The City of Leeds officially has a new police chief.
Jim Atkinson, acting chief, was sworn into office on Monday night during the City Council meeting.
With his son, Ken Atkinson, Chief of Police in neighboring Irondale, at his side, Jim Atkinson vowed to keep Leeds safe.
“Our No. 1 priority is our citizens and I will do what I can to keep Leeds safe,” Atkinson told the council and, to the residents in attendance, he said, “You’re going to live in a great, safe city.”
Atkinson acknowledged Leeds has issues to tackle, but said he has a plan.
“We have a lot of problems and we’re going to address those problems,” he said. “We have a good police department, but we’re going to make it better.”
One of the first steps he made as chief was hiring a drug enforcement officer – the first Leeds has had. That officer is going to train alongside Irondale’s narcotics division, in a partnership with his son’s department.
“Drugs are a nationwide problem, and we’re not immune,” Jim Atkinson said. “We’re going to really go after it and keep drugs out of our schools.”
Atkinson said he looks forward to working with his son to take down drug dealers who often operate in both communities. And Irondale and Leeds are similar sizes, around 11,000 people, and have about the same number of officers, around 25.
Both Atkinsons and their families live in Leeds. Together, they have 75 years of law enforcement experience. Ken Atkinson has been a police officer for 30 years, including the last three as the head of Irondale police, and Jim Atkinson has been an officer for 45 years, many spent with the Homewood Police Department. Ken Atkinson also worked at the Homewood Police Department, but not alongside his dad. At that time, Jim Atkinson was serving as mayor of Homewood.
Ken grew up with police officers hanging out at his house, so he always knew he wanted to be one of them. He got a criminal justice degree at Auburn University and went to through police training with the City of Birmingham, where he served for four years.
Ken’s son, Trey, is also in law enforcement, but a different kind – he works for the Treasury Department catching white-collar criminals in Philadelphia.
Jim Atkinson is 79, but ready to start a new chapter as a public servant in law enforcement overseeing public safety in his hometown this time.