KPD undergoes major restructuring under Chief Noel

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Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel speaks at a Monday ceremony in which 20 promotions were announced. (Source: KPD)

Knoxville’s new police chief is continuing his reorganization of the department by making numerous changes to his Command Staff and creating a new patrol district. 

Chief Paul Noel announced the changes Monday along with no fewer than 20 promotions at a ceremony held at the Civic Coliseum Auditorium.

“This has been in the works since my first day here, and I am thrilled to launch this reorganization with our senior leadership team in place,” said Noel. “These changes have been made very deliberately with the purpose of enhancing our operations, re-imagining how we deliver our services and allowing us to be more effective in our primary mission of reducing crime and solving problems in neighborhoods.”   

The biggest organizational change is the re-establishment of a third patrol district, which is bound to impact police services at virtually every level throughout Knoxville.

For years, KPD has divided the city into two patrol districts, East and West. Now, however, the agency’s patrol resources will be split three ways with the addition of the Central Patrol District covering downtown, the area surrounding the University of Tennessee campus, and South Knoxville.  

“This isn’t change for the sake of change. There is real purpose and intentionality behind this,” Noel said. “Adding a third district allows our officers to reduce their area of focus, more narrowly direct their efforts, be more proactive and directly engage with the community on a day-to-day basis to solve the specific public safety problems that impact each area of town.”   

Captains Tony Willis, Sammy Shaffer and Nevin Long will serve as district commanders in the West, Central and East districts.

The Patrol Division itself is also getting a makeover. It will now be called the Field Operations Bureau and will be led by Deputy Chief Cindy Gass, who previously headed up the Criminal Investigation Division.

“The name Patrol really minimizes the wide variety of assignments within the Division and all of the things that the Division’s personnel does on a day-to-day basis,” said Noel. “We wanted the name to more clearly reflect everything that falls under its umbrella and felt that Field Operations accomplishes that.”

Another big change will be the disbandment of the Traffic Services Unit, the Inspections Unit and Community Outreach Unit. The personnel assigned to those units will now be assigned to specific districts instead of working under centralized commands.

Source: KPD

 “I want to empower our district commanders and give them the resources that they need to solve problems within their district, and this change will facilitate that,” Noel said. “Whether it is a business that is experiencing an ongoing problem, a traffic complaint or specific concerns from neighborhood residents, our district commanders will have the personnel that they need to solve those problems as they arise.” 

In addition to the organizational changes, Noel shuffled most of the department’s upper level commanders into new jobs. 

“It was important to me that to every extent possible the existing Command Staff members were moved into different assignments,” he explained. “I wanted everyone to have a fresh start and give our senior leadership team the opportunity to diversify their experience. This will also allow our senior leaders to apply their existing expertise and skills to enhance and positively impact the division under their command.”   

The most senior promotions went to Susan Coker and David Powell, both of whom rose to the rank of Deputy Chief. Coker was the Patrol Captain over the East District, while Powell has been leading the Management Services Division.

“I had a lot of options to fill our two vacant Deputy Chief positions, and I went into that process with an open mind,” Noel said. “As I evaluated our organization over the past three months, it became apparent that there were many outstanding and talented leaders within this Department. Susan and David are two of those individuals. Both are greatly respected by their colleagues and have a track record of leading with integrity. I have no doubt that they will help push our organization forward.”

Mark Fortner is slated to remain in place as Assistant Chief (Noel’s second-in-command), while Deputy Chief Coker will be in charge of the Investigations Bureau. Captain Ryan Morrow will oversee the Violent Crime, Property Crime and Forensics Units as the Criminal Investigations Captain.

Captain John Kiely will serve as the Special Investigations Captain, which means he’ll be in command of both the Organized Crime and Special Crimes units as well as leading the statewide Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Deputy Chief David Powell will lead the Management Services Bureau, Captain Brian Evans will oversee the training academy as well as the Department’s recruitment efforts, and Captain Don Jones will run most of the professional support staff, fleet services, and numerous other units within the Management Services Bureau.

 Lieutenants Nevin Long, Ryan Morrow, Sammy Shaffer and Steve Still were also promoted to the rank of Captain. Still will retain his responsibilities as the commander of the Internal Affairs Unit.  

“The Internal Affairs Unit is directly involved in the constant evaluation of our policies, procedures and operations,” Noel said. “It’s imperative for us to have a command level supervisor leading that unit so that IAU has a voice in the decision-making process.” 

Published on October 5, 2022.