LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard announced on Thursday that he is retiring, effective January 7.
In a letter to Mayor Jim Gray, Barnard thanked the Mayor and members of the Urban County Council for their consistent backing that has “enabled us to put in place an innovative and strategic vision that has brought about truly significant advancements in public safety in Lexington.”
“Lexington is one of the safest cities its size in the country,” said Gray, who named Barnard Chief in 2014. “The Council and I place a top priority on public safety, and we have put resources in place that give our police the support they need to excel. Through Mark’s leadership and vision, they have excelled.”
Barnard credited the more than 700 sworn officers and civilian staff of the Lexington Police. “Our progress would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the men and women with whom I have had the privilege to serve,” Barnard said. “I am proud to leave the Lexington Police Department in their very capable hands.”
“Chief Mark Barnard holds himself, as well as those he supervises, to the same high standards,” said Victor Kappeler, Dean and Foundation President, College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University. “He is a man above reproach. His service to the community will be sorely missed.”
Throughout his 31-year career at the Lexington Police Department, Barnard has been a strong supporter of community policing. As Chief, he put an even stronger emphasis on reaching out and working with the community, building connections with the African American Community, businesses, faith-based organizations, the LGBTQ community, and others.
Reverend Dr. C.B. Akins, pastor First Baptist Bracktown, said, “I’m proud to be known as a friend of Mark Barnard. He was always open to suggestions and invited constructive criticism. What distinguished Mark from many leaders, especially those politically appointed, is that he actually implemented good suggestions regardless of their source. Mark has helped make our community more inclusive by adding chairs to the table and not filling those chairs with more of the same. I wish him and his family the best.”
The Department has a strong record of accomplishment and growth during Barnard’s tenure, including:
• An increase in sworn police officers from 565 to 630;
• The hiring of safety officers to respond to minor vehicle collisions and other duties, putting more police officers on the street to address criminal activities;
• An emphasis on education. In addition to an intensive training academy, currently 92 percent of Lexington Police Officers have obtained Master’s or Bachelor’s degrees, are actively working on a degree, or have earned higher education credit hours;
• The opening of a new Central Roll Call facility in the Eastland neighborhood;
• The establishment of a body-worn camera program to ensure transparency and strengthen relationships with the public;
• A comprehensive strategy to address the opioid crisis, doubling the size of the City’s Narcotics Enforcement Unit, assigning detectives as overdose investigators and helping opioid abusers connect with resources;
• Establishment of the Lexington Police Foundation to allow private donations to assist with unbudgeted equipment requests and assist employees experiencing hardships; and
• Setting up new opportunities to interact with young people to them an opportunity to see officers as ordinary people, role models and mentors.
Assistant Chief Ron Compton will serve as interim chief, pending the appointment of Barnard’s successor.