Tuesday, August 14, 2001

New chief has local roots

Smith chosen by Park Hills

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        PARK HILLS — Rick Smith started his law enforcement career in 1975 as a volunteer Park Hills police officer. Monday, he became the police chief.

        City Council hired the 47-year-old retired Fort Mitchell police sergeant to replace Ron Heideman, who retired. Chief Smith said his first job is to get police officers and citizens talking to each other more.

        “I still live here. I've always had a love for the community,” Chief Smith said. “I want to change the rapport to a more friendly basis. It used to be, when I drove around the city, people would wave at you and the officers would wave back.”

        Chief Smith became a full- time Park Hills officer in 1977. Two years later, he moved to the old Lakeside Park-Crestview Hills Police Authority, and in 1981 he went to Fort Mitchell, where he stayed until March 2000.

        Park Hills Mayor Michael Hellmann said Chief Smith won his new job over five others.

        “Rick was definitely the best applicant,” Mr. Hellmann said. “Rick was the one who had the most specific ideas.”

        But Chief Smith's career nearly ended last Dec. 27.

        Shortly after 2 a.m. that day, Boone County police arrested him on Ky. 236 on a charge of DUI and having only one working headlight. Chief Smith had been to a birthday party, and said he had been drinking socially.

        “The officer told me I passed all three (field sobriety) tests,” Chief Smith said. “My balance was off, and I was being treated for an ear infection. If I felt I was intoxicated, I would have called my wife or son and had them come and get me.”

        On March 8, Chief Smith was acquitted of the DUI charge in Boone District Court. He pleaded guilty to the nonworking headlight charge and paid a $95.85 fine.

        “I was relieved,” Chief Smith said. “At the same time, I was wrong in driving after drinking.”

        Chief Smith's goals include: remodel the police department, change the striping on police cruisers, increase foot and bicycle patrols, and change shift hours for better coverage in the evenings and early mornings.

        But the chief's job “was the always the ultimate goal,” he said.


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