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La Grange mayor picks city police officer for chief position

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By Andrew Henderson

La Grange Mayor John Black has chosen a new La Grange police chief following his removal of the former chief.

La Grange Police Officer David Stratton is Black’s pick for chief. Stratton confirmed this with the Era, but declined further comment pending an official vote of the La Grange City Council.

“I think he’s well qualified, and an outstanding young man,” Black said.

Stratton has been with La Grange police for nearly 13 years. Before coming to La Grange, he was an officer with the Eminence Police Department. Prior to Eminence, he worked at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Come June of this year, Stratton will have 20 years of police service under his belt.

Black approached Stratton about the job to gauge his interest in the position. He said he was drawn to Stratton because of his behavior, personality and how he interacts with people in the community.

He said people in La Grange should want someone who gets out of their police cruiser and interacts with them, and is engaged in more community-oriented policing.

With this in mind, Black said he was impressed with Stratton’s interactions with the community.

“I thought he’d be a good fit for the city at this time,” Black said.

Stratton’s elevation as the potential chief, however, comes on the heels of controversy.

Just a few weeks ago, Black told former Police Chief Frank Conway once he was officially mayor, Conway would no longer be police chief.

Conway said he was given the option to remain on the police force, just not as police chief. With these options in mind, Conway decided to retire four years earlier than he had planned.

“I want to thank the citizens of La Grange for a great career, and I wish my officers the best,” Conway previously told the Era.

Conway assumed the role as police chief when former Police Chief Kevin Collett announced his retirement in late November 2014 following his 12 years at the helm of the police force.

Former La Grange Mayor Joe Davenport, who is now a sitting La Grange City Council member, previously told the Era he was unaware of Black’s decision before hearing rumors about it. He said he was disappointed to learn about the end of Conway’s tenure.

“I feel like I should have been informed since I’m still mayor of La Grange,” Davenport previously told the Era.

After four years as chief, Conway garnered several accolades for the department.

One of the most prominent achievements was receiving accreditation from the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police. The department was accredited in 2017.

Accreditation from the association means an agency was “carefully measured against an established set of standards and has met or exceeded professionally accepted practices in law enforcement,” according to the association’s website.

Black said he hopes his pick as Stratton for chief qualms the rumors once and for all that he wants to do away with the city police department in La Grange and merge the city and county police forces.

“I’m hoping to do away with that [rumor] by not choosing someone out of county,” he said.

The issue of a city-county merger came up several times during the mayoral campaign. During the Oldham County Political Forum on Oct. 16, Black encouraged the audience to repeat his statement that he would not merge the departments.

Opposition has formed online following Conway’s removal as chief, most notably in the form of the Facebook page La Grange Watchdogs.

The page has posted several statuses supporting Conway and encouraging La Grange citizens to attend the Jan. 7 city council meeting, which is the first meeting with the newly sworn in council members and Black as mayor

When asked about how he foresaw the city council voting on Stratton, Black said he wasn’t confident of anything yet, but allowed the council members ample time to research Stratton and find out more about him.

He said if the council decides not to back Stratton, then he would find an alternate candidate, but he is confident in Stratton.

The La Grange City Council will meet Monday, Jan. 7 at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Oldham County Fiscal courthouse.