Knoxville Police Chief recaps first 7 months on the job, outlines goals for 2023

Knoxville Police Department Chief Paul Noel spoke on his first seven months in the position.
Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel will recap his first seven months on the job and discuss the direction of the Knoxville Police Department heading into 2023.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 12:34 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 1:41 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel recapped his first seven months on the job Thursday.

Paul Noel was announced as the new chief at the end of April 2022. He is a 25-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department and replaced former-Chief Eve Thomas.

In a press briefing, Noel recapped the changes he made and the initiatives he started to improve the department. Included in that was a major department restructuring, an review that revealed employee complaints of internal discrimination and strides to improve transparency and ethical policing.

What Happened in 2022

Early on, Noel said the New Orleans department was previously known for its corruption, now, however, it is a bastion for policing ethics. That passion for transparency and ethical policing is something Noel has tried to bring to Knoxville.

Early into his tenure, Noel had the department join the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project. KPD was the first agency in Tennessee to join ABLE, and training is set to be implemented in 2023.

Another addition was the establishment of the Use of Force Review Board. The board will review serious instances of use of force from a policy, procedural and training perspective. That board also makes recommendations to improve policy and training concerning use of force. The Use of Force Review Board isn’t the only new body in KPD, however.

The Crash Review Board is another new body, which is aimed at making discipline and corrective action recommendations surrounding crashes involving KPD vehicles. That board is also designed to make recommendations on policy and training.

Internally, Noel moved the internal affairs department under the day-to-day supervision of the assistant chief. After that move, several internal affairs cases that were opened during Thomas’ administration, most notably, a case investigating racist behavior among officers.

Additionally, Noel has initiated the development of a new position: the deputy chief of professional standards. The position is set to be a non-sworn, executive level job that will focus on police, practices and procedures. That same person would also be in charge of the department’s efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion.

That change came after Noel initiated an internal evaluation by 21CP Solutions. In that evaluation, KPD officers and employees voiced concerns about fairness, racism and sexist discrimination within the department.

Noel also oversaw one of the largest reorganizations in the department’s history. That restructuring re-established the Central District, increasing police districts from two to three.

Another change was the establishment of a Next of Kin program that meets quarterly with the families of homicide victims. The goal of the meetings is to improve communications with the families and offer grief support.

KPD is looking to grow under Noel as well. Under the new chief, the department has started a recruitment campaign including advertisements and changes to the hiring process aimed at increasing applicants and removing barriers to employment.

Under Noel, the department is also working with the City of Knoxville and the Violence Reduction Center. Led by national violence reduction expert Thomas Abt out of the University of Maryland, the partnership is aimed at involving community-members in the reduction of violent crime, like gun violence.

Looking Toward 2023

Noel said KPD is planning to enhance recruiting efforts with a focus on improving diversity. KPD is also planning to work with Fulton High School’s criminal justice program to fill out cadet ranks.

Additionally, Noel set a department goal of reducing murders by 10% in 2023. This as part of an initiative to reduce violent crime in Knoxville. As part of the crim-reduction initiative, Noel said that KPD plans to improve its data analytics capabilities. That includes making public dashboards available to the Knoxville community.

Finally, Noel also said he wants to improve KPD’s technological infrastructure. That will include a new records management system.