McBrayer to helm HCPD temporarily

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

A couple of important changes are coming to the Henry County Police Department in the next month, one of which is unprecedented since the department’s creation more than a quarter-century ago.

Sheriff Keith McBrayer will be managing the department’s operations temporarily while the search is conducted for a successor to Chief Keith Nichols, who recently announced his retirement effective June 30. Nichols has been chief for seven years and has been a member of the department since its inception in 1990.

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A memo from the county manager’s office dated June 9 outlined the transition plan, with McBrayer’s involvement expected to give the Board of Commissioners plenty of time to identify the next chief. The memo was sent to all HCPD officers and staff.

According to the agreement reached with the county, McBrayer will begin June 26 to temporarily manage the HCPD and will do so for a six-month period while the search for a permanent replacement is conducted. During that time HCPD Deputy Chief Mark American will continue in his role and work directly with McBrayer handling the department’s day-to-day operations.

McBrayer has been with the HCSO since he began his law enforcement career at the county jail in 1975 when he was 18 years old. He saw firsthand the back-and-forth that took place during the late 1970s and the 1980s before the police department in its current form was created in 1991.

“I saw how that affected employees and how uncertain they would be,” he said. “That’s why I want to strive to tell [HCPD employees] what they will not be facing.”

McBrayer, who had not yet spoken to the HCPD’s officers as of June 14, stressed that his only goal is to make the transition period as seamless as possible.

“I really am looking forward to going over and talking to their guys, let them know that I’m here to support them,” he said.

This temporary situation will have virtually no impact on the HCSO staff and deputies “except for my encouragement to be more supportive of the police department than ever,” said McBrayer. “We back them up now and help each other, and I want that good relationship to be enhanced even more.”

The sheriff said he did not ask for this role and was surprised when county officials approached him, “but of course I’m not going to tell them I won’t help. If they feel like I can assist them, I’ll be glad to do it.”

A memorandum of understanding approved by the Board of Commissioners stipulates that the county will “approve the sheriff’s reasonable requests for budget amendments to offset the costs of performing such services and shall further a supplement to the sheriff’s salary in the amount of $12,000 ($2,000 per month).”

County officials said they intend to start the process of hiring a new chief in October with the goal of having the position filled by Jan. 1, 2018.