Lanett Police Department hires new police chief

Published 12:24 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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LANETT — The Lanett Police Department has a new chief. In a 3-2 vote on Monday, Denise McCain was elected to the post. She’s been with the LPD for the past two years as an investigator after retiring following a 25-year career with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

McCain is a native of Victoria, Texas, but she and her husband Eric live in Valley. He’s a U.S. Marshal. They have a 17-year-old daughter, Ava, who’s a junior at Beulah High School. She’s in dual enrollment with plans to attend the University of Alabama. Ava is on the school’s softball team and cheer squad.

McCain has two older daughters. Tiffany Marsh is with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning and Stephanie Fish is a registered nurse living in Clemmons, North Carolina.

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“I am honored to have this opportunity,” she said of being named the new chief. “I am going to do my best for the people of Lanett. I’m honest and am a person who does not hide from the truth. I hold myself too a high standards. You have to as a police officer.”

She expects other officers to live up to high standards as well.

“I think there is a need for new leadership in this department,” she said.

During her 25-year career with ALEA, McCain taught classes for three years at the police academy in Selma.

McCain said she knows Chambers County Sheriff Jeff Nelson from his long career with ALEA.

“I also know Sid (the former sheriff) and T.J. (Wood) from the sheriff’s office,” she said.

McCain is of Hispanic heritage. She’s bilingual, adept in reading, speaking and writing both English and Spanish.

Her fluency in two languages is a huge asset for the Lanett department. Many Spanish-speaking families have moved into the city in recent years. Her ability to speak Spanish was important in a recent incident when a little girl got lost. McCain was the only person working the case who could talk to people in the neighborhood, many of whom spoke Spanish.

Her ability to speak Spanish provided the key link in bringing the case to a successful conclusion and returning the little girl to her family.

In her off time, McCain helps coach a Lanett soccer team.

“Until I started coaching the team, I didn’t realize that so many of the players come from many different backgrounds,” she said. “Some are from Venezuela, some from Honduras. Mexico and other countries.”

She has purchased tennis shoes for some of the players out of her own money.

Naming a new chief was on Monday’s council meeting agenda. It was supported by Mayor Jamie Heard and council members Angelia Thomas and Tifton Dobbs. Council members Tony Malone and Ronnie Tucker voted no. Both made it clear they had nothing personal against McCain. Malone said he didn’t like the process that had been used. Tucker said said he didn’t know enough about her to vote yes or no. Council Member Tamalita Autry was not present.

McCain does have a big booster in Senior Center Manager Sandra Thornton.

“She’s going to do an awesome job,” Thornton said. “She’s a go-getter. I think she’s great.”

Thornton said she had gotten to know her well because they both work in the L.B. Sykes complex. The criminal investigation division (CID) and senior center are in adjoining buildings, and they see each other a lot.

McCain succeeds Johnny Wood as the new chief. Wood retired from the department last summer and is now an inspector for the city. Richard Casner has been serving as the interim chief.

He was a candidate for the open position of chief. Following the Monday night meeting, Casner told The Valley Times-News that he was OK with the council’s decision and would like to remain with the department until reaching retirement age.