Mayor appoints interim police chief

Interim Chief of Police Dewell Scruggs was appointed last week by Mayor Ken Wilber. (Leader photo/Sonya Thompson)

Portland Police Captain Dewell Scruggs was named interim police chief (IPC) Friday morning by Mayor Ken Wilber. Scruggs will serve until a new chief is selected by the city council. He has been with the Portland Police Department for 28 years.

Mayor Wilber said, “I am pleased he accepted the interim position, and I look forward to working with him until we fill that position. He has my 100 percent support during this time.”

Scruggs joined the Portland Police Department full-time on Jan. 4, 1988. He had previously been employed by Sumner County Schools in the Building and Maintenance Department.

In 1985, Scruggs began his work with the PPD as a reserve dispatcher. After working in this position for two months Chief Joe Coffelt offered him a position as reserve officer. In l988, he began working full-time for the PPD. He received his formal training at Donelson Police Academy in Nashville.

Scruggs moved up in the ranks over the years. After three years, he earned the rank of sergeant, and three years later was appointed lieutenant by then-Chief Al West. He remained in that rank for 19 years until Chief Richard Smith promoted him to the rank of captain.

Scruggs said the mayor called him Friday morning and asked him if he would be interested in serving as interim chief.

“It gives me a chance to show that I can do the job and a chance to do the job,” he said.

Scruggs has been in some life threatening positions during his time with the police force. He was involved in an accident that could have cost him his life.

He said, “At the very first Ronnie McDowell concert in Portland, I was run over and almost killed while I directed traffic on Highway 109 after the concert. A woman crossed the center line and didn’t see me. It broke my neck in two places. She was charged with reckless driving and received the maximum sentence of 48 hours.”

He also remembers a very dangerous and sad situation he was called to work. He and Joey Rush responded to a house fire, where they tried unsuccessfully to save a child from a fire that began in the child’s room. Both men had to go to the emergency room for smoke inhalation.

One of IPC Scruggs’ goals will be to get the police more acquainted with the residents of the community again.

“People say they know me, but they don’t know anybody up there anymore,” he explained. “I would like to get the police more involved in the community.”

Scruggs is proud of the excellent training Portland police officers receive, and appreciates the community support.

“Four officers have recently graduated from the police academy. Other officers are in the FTO (field training officer) program at this time,” he added.

The University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) is helping with the search for a new police chief. There is no charge to the city for this service. The city will pay for any ads placed in local and state publication outlets.

MTAS has specialists who are trained to conduct searches for the best applicants for critical position needed in municipalities. The city has used its services in the past when searching for a city recorder, human services director, and a water treatment position.

The search is designed to give anyone who wants to apply that opportunity. The deadline for applying for the police chief position is Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at 4:30 p.m.

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