(Note: The following article was republished with the permission of The Richmond Register in Richmond, Kentucky, and reporter Critley King.)
It has been approximately three months since Richmond welcomed James Ebert as its police chief following the retirement of Larry Brock who had served as the department’s chief for nearly a decade.
Ebert comes from the Frankfort Police Department, where he served as a lieutenant and assistant night shift commander.
In addition to three associate degrees from Central Texas College, Ebert has a (2011) bachelor’s degree in public administration/law enforcement from Upper Iowa University and a master’s degree in justice administration from University of the Cumberlands. He graduated from the state Department of Criminal Justice Training’s executive development course in April 2015.
Coming to Richmond as police chief, Ebert said he was genuinely surprised to see the amount of support the town has for its law enforcement.
“A lot of people, the average citizen, likes what you do, but doesn’t love what you do,” said Ebert. “They don’t see the good. It doesn’t get reported or even mentioned.”
But Richmond, he said, is different.
Since his arrival, Ebert has already been working toward accreditation and policy changes. However, it is his belief that officers will be more willing to adhere to policies if they are involved in its creation. This has led him to take a more committee or discussion-based approach to policy changes that are not law mandated.
Nationwide, Ebert said, the greatest problem in law enforcement is recruitment and retention. While Richmond has not been immune, he said the department is recruiting. The city has allotted the force 60 officers. On the day Ebert spoke with The Register, there were 51 officers on the payroll.
“That is one of the hardest parts of being chief of police,” he said. “You don’t want to just recruit a person. You want to recruit the person.”
Ebert said he has enjoyed helping internally and externally develop other officers to meet their future goals. And he is proud to see officers who worked under him in Frankfort being promoted and becoming the next generation of leaders in its department.
“I take more of the John Calipari approach,” said Ebert. “Instead of selling the brand, I’m here to develop the officers as individuals and get them to the highest level they can strive to be.”
The new police chief is also a proponent of college education within the force, noting his belief that a college educated officer, along with experience, makes for a police officer who is more receptive to change and can handle the multiculturalism in today’s society. In the new year, Ebert said he would like to address a possible college incentive program.
Additionally, Ebert said the issue of police pay and healthcare would need to be discussed with the city commission once more.
Ebert added he doesn’t take the stance that the RPD is designed to be a stepping-stone for officers to move on to other departments.
“If people are leaving, we have to address why they left,” said Ebert. “You have to have a good culture so people want to be here. From a chief’s standpoint, it’s my job to get (new officers) in the door, it’s via the city commission to make them stay.”
Going forward, Ebert said, there is a strong possibility that RPD will add the rank of lieutenant to its force, which will allow for more vertical movement through promotions within the department.
As a child, Ebert grew up on the north side of Lexington.
Ebert said he spent most of his young years with his older brother and their father, a German immigrant who came to America, naturalized and served in the Vietnam War.
Ebert has fond memories of being part of the Bryant Station High School marching band along with his brother and their best friends, during his freshman year.
“I’m a big band geek from back in the day,” he said laughing.
After graduating, Ebert, who had been heavily involved with his school’s JROTC program, joined the Marine Core Reserves in 1996.
This didn’t come as a shock to his family, who has a strong military history.
“In my family, it wasn’t whether you were going to the military, it was what branch,” Ebert said.
Later, he decided to venture into law enforcement, interviewing with both Frankfort and Nicholasville on the same day in late 2001.
Ultimately, Ebert was hired in Nicholasville and his transition from military to police was a natural one.
Shortly after joining the force, Ebert began dating Shawnda, now his wife, whom he met through a mutual friend while he was in the police academy. On June 22, 2002, the two became husband and wife at St. Mark Catholic Church in Richmond. The young couple moved to Nicholasville for Ebert’s job on the police force.
In 2003, the newly married Ebert, who had just transferred to the Frankfort Police Department, was deployed as part of the initial invasion into Iraq. Ebert returned after eight months. With his Marine Reserves contract complete, he immediately joined the Navy Reserves later that year. Shawnda Ebert joined the reserves in December 2004, where she is still active, along with being the athletic trainer for Frankfort Independent High School.
The Eberts welcomed a daughter, Katarina, in 2010.
Having a six-year-old daughter at home, Ebert balances life as Richmond police chief, a reserves member and as a husband and father.
The key to family time, he said, is to value the quality rather than the quantity and make the most of every moment.