The city of Gerald has a new police chief.
Chief James Helton, 42, was hired Friday, Nov. 17, at a special board of aldermen meeting. He began his duties with the department Monday.
“We are very, very pleased to have him,” Gerald Mayor Cary Parker said. “He has 20-plus years in law enforcement and is a certified trainer in several different areas. He seems like he will be an excellent fit for the community.”
Helton, who lives 6miles south of Gerald, worked for the Gerald Police Department for eight years before he went to work for the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department, where he had been for the past 10 years. Helton was a sergeant and detective for the department.
Originally from Sullivan, Helton moved to the Rosebud area at age 16 and has been there for more than two decades.
He attended the Mineral Area College Law Enforcement Academy, where he graduated in 1996.
He is a generalist instructor, which means he can teach any class related to law enforcement or criminal justice. He also is a firearms instructor.
Helton said he’s excited to be back at the department. And while he has some ideas for improvements, he said he wants to see what works and doesn’t work at the department before trying to make changes.
“I’d like to try to cut back as much spending as I can and try to impost a little different training schedule,” he said, “But I want to give it a little more time. I don’t want to change things that don’t need to be changed.”
The department has been without a chief since former chief, Steve Goodwin, was suspended at the end of August.
Parker said he can’t share the circumstances of the suspension. A termination hearing was set for Goodwin Sept. 15, but he resigned two hours before the scheduled hearing.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department has provided support during the transition.
When Goodwin resigned, Parker said a citizens committee, comprised of four citizens and two aldermen who serve on the standing safety committee, was formed.
“Over the course of several weeks, this advisory committee put together a list of 20 questions and a scoring matrix from 1 to 5 points per question,” Parker explained.
Questions varied, but included topics like what the candidate believed they could bring to the community, morale with officers, budgeting and finance questions, staying ahead of technological curves, interactions with citizens, and quality of and enforcement of laws to all citizens in the community.
“Chief Helton’s average score was about 94 percent,” Parker noted.
There were about seven applicants.
“I believe what we were all probably most impressed with was his proven knowledge based on his certification to be a trainer in so many police fields,” Parker said. “More importantly — (we were impressed with) his overall attitude of fairness in the enforcement of all state, federal, and city laws, as well as his willingness to be accountable.”