Kevin Hearod has two main goals as the new police chief in McAlester.
"I want to make sure we do a good job in taking care of the citizens and I want to take care of my officers so they can do their job," Hearod said.
Hearod spoke with the News-Capital after City of McAlester Public Information Officer Stephanie Giacomo announced that City Manager Pete Stasiak had named him as the city's new chief of police. Hearod, who has served for 25 years with the McAlester Police Department, served as interim chief for two months following the retirement of then-Chief Gary Wansick in April.
"Chief Hearod had left a seamless transition in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues affecting law enforcement," Stasiak said in a statement issued from City Hall. "He's become a tremendous leader among officers in his 25 years and I am confident of his abilities to head the police force in McAlester."
Hearod noted that in addition to dealing with issues related to the coronavirus, there are other challenges.
He noted the city is currently in the midst of a budget cut and that the McAlester Police Department is currently down by a total of six officers. Some of the vacancies are due to recent retirements as well as some officers leaving to work for other law enforcement agencies, such as the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
The city began taking steps Wednesday to fill one of those vacancies.
"We're advertising for a police recruit," Hearod said. He said it's no small endeavor to hire a police officer. The process requires passing several tests, both mental and physical, as well an extensive background check.
Still, he's glad the city is moving to fill at least one vacancy and his goal is to fill more of them.
Another goal is to have a 21st Century police force — meaning one that has plenty of technological features for officers to utilize.
"Technically, we're getting new body cams for everybody in the force," Hearod said. Although the MPD was among the first in the state to get every officer on the force a body cam, he said they have seen a lot of use and there have been plentiful technological advances in the years since, so they now need to be replaced.
Hearod said the city has received a 50% matching grant that could be used to purchase the new equipment.
"Hopefully, by fall we will all have new body cams," he said.
Another plan is to upgrade the police's policy management system. It currently fills three large notebook binders, the new chief said. He and others are working on upgrading it so it can be accessed by officers in the field through a phone app.
Hearod said it's humbling to be named the new McAlester police chief.
"It's something I worked a long time for, especially since Gary (Wansick) became police chief, he was a kind of mentor," Hearod said. "It's a great responsibility and I'm very appreciative of the city manager and the city believing I can handle this responsibility."
He said his office in the Carl Albert Building is the very one used as a McAlester office by Carl Albert, the former District 3 Congressman who served as the U.S. House Speaker and before that, House Majority Leader.
"It's a humbling experience, knowing that the Speaker of the House sat there," Hearod said.
McAlester Mayor John Browne expressed confidence in Hearod's leadership with the McAlester Police Department.
"I think the city manager made a very good decision," Browne said. "I think he will do a very good job."
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