JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Johnson City’s city manager told News Channel 11 that she is confident in the city’s police department’s ability to adapt to change in the wake of multiple key figures announcing their retirement.
City Manager Cathy Ball said in a Thursday interview that she has met with leadership of the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) to discuss changes in the department as they brace for the departure of several high-ranking individuals.
“I’m very confident in our police department,” Ball said. “I will tell you that I have spent time with them. I’ve met with every captain, I’ve met with the majors. We’ve had conversations about these changes.”
Among the members of the Johnson City Police Department retiring are Police Chief Karl Turner, Assistant Chief Debbie Botelho, Captain Kevin Peters and Sergeant Lorrie Goff. Peters heads up the JCPD’s criminal investigations division, and Goff oversees the department’s school resource officer program.
In total, seven members of the JCPD will be retiring. Ball said in an interview that because of the higher number of retirees among police, some of those retirements could be staggered to allow for an easier transition.
Ball also said the retirement of Turner and Peters will not have an impact on the ongoing lawsuit filed by former federal prosecutor Kateri “Kat” Dahl against the city and Turner. Both are named in the lawsuit.
“My understanding is that it doesn’t have any impact on that,” Ball said. “I think, in conversations, it’s been the opportunity for those individuals and so I don’t know of any impact.”
Ball told News Channel 11 the JCPD is processing what a department without these leaders could resemble, but they are looking to the future.
“They’re like the rest of us – they grieve the loss of the folks they’ve worked with for years,” she said. “That is a process for them. I think that being able to kind of get focused on how we move forward and what that looks like and what does that mean in terms of policy changes? But I could be more confident in the police department that we have, and I’m excited to learn more from them as well about what they’re looking for in the future.”
According to Ball, the city is looking at the best ways to receive input on how to fill the open positions, both from the public and the existing members of the JCPD.
“I’ve done, of course, a lot of research when there’s huge transitions that happen within organizations, and most of that research leads to really making sure you get the input from the employees,” Ball said.
With police departments under the constant eye of the public, Ball said the JCPD will work to make itself a standout department among police agencies in the state.
“We’ve said how are we going to be bold in this in terms of are we going to say we’re the best police department in the state of Tennessee? Like are we bold enough to say we’re going to be the best place to work as a police officer in the state of Tennessee?,” Ball asked. “We’re going to have the best customer satisfaction, customer appreciation, the best respect, the best feeling of being feeling safe in the whole state of Tennessee. So I think we may be in a place where we’re prepared to say, we will put ourselves up against any other police department in the state of Tennessee.”
The city had offered employees with at least 30 years under their belts to take part in the program. The 23 who did so will retire by Feb. 28, receive six months’ salary and remain on the city health insurance plan until they reach the age of 65, if they so choose.
Outside of the JCPD retirees, other notable employees who will retire by month’s end include Public Works Director Phil Pindzola and Parks and Rec. Director James Ellis.