Police chief announces retirement

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cape Girardeau's Steve Strong will end his law enforcement career; Capt. Carl Kinnison will take his place.

Cape Girardeau police chief Steve Strong won't ride off into the sunset. But he does plan to ride off to Mexico this fall on his BMW motorcycle.

He can take his time. He won't have to get back to a job.

The 57-year-old career law enforcement officer announced Wednesday he will resign as police chief effective Oct. 14.

City manager Doug Leslie immediately appointed police Capt. Carl Kinnison as the new police chief.

The appointment of Kinnison, 48, comes with the backing of the current chief. Strong said the city didn't need to spend money on a search for a new police chief. "You have the right person here," he said.

Leslie said Kinnison has the training to serve as police chief. As the department's No. 2 administrator, he regularly managed the police force when Strong was out of town.

Strong considered resigning several years ago but chose to remain in the job at the urging of Mayor Jay Knudtson.

But he said he doesn't want to wait any longer. He'll be 58 later this year.

He loves to ride motorcycles. He's got two bikes, including a Harley. He may buy a third one soon.

Strong, who was named the state's top police chief in 2003, said he wants to take long motorcycle trips while he's still healthy enough to do so.

He also can afford to do so. He already qualifies for full retirement benefits. Police and firefighters can retire at age 55.

In addition to riding motorcycles, Strong also operates a 285-acre farm near Crump in Cape Girardeau County.

His family has owned the farm since the 1860s.

When Strong steps down as chief, he'll still have ties to city hall. His wife, Karen, works in the city manager's office.

Strong has worked in law enforcement for 33 years. He's collared criminals and commanded police officers. He's worked for the Cape Girardeau Police Department for the past 29 years.

He was appointed police chief four years ago. Then city manager Michael Miller said at that time that Strong was "the most qualified" candidate found during a four-month national search.

Strong said he wanted to go out on top. He thinks that's now.

Thanks to a new fire sales tax, the city has improved public safety. The city has raised salaries for police officers, purchased new police cars and made renovations to the police department.

Voters approved the tax in June 2004. It's expected to generate $2 million annually for the police and fire departments over the next decade.

Before the tax, low salaries made it impossible to hire new police officers, Strong said.

The department couldn't afford new patrol cars. It was left with aging, high-mileage vehicles. "We had a number of vehicles that just didn't run," said Strong.

At the start of this year, 60 percent of Cape Girardeau's police cars registered more than 100,000 miles.

"Smaller police departments had better equipment than we had," said Strong.

But with the influx of tax money, that's changed. The department recently bought 20 new police cars and four unmarked vehicles.

Strong said he's proud of the improvements.

The job wasn't easy. He worked long hours as police chief. He routinely rose before 4 a.m. to be at work by 6 a.m.

He won't miss the long hours, late-night emergencies and holidays spent at the police station.

"I want to have a little more free time," he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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