Chandler ‘started from the bottom,’ now he’s here — as police chief

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Suffolk Police Chief Al Chandler invoked Drake as he exhorted his officers and the city to hold him accountable while also expecting them to hold him accountable in a speech following his formal swearing-in Monday at King’s Fork High School.

“So let me take a moment to set the record straight,” said Chandler, who was named police chief in January after serving as interim police chief. “There’s going to come a time when some things go wrong. There’s going to come a time — it may be tomorrow, it may be the next day or next week — when I may be asking some tough questions.

“There may be a time, there’s going to come a time, when I’ll be pushing to the point of discomfort to make this department better. I’ll be asking some tough questions to ensure that we make our cases stronger. I’ll be pressing for better options to make our operations safe. I will even most likely say some things that will just get on your nerves, but that’s not today. Today ma’am, today sir, we celebrate. Today ma’am, today sir, we dance. Today, we take the opportunity to think about the fact that we’re here in this moment at this time, to be a change that nobody can say didn’t happen.”

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Bishop Ben Fitzgerald of Zion Community Church in North Suffolk gave the invocation, and following remarks from Suffolk Police Capt. Jesse Epperson and Mayor Mike Duman, Clerk of the Court Randy Carter sworn in Chandler, using the Bible that belonged to the chief’s late grandmother, Lucille Turner.

Before he got started, Chandler, who is also a site pastor at Zion Community Church’s downtown Hampton location, thanked God for allowing him “another opportunity to serve in this capacity.”

He thanked his late mother, Thomasine T. Chandler, represented in a front-row seat with a bouquet of roses next to his father, Alfred S. Chandler Sr., whom he referred to as “my rock, my hero.” He also honored other members of his family, including his four children, Elliot, Earon, Eric and Alisa, and his wife, Tisa — “my girl, my ride or die, my A1 Day 1,” someone who has always been there for him.

“When we met, I was just a young patrol officer,” Chandler said, “but in the infamous words of rapper Drake, ‘We started from the bottom, now the whole team here,” lyrics from his song, “Started from the Bottom.”

Chandler offered thanks to City Manager Al Moor “for trusting me with the safety of our city.” He also thanked members of City Council —- most of whom, including Mayor Mike Duman, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, Lue Ward, Donald Goldberg, LeOtis Williams and Shelley Butler-Barlow, were in attendance —- for their continued support of the police department.

Other city leaders, including Sheriff E.C. Harris, Commonwealth’s Attorney Narendra Pleas and Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III, as well as retired Police Chief Thomas Bennett, former city chief of staff Debbie George and Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent Patrice Bondo, also attended the swearing-in. He thanked Gordon and King’s Fork Principal Dr. Derrick Bryant for supporting the partnership between the department and Suffolk Public Schools.

He also thanked the community at large for its support and guidance, and thanked his department’s employees for their friendship and support, “over not only the past 22 months, but the past 23 years.” He also acknowledged the death of Sgt. Joe Rivera, who died May 31.

“May he rest in peace, but through all of that, we’re still here fighting the good fight,” Chandler said. “We’re still here, making it happen. We’re still here, going to calls day-in and day-out. We’re still working short. We’re still working tired. We’re still working sick because we love this job. We can’t afford to allow that to be lost in all of the other things that happen in today’s times. There’s something to be said about those who choose to stay in the fight.

“Some run, some quit, some hide, but the fact that each of you here in the Suffolk Police Department are still here, that illustrates the level of commitment that should be truly appreciated and celebrated.”

Before wrapping up, Chandler brought up Harris, George and Bondo, and noted they all had one person in common, retired field training officer William “Wild Bill” Franklin, someone he wanted to thank for the great work he did for the department.

Chandler, as he says often, said that he loves his job and what he does, in the good times, and some tough ones, also. He said if he could talk to his young self when he was growing up in Portsmouth, where he loved to ride bicycles and cheer on the Dallas Cowboys, that he’d say, “if you work hard, good things will happen,” and that “if you keep pushing and learning and growing, there’s nothing that can stop you, because what God has for you is for you.”

“Being a chief of police is too large a job for anyone to successfully do alone,” Chandler said. “And I thank each of you for being there for me, and I will continue to be there for you as well.

“To the community at large, I thank you for giving me and this department a chance. I thank you for holding us and yourselves accountable. We don’t always get it right. But most of the time we do, and all of the time we try, and I know that as we continue to work together, great things are going to continue to happen in our city.”