New KPD chief promises to partner with community

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Newly sworn in Knoxville Police Chief, Paul Noel, stands behind a podium as he delivers his first speech.
New Knoxville Police Chief, Paul Noel, was officially sworn in Monday morning. Photo via KPD

The Knoxville Police Department’s new chief kicked off his first moments in his new role with a bit of self-deprecating humor about his Louisiana affect. 

“If you need any help, I think Google Translate will probably help you with my accent,” joked Chief Paul Noel moments after he took his oath of office before a crowd of local officials, cops and reporters Monday morning at the Civic Coliseum.

Noel picked up more than just a way of speaking in New Orleans, though, according to Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. He was selected for the role due, in part, to the reputation he earned while working with the New Orleans Police Department.

“I have said all along that appointing the next chief of the Knoxville Police Department is the most important hire I will make as mayor, and we have found the right person for Knoxville,” Kincannon said. 

“The overwhelming consensus from all the people who shared their thoughts was that we need someone with integrity,” she continued. “Someone with a proven track record of fighting crime, someone who can build trust with the community. Paul Noel helped create the national standard for police ethics and accountability. He has a track record of effective crime-fighting and a long history of building mutual ties of respect between police and the people they are sworn to protect and serve.”

Turning to Noel, the mayor said, “Your accent may be a dead giveaway that you’re not from East Tennessee, but I know you and your family will find a true home in Knoxville just like my family did 21 years ago.”

Noel wasted no time getting to work on implementing his style of policing, which he described as having a strong focus on improving accountability at the department. 

“I commit to you that we will work to cultivate strong community partnerships built upon trust and upon mutual understanding,” Noel explained. “Accountability will be the watchword for the supervisors and the command staff of the Knoxville Police Department. We are all accountable for our actions as well as the actions of those under our command. Together we will create a culture of accountability and critical loyalty towards one another by training our officers to intervene to prevent mistakes and misconduct before they occur and intervening once they do occur.”

In fact, Noel made sure that one of his first official actions as police chief was to submit the agency’s application to the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project. 

The ABLE Project was created by the Georgetown University Law Center for Innovations in Community Safety. The project is derived from another program developed in New Orleans with Noel’s assistance that has become a national cornerstone for ethical policing. 

ABLE develops and delivers practical, scenario-based training for police peer intervention, and provides guidance on concrete measures that need to be in place to sustain a culture of peer intervention, according to officials.   

In order to qualify for ABLE, KPD was required to submit letters of support from Noel, Kincannon, and two community-based organizations who were willing to vouch for the agency’s “sincere interest in self-improvement,” a City spokesperson said. Those organizations were the Knoxville Area Urban League and Knoxville NAACP.

“By applying the principles available, we will have the tools and training necessary to build a healthier and more accountable police department,” Noel said Monday. “That means accountability to each other and also accountability to the community that we serve.”

He stressed that KPD can only succeed if its “officers and employees” also succeed and promised to provide them with the professional development tools needed to achieve their goals. 

“I want our employees to be the best they can be and for the next chief of this department to come from within the ranks of the Knoxville Police Department,” he said.

“This is an incredible opportunity, and I know it’s one that comes with tremendous responsibility. I will not take that responsibility lightly. I am new to the city, I’m new to this police department, but I already feel a special bond and intense responsibility to the city, to the people who live here, and the men and women who have sworn to protect and serve the residents of Knoxville.”

More information about the ABLE program can be found online.

Megan Sadler can be reached at news@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on June 14, 2022.