By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
After nearly seven years of political wrangling, Somerset has officially appointed a chief to head the Somerset Police Department.
During Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting, councilors voted 9-1 to officially install Major Doug Nelson as Chief of Police. The vote came after a nearly one-and-a-half hour executive session and after a recommendation from Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler.
“I appreciate the trust Mayor Girdler and the Somerset City Council has had in me for the past six years and I look forward to continuing to lead the Somerset Police Department as their chief,” Nelson stated through a press release from the department.
With Councilors Pat Bourne and Jerry Girdler absent, all but Councilor Jim Rutherford voted in favor of Nelson’s appointment to the chief’s position.
Councilor John Ricky Minton had a few comments for Nelson after recording his own “yes” vote.
“Doug, congratulations,” said Minton. “I came in here, and I probably wasn’t going to vote for you. I guess everyone deserves a second chance, or a chance ... don’t let us down. You’ve done a good job lately and I want you to keep it up.”
Mayor Girdler stated after council returned from executive session that the council had restructuring on the agenda ever since April’s budget workshops.
“We do have some reorganization ideas in mind, both for the police departments and other departments, which we’ll discuss ...” said Mayor Girdler.
It was during one particular workshop meeting when Nelson asked that the council consider a major move in an effort to retain officers in an understaffed and overworked department.
Nelson said during the April 22 workshop meeting that he and Mayor Girdler decided that a “restructuring” of the department’s positions may be the best option in the face of the staffing and pay issues — caused by a variety of reasons, including an expanded jurisdiction, more special events to police, and a lack of qualified candidates.
Nelson pleaded with the council to consider a serious restructuring of the SPD pay and classification plan, asking that, no matter what they did, his officers and detectives see the benefits of it.
“The chief of police is not a good job, and it’s been dirtied up over the years,” Nelson told the council during the April 22 workshop meeting. “If you do away with the assistant chief position you can put me as whatever you want and divide the rest of this money up between my men.”
Councilors had been reluctant in recent years to approve Nelson as police chief, instead choosing to let him serve as acting police chief. The issue was most recently brought up in July 2012, when, according to an agenda for a city council meeting, Mayor Girdler intended to ask that city councilors approve placing Nelson in the official position of police chief. That plan was scrapped, however, and the issue was not brought up.
Since former chief David Biggerstaff resigned in 2006, the city has seen a rotating door of those heading the police department, and Nelson has served as Acting Police Chief since 2007.
“Let the city be proud of you and let’s don’t go backwards, and move forward and treat everybody fair,” Minton said during Monday’s meeting. “That’s all I ask of you and if you don’t, I’ll be right there standing on that, I promise that. I won’t shut up.”
Nelson is a 1984 graduate of Pulaski County High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Police Administration with a minor in Corrections and Juvenile Justice from Eastern Kentucky University in 1988. He graduated from the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training Basic Academy Class in 1989 and the Criminal Justice Executive Development Class #5 in 2003.
Nelson started his police career in February 1988 as a deputy sheriff under Sheriff Sam Catron while still attending college at Eastern Kentucky University. In May 1990, he started working as a patrolman in SPD’s Patrol Division during the Mayor Smith Vanhook administration and under former chief David Gilbert. In 1997, Nelson was appointed a detective by former mayor Jim Williams, and then in 1999 as the lieutenant in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division by former mayor JP Wiles.
Nelson currently leads SPD in the all-time highest number of training hours for an officer, with 3,012 hours logged.
“Working for the Somerset Police Department has allowed me an excellent opportunity to grow professionally and receive specialized training that helped mold my career,” Neklson stated in the press release.
Nelson was the first SPD officer to be certified by the nationally-recognized University of Indianapolis self defense program in 1991 and the first to receive training and certification as a police sniper that same year. He helped develop the Field Training Officer program in 1995 that continues to be used today. Nelson is also certified by the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council as an instructor in Patrol Procedures and Special Weapons and Tactics. Nelson holds several certifications from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council’s Career Development Program, including Intermediate Officer, Advanced Officer, Investigator, Supervisor, Manager, Executive, and Chief Executive.
Since Nelson took on duties as acting police chief, SPD began the Motorcycle Unit, developed the Aviation Unit with funding assistance for training and equipment from the US Department of Justice, added a Bicycle Patrol Unit, and developed an Honor Guard Unit. SPD also began the Active Shooter Program and High Risk Warrant Team, and introduced the Crisis Intervention Training team.
“I’m especially thankful of the programs we started with funding assistance from outside organizations that eliminated or significantly reduced the local money needed to make a program happen like the
Motorcycle and Aviation Units, and the two military surplus Humvees added this year,” Nelson stated in the release.
“I am proud of the hard work that the men and women of our department have accomplished while I served as their (acting police chief),” said Nelson. “Together, we were able to add some new equipment and start programs that have made a difference in the safety of our community.”