander with undercutting the old-boy culture of the department and hoped that he would work to revamp the culture across all departments.
“The goal of Alexander was to make sure decisions were based on analysis and merit rather than inertia and relationships,” Rader said. “We are not going to lose that as he moves into that position. That is the best-case scenario. “