When Richmond Police Chief James Ebert applied for chief in 2016, those who interviewed him asked where he saw himself in five years.
His reply was simple.
“If I am doing my job right, I will retire in five years,” he said. “And then I will be able to pass it over to the next person. Here we are.”
Wednesday evening, Ebert’s retirement was approved by the Richmond City Commission during a special called meeting. Following that, he passed his position to his successor, Assistant Chief Rodney Richardson, for the interim.
In his letter of retirement submitted to City Manager Rob Minerich, Ebert said, along with his decorated military career, serving as police chief has been an honor for him.
“As with all good times in life, it must eventually come to an end,” he wrote.
Ebert began his tenure as chief on October 17, 2016, when the community was “not far removed” from the tragedy of the murder of Officer Daniel Ellis.
“We were still dealing with that internally, and with that, the department was in a spot where we needed to see a lot of changes both administratively and operationally,” Ebert said.
When he walked in, he said, there were several areas they, as command staff, wanted to establish early.
He knew he wanted the department to achieve accreditation — the highest-ranking of law enforcement in Kentucky — as well as update policies, secure recruitment, and retention rates, and be more involved with the community.
As someone who likes to bring all people to the table, Ebert said he valued the input of all staff within RPD, no matter their rank when determining policy and engagement.
“I wanted to get input from all levels; that way, it is not my policy, his policy, or the command staff's policy; it is a policy that a lot of those officers had input in,” he said.
In 2019, the department did receive its accreditation and participated in dozens of community events.
In 2020, the department was able to recruit a full staff of more than 65 officers.
“The success we are enjoying now, largely as a department, is because we recruit good people,” Ebert told The Register. “Good people get you more good people.”
Now that he’s reached his five-year milestone, he will retire and spend more time focusing on his family — his wife Shawnda, who recently returned from military service in Bahrain, and his daughter, with whom he spends time playing softball.
“These types of careers are really tough on family life, so I am going to take the immediate future to make sure I can spend that time with my one daughter. You can only get to watch her grow up one time. So, I am really going to take some time to focus on the family unit.”
Additionally, he will spend time practicing professorship through the University of Purdue Global online.
Now, he will pass the baton to Assistant Chief Rodney Richardson, who will serve as interim police chief until Ebert’s retirement is official on Veteran’s Day, 2021. From there, with approval from the board, Richardson will become the official Richmond Police Chief.
“We have given it all we could during this time, and I achieved all that I could, and the way I see it is, the guy that is going to take this department from good to great, is this guy,” Ebert said, pointing to Richardson. “I am leaving it better than I found it, and I know when I leave here, I will be able to turn it over to Rodney, and he will take this department to the golden level of law enforcement.”
Richardson began his law enforcement career at RPD on June 22, 1995, and will soon celebrate his 24th anniversary with the department.
To rise through the ranks and become the police chief, Richardson said, was an awesome feeling.
“I am very passionate about this department and this community, so I knew I always wanted to work here,” he said. “It has been 25 or 30 years since we have had someone to come up through the ranks; it has been a long time.”
He said this demonstrated leadership had done its job to educate officers to take the place of others once they move on.
“I think that is very important for organization, preparing for the future,” he said.
Richardson said he hoped his story of rising through the ranks could be a testament to other officers to stay in law enforcement and at RPD.
“It tells people that it’s possible that it can happen,” Richardson shared.
He hopes to keep the retention level, engage more with the community, and keep the organization as professional as possible.
“In all honesty, we are here to meet the community’s demand and needs,” he said. “That is pretty simple by saying it, but it actually takes a lot of work to make that come together as one piece.
“I look forward to the future. I think Chief Ebert had it right when he said there are nothing but great things that can happen in the future,” he said. “I think with the team of people that we have, the group of officers we have here is what makes up this organization. Those are the people that should take credit for everything.”
Taking Richardson’s place as assistant police chief will be Major William O’Donnell. He has been with the department since March 2003.
Several members of the virtual meeting wished Ebert well, thanked him for his service to the city, and spoke highly of Richardson’s new role.
City Manager Rob Minerich stated, “During Chief Ebert’s tenure he led the department through the extensive process of becoming an accredited police department. He also took public engagement with the RPD to the next level. This department has made great strides with him as the police chief.”
Mayor Robert Blythe said he remembered the night Ebert was hired, with his daughter sitting next to him.
“Now you will get to spend more time with that little girl,” Blythe smiled.
• The city voted to approve and amend the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget for Liberty Place to increase receipts of the CDBG Fund by $200,000 and include unanticipated revenues from the Kentucky Department of Local Government, Office of Federal Grants.
• The second reading of Ordinance 21-11 was approved, reclassifying 4.3 acres on Goggins Lane and Lexington Road from R-1B (single-family residential) to RE (residential estate).
• Ordinance 20-12 was approved, reclassifying 2.46 acres on Duckhorn Drive from B-3 (business) to R-3 (multi-family residential).
• The city commission approved the annual budget for Section 8 Housing in the amount of $3,926,500.
• The commission voted to approve the first reading of an airport board memorandum of understanding which allows Eastern Kentucky University to be a constituent party to the Madison County Airport Board and nominate and appoint two members for the board.
• A first reading of the Solicitation Property Nuisance Ordinance was approved.
• William Rogers Adams’ resignation from the Recycle Department was approved.
• Corey Goosey was approved for a laborer position at the Parks Department.
• Commissioners declared a 2009 Ford Taurus truck as surplus equipment and provided its disposal to the Madison County Airport.
• The city recognized an increase in retirement benefits of police and firefighters not covered by the County Employee Retirement System by way of ordinance 21-75.
• A truck bid was approved for the purchase of two 2021 Chevrolet Silverados from Bachman Commercial of Louisville for a total of $35,220 each. Funding for each purchase will be allocated to the Parks Capital Outlay Fund Account and Public Works account.
• A bid from E TABB Design Construction Development of Louisville was approved for construction for Brookline Subdivision Drainage improvements in the amount of $67,208. A total of five bids were received for the project.
The next Richmond Commission meeting is scheduled for June 22 at 6 p.m. Their workshop meeting will be held next week on June 15 at 9:30 a.m.