Knoxville officials announce new police chief
Paul Noel, a veteran of the New Orleans Police Department is headed to Knoxville.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - City of Knoxville officials announced Paul Noel, a 25-year New Orleans Police Department veteran as the city’s new chief of police Thursday morning. He will replace Chief Eve Thomas in the role.
“This is the most important hire I will make for the people of Knoxville and I am confident we have the best fit for our city,” said Mayor Indya Kincannon. “Paul is passionate about serving and believes transparency, accountability, and accessibility are key to being an effective leader.” She went on to say that her advisory committee was unanimous in deciding on Noel. Kincannon also said that she received input from several other groups, including gun safety activists and faith-based groups.
Noel was the finalist of 39 total applicants for the position. He has been a nationally recognized advocate for police reform through his work with the Ethical Policing is Courageous (EPIC) Program and is also a member of the Board of Advisors for Georgetown University’s Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project.
“First and foremost, I am a crimefighter,” Noel said. “I believe our fundamental mission to our community is to create safe public spaces.” Noel went on to emphasize how he will prioritize community relationships in Knoxville. He said he wants to work on police transparency and repairing relationships between the Knoxville Police Department and the community.
“Being part of a community means you must have relationships and relationships are built on trust. I commit to you that we will build ties, work to repair broken relationships, and enhance existing ones,” he said. “At the same time, I understand that your support must be earned every day, in every encounter, in every conversation and in every action. I pledge to you that the time and energy you have invested in me will be returned tenfold.”
“We know public safety is a two-way street,” Noel said. “The reality is we are often defined by the poor actions of a few of our colleagues.” Noel went on to say he plans to highlight officer reputation s he runs the department.
“In this profession, we need to make sure we put our police officers in the right place at the right time and make sure they are doing what they need to be doing,” Noel said. The new chief said he plans to not just reduce crime, but help improve community relationships in high-crime areas as well. His experience with the EPIC program will help with this, Noel said. He also said he plans to implement the ABLE project here in Knoxville.
Diversity is also a priority for Noel, he said. He spoke on how he wants to work on hiring more women and people of color in the department. “The New Orleans Police Department is about 60% Black,” he said. “And the community is about 60% Black.”
Noel also spoke on his plans for staffing the department, saying he plans to fill current gaps in the workforce.
“This is an amazing region,” Noel said. “I was just so excited to have the opportunity to join the family up here.”
Chief-to-be Noel also highlighted data and research as a way to improve policing. When asked about Knoxville’s recent rise in homicides, Noel said he plans to work hard to reduce violent crime by trying new strategies until he finds a solution. “When we talk about solving violent crime, we often forget about community outreach. If the community trusts us, then they will give us information and work with us,” he said.
Noel joined the NOPD in 1997, rising from the rank of patrol officer to the No. 2 man in the department as deputy superintendent, serving in many different positions, according to WVLT’s New Orleans sister station WVUE.
Noel earned his masters and bachelors degrees from Loyola University. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy, MCCA’s Police Executive Leadership Institute and PERF’s Senior Management Institute for Police.
Noel will officially be sworn in on Jun. 13. Mayor Kincannon appointed KPD Deputy Chief Mark Fortner as Acting Chief until then.
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