Video by Stan Boney
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — City police Chief Robin Lees is leaving.
Lees, who was appointed in 2014 by former Mayor John McNally, is retiring.
He will leave the position January 15. according to a news release from Mayor Tito Brown’s office.
Lees served through the McNally administration and stayed on when current Mayor Brown took over for McNally.
At the time he was originally appointed, Lees was retired after serving over 30 years on the force, most of that time involved in drug investigations.
Lees sad he is retiring because Brown told him he wanted to go in a new direction in the department. He said he had known for a few months that Brown had wanted to change directions.
“I’m not completely surprised,” Lees said. “This has been sort of playing itself out.”
When asked why Brown wanted to go in a new direction, Lees said that was a question for the mayor. Brown did not return messages seeking comment Thursday but did release a news release on Thursday.
“After meeting with the Chief to map out a Police Policy for Youngstown in a new era, it is clear that as Mayor, The Chief and I acknowledge there are different strategies and different philosophies of police work and I have chosen to move in a different direction.
I want to develop a new strategy for innovative community involvement for safety and security for all Youngstown residents. I have a vision for the development of community-based policing that will require more interaction with social services, mental health services and extensive training that focuses on the needs of the citizens of Youngstown,” read the statement from Brown.
He thanked Lees for his hard work and dedication and said he has done so with “dignity, fairness and resolve.”
Lees said he was already planning on retiring after the end of this year.
He started as a rookie patrolman in the late 1970s, patrolling a beat on the South Side.
As chief, one of Lees’ top priorities was the creation of the Community Police Unit, where one patrol officer was assigned to each of the city’s seven wards to address quality of life issues and work with community groups.
Lees said one of his main goals was to better the relationship between the police and the community and he added he thinks he has done that.
“We have done a lot more community outreach,” Lees said.
He also emphasized training for officers on the department, including community police training for all officers regardless of rank.
Lees was also big on federal and local partnerships that led to drug investigations and special patrols to look for gun offenders. He credited that with shrinking the department’s homicide numbers from 28 in 2018 to 20 in 2019.
He also pointed out that after a late surge of violence at the end of 2018 that gave the city their final homicide numbers, detectives were able to clear several of those cases to clear 20 of the year’s 28 homicides.
However, he also dealt with a manpower shortage in the Patrol Division that led to the constant shuffling of officers to fill out each of the department’s 13 beats.
Officials at the department said a low starting salary for entry-level patrolmen made it hard to recruit and retain young officers.
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