By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — Mt. Vernon Chief of Police Chris Mendenall has announced his retirement from the department following a 31-year career.
Mendenall informed city officials Monday morning of his retirement. His resignation is effective on Feb. 15. Mendenall has been offered employment as the joint city/county 911 coordinator.
Mendenall was hired by the city as a patrolman in March 1983 and was promoted to chief in March 1998.
“I’ve been here 31 years and that’s long enough,” Mendenall said. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to reduce overall crime in Mt. Vernon by over 30 percent and there’s no unsolved homicides since I was appointed chief.” Mendenall mentioned that one of those unsolved homicides was a cold case — the 1988 murder of Jana Reynolds, which was reopened in 2001 as a result of DNA evidence and led to a conviction of Joe Tucker in 2002. Tucker is currently serving a life prison.
“I’ve had a group of dedicated professional individuals working in the department that work hard and that’s why the department runs so well, not because of me,” Mendenall offered.”They work hard and give a high quality service to the community, and that’s very important.”
Mendenall said during his tenure as chief, he was able to reduce the number of personnel and increase crime scene service, add a self-sufficient crime unit, add a bicycle patrol unit, and improve other specialized investigations.
“In the past 16 years, I haven’t become complacent. I’ve achieved the goals that I set early on, and actually exceeded many of them. You can’t anticipate what types of crime are going to be occurring 15 years later and you have to adapt to those. Who would’ve thought about synthetic drugs or internet crimes back then? We address those as it comes up. The employees in the this department are on top of things,” he said, adding, “Another thing is that we’ve had tremendous support from people in the community and the mayors and city council have been supportive.”
“We’re saddened to see Chris leave the city as chief,” said City Manager Ron Neibert. “He’s done a good job of keeping the department running in a professional and efficient basis. He’s also done a good job with community outreach, letting people know the service police provide and keeping the city a safe place.”
City Councilman David Wood expressed his thoughts about the “professionalism” of officers under Mendenall’s leadership in a letter to the editor received by this newspaper.
“The professionalism is all due to Chief Mendenall’s leadership,” Wood said Monday.
When patrolling with officers several times over the last six years, Wood stated, “What I never witnessed, not even once, was a loss of control or lack of professionalism. Even when antagonized, which was unfortunately all too common, his officers maintained control while exhibiting restraint that comes with training, experience and supervision.”
Neibert said the police and fire commission will be notified of the vacancy. The commission will review and interview internal candidates first. If the commission doesn’t fee there are suitable internal candidates they may go out and seek external candidates.
Assistant Chief Chris Deichman will run the department until a new chief is appointed.