Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer named Ishmon F. Burks as the interim Metro Police chief today.
Burk is also a former Secretary of the Kentucky Justice Cabinet and was the first African-American commissioner of the Kentucky State Police, being appointed by former Governor Paul Patton in 2000.
Chief Administrative Officer William Summers IV says the administration wanted a qualified candidate with law enforcement experience to serve as interim chief, but emphasized it needed an individual outside the department who has not interested in the position permanently.
“We felt like it would make the search a lot easier and it would keep the potential conflict down and I think in the end it will be the best for the community. The first thing we needed to do is make sure the interim would be somebody who didn’t want the job full-time so that we would not get into the politics of ‘now here’s there and you need to keep him’ and all that,” he says.
Burks will take over from outgoing Chief Robert White starting Tuesday. White is leaving later this week to become the chief of Denver police department.
The interim chief will serve until April, when Fischer plans to name a permanent replacement. The deadline for applicants seeking to succeed White is December 15.
Until a full-time successor is named, the mayor says Burk’s role will be to lead the department from a “macro view,” but the day-to-day operations will be run by command staff.
Burks says being a member of the Merger 2.0 Task Force’s public safety panel has given him a unique perspective on the force since city and county consolidated in 2003.
“I believe based on that eight month review that we’ve got a department of well over 1,000 people that are dedicated to reducing crime and protecting our neighborhoods. And we need to do a better job of communicating that to the general public,” he says. “Second, we have a very seasoned and mature command staff, and we’re very fortunate to have that type of experience during this transition from one chief to another.”
But the mayor’s task force released results of its public surveys that found residents have mixed views on public safety services depending on their race, class and zip code. Polling also showed that since merger, 42 percent of residents believe crime has increased in their neighborhood while only 5 percent felt that it had decreased.
Burks will shadow White during his final week on the job and has talked to the outgoing chief about a permanent replacement.
“I know Ishmon, he’s a fine gentleman with a strong academic and military background,” says White. “I had the opportunity to sit down with him. I think he’s a perfect fit for the interim chief and we’ve talked about the people who are on board and people who are in our department that are in a great position to become the permanent chief.”