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Jacksonville's mayor on Tuesday named a former Chicago police commander as the city's new police chief, two months after an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling disqualified the previous chief from serving in the role.

John Franklin, 59, will start as Jacksonville's police chief on June 4, Mayor Gary Fletcher said Tuesday.

Franklin is an adjunct professor at Richard J. Daley College in Chicago and spent more than 27 years with the Chicago Police Department, rising through the ranks to retire in 2010 as a watch commander, according to his resume. He also served as police chief in Dolton, Ill., for two years from May 2013 to May 2015, the document stated.

In Jacksonville, the police chief position, along with leadership over the Police Department, has been a source of controversy and litigation.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Franklin said there will be immediate and longer-term changes to the department, and he announced he will go on a "community blitz" in the coming weeks. As part of the blitz, Franklin said he would hold community forums, and he plans on meeting with the school district and the religious community.

"[I've] got a lot of reaching out to do in the coming month," he said.

Franklin described his conversations with Police Department leadership on Tuesday as informative. Many, he said, felt that civil leadership had not been listening to their concerns.

"I'm excited for the challenge," he said.

Franklin said he has agreed to listen and sit down with the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police. Earlier this year, the organization cast a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Fletcher and City Attorney Robert Bamburg, who was appointed police director last year. The organization said the men had shown an "inability" to lead the department.

Jacksonville began looking for a new police chief in March after the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that a past false-report conviction disqualified Geoffrey Herweg, the city's former police chief, from serving in the position under the state constitution. Herweg pleaded guilty in 2002 to giving a false report while serving as a police officer in Texas, according to court records.

Herweg was sworn in as the city's police chief last April and served in the role until June, when a Pulaski County circuit judge removed him pending the outcome of a lawsuit from Jacksonville City Council member Tara Smith.

On Tuesday, some City Council members criticized how they were informed of Franklin's hiring.

"I thought [Fletcher] was going to tell us before he hired somebody," said council member Barbara Mashburn, who reported that the mayor informed her of the hire in person on Monday night.

Recalling the turmoil that followed Herweg's hiring, Mashburn said council members wanted to know who the mayor had picked for police chief before the hiring.

And according to Smith, Fletcher had agreed to meet with council members before he extended an offer to the new police chief.

When asked why he didn't inform City Council members before hiring Franklin, Fletcher said he would address the topic later in the week.

"This is about the Police Department. It's not about personalities and City Council," he said.

Fletcher said appointing a police chief is the mayor's decision and it was important that he announce a person to lead the department.

Smith said she will have to meet Franklin.

"I can't hold him responsible for Mayor Fletcher's actions," she said.

In another sign of turmoil for the city, five Jacksonville police officers last month sued to remove Bamburg as police director. The litigation argued that "chaos" ensued in the Police Department under Bamburg's leadership and that he has retaliated for rank-and-file officers supporting Herweg's removal.

Attorney Nate Steel, who represents the officers, said the litigation will continue, but a hearing set for this week has been canceled.

On Tuesday, Mashburn criticized Bamburg's leadership as police director and said he should not have been in the position.

"The mayor is a good man," she said. "But when it comes to aggravating the Police Department, they've done a really good job."

Mashburn said there is no transparency between the department and City Hall, but she hopes Franklin will bring authority to the situation.

"Let the good Lord put his hand on Jacksonville and bring us through this difficult time," Mashburn said.

Franklin said he's heard he has already been "eviscerated" on social media, but commented that he does not have an account on Twitter or Facebook. The appointed new chief said he's willing to sit down with anybody to listen about changes needed to the Police Department.

Franklin was one of 36 people to apply for the open police chief position, according to documents provided to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette through a public records request.

Last month, Fletcher reported the search had been narrowed down to three finalists.

The previous finalists were Christopher Chapmond, assistant police chief with the Hot Springs Police Department; James Jones, an out-of-state security and legal consultant; and James Bacon, a former Russellville police chief who now works at a security company.

On Tuesday, Fletcher said he was looking for somebody currently serving in a law enforcement leadership role and that Franklin was originally overlooked.

Franklin has a master's degree in social and criminal justice from Lewis University and a bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois University, according to his resume. During his time in Chicago, he commanded just under 300 officers, according to a biography provided by the Jacksonville mayor's office.

Franklin will receive an annual salary of $82,100 and oversee a department authorized for 65 sworn positions, according to Human Resources Director Jill Ross. The department had 10 vacancies as of Tuesday, she said.

Information for this article was contributed by Rachel Herzog of Arkansas Online.

Metro on 05/16/2018

Print Headline: Mayor appoints new police chief for Jacksonville; Choice of ex-Chicago officer surprises council members

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  • HarleyOwner
    May 16, 2018 at 11:10 a.m.

    Wow! Talk about crooked politics. I bet we haven't seen the last of this story.

  • applicant
    May 17, 2018 at 5:53 p.m.

    Curious how being an adjunct (we will call you if we need you) part time instructor after retiring from active law enforcement in 2015 is considered current law enforcement experience? Folks you may want to google the short tenure your new chief had in some place called Dolton Il years ago. I don't blame him though. It is clear the mayor doesn't know that he doesn't know how to hire a police chief.