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Search for Decatur chief spans nation
Gilliam retiring Jan. 31; Hammon leaning toward recommending local candidates

By Chris Paschenko 340-2442

A national search began this week to find a successor for Decatur Police Chief Joel Gilliam with his anticipated retirement set for Jan. 31.

Personnel Director Ken Smith said the city will accept applications through Jan. 25.

"We want to honor Chief Gilliam," Smith said. "He's served the city well and has made significant contributions to the city and its citizens."

Smith asked applicants to send a resume and fill out an application before the deadline, saying he wants to give the City Council a list of applicants to choose from by Jan. 26.

Councilman Gary Hammon, the liaison to the Police Department, said he supports the council president's wish to undergo a national search, but Hammon said he's leaning toward recommending local, qualified candidates.

"I know we've got so many within the existing ranks who are qualified," Hammon said. "The last national search worked out great, but it'll be tough to beat some of the local people as good as they are."

As of Wednesday afternoon, five people have expressed interest. Smith declined to name them; however, Lt. Col. Ken Collier, who was named the deputy police chief in April, said Wednesday he would apply for the position.

"I've not applied yet, but I anticipate I will," Collier said. "It was just posted yesterday. I anticipate applying and look forward to the process."

Collier, a 36-year veteran of the Decatur Police Department, was promoted to captain in 1984 and heads the Criminal Investigation Division.

He earned a degree from Auburn University in justice and public safety, graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., and studied at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Valencia Community College, The University of Louisville and Harvard University.

Gilliam became the city's first black police chief in 1997, following a similar national search.

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Gilliam, 68, made national headlines during his 25 years with Detroit police when first lady Nancy Reagan asked him to speak at her drugs and family seminar. The Library of Congress houses a copy of Gilliam's lecture.

Smith said interested candidates could deliver resumes to City Hall, mail or e-mail them to

"We've not set an official hiring date," Smith said. "The council will go through the applications."

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