Henderson plans retirement from force

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 6, 2013

Incumbent Police Chief Pap Henderson announced Friday he won’t seek another term as the city’s top law enforcement officer and endorsed Assistant Police Chief Bobby Bell as his successor.

     Henderson has had a long tenure with the Brookhaven Police Department and said he feels it’s time to pass the job on.

     “At the end of this term, I’ll have been on this job 43 years,” Henderson said of his time with the force. “It’s time for me to relax a little bit. I’m not worn out, but 43 years is enough.”

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     Henderson was elected chief of police 2001, easily beating an opponent by a commanding 2,146 to 532 votes. In the two subsequent elections, Henderson ran unopposed.

     In throwing his support behind Bell’s candidacy, Henderson cited the assistant chief’s long record in law enforcement and familiarity with the department.

     “Bobby’s qualified and ready,” Henderson said. “I want somebody that’s ready to take over. I know he’s the best man to take my place. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

     Bell, a 31-year officer with the Brookhaven Police Department, was promoted to assistant chief June 2011.

     Henderson said the chief’s post is no place for on-the-job training, with officers showing the chief how the department operates.

     “We don’t have time to train a chief,” he said. “You have to hit the ground ready to go.

     Bell qualified last week and is running as a Democrat. He’s picked up a primary opponent in former BPD officer Larry Warren.

     On the Republican ticket, retired highway patrolman Ted Goleman is seeking the police chief job.

     Henderson said he appreciated the confidence the people of Brookhaven have placed in him and the respect he’s been shown.

     In return, Henderson said his goal has always been a safer and better Brookhaven.

     “I’ve tried to do my best for this town,” the current chief said.

     A Brookhaven native, Henderson served 12 years as assistant police chief prior to his election. After former police chief Fred McKee retired in 2001, McKee encouraged Henderson to seek the office.

     It’s been a demanding job, with residents tracking Henderson down at his house at all hours of day and night. He’s at the office or out riding the streets seven days a week.

     But as much as the job has asked of him, Henderson had only positive things to say about the work he’s been dedicated to for so long.

     “You have to love this job,” he said.

     And love it he has, partially because of the way he feels about the place he calls home.

     Said Henderson, “I love this town and I love this job.”