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Collier poised to be top cop

By Chris Paschenko 340-2442

After a nationwide search for a police chief, Decatur officials concluded the best candidate was at home.

The City Council on Monday unanimously recommended Lt. Col. Ken Collier, a 36-year employee with Decatur police, for the position as the city's next top cop.

Collier, who was named deputy police chief in April, will succeed Police Chief Joel Gilliam, who retires Friday after 10 years with the department.

"I feel a tremendous responsibility at this stage," Collier said. "There have been numerous people who have expressed their support and are praying for me and for the men and women of the Police Department ... But yes, if the process continues and if offered the job, I'll certainly take it."

Before the council can vote to hire Collier, the city must complete administrative formalities. Council President Billy Jackson said Collier's name would likely appear on the agenda in less than a month.

"We had three excellent candidates who interviewed well," Jackson said. "But Collier came in and answered the questions so thoroughly. He knows the department from top to bottom ... We want a smooth transition as possible. As soon as we go through the process with a background check, and as soon as we get those things done, we're ready to go."

Gary Hammon, the council liaison to the Police Department, said his decision to recommend Collier wasn't a "no-brainer," because each candidate was highly qualified.

Council members interviewed Collier, Tom Little, a former Morgan County chief deputy, and Francis Donchez Jr., former police commissioner in Bethlehem, Pa.

Collier said he has the support of the department.

"I think I'd be scared to death if I didn't think we had the people to build the kind of Police Department the public deserves," Collier said.

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