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Rincon police chief sheds interim tag
Chief Jonathan Murrell
Jonathan Murrell was named chief of the Rincon Police Department on June 22, ending nine months of an interim role. - photo by Photo by Rick Lott
Chief Murrell started as interim and has stepped up and done an exemplary job."
Mayor Ken Lee

RINCON —  Nine months after being named interim police chief, Jonathan Murrell received a big bundle of joy.

The Rincon City Council named Murrell head of the Rincon Police Department on a permanent basis during its June 22 meeting. He succeeds Mark Gerbino, who resigned abruptly Sept. 11, 2019. 

“It feels good to be in the community where I call home and help my friends and family,” Murrell said.

Murrell never dreamed he would head the department that he joined in 2010.

“Up until the day they named me interim, I did not want to be a chief,” he said. “I always said number two was the best position but I never thought about how being number two meant that you could become number one overnight. That’s exactly what happened to me.”

Murrell quickly grew into his new role and found it to his liking.

“Chief Murrell started as interim and has stepped up and done an exemplary job,” Mayor Ken Lee said. “We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do but Chief Murrell has really brought the team together and raised morale. It was the recommendation of the city manager (John Klimm) and it was a unanimous vote to make Chief Murrell our permanent chief.”

Murrell, the department’s third permanent chief since 2018, impressed Klimm with his leadership style. The city manager called it a “team approach.”

Basically, Murrell treats his officers the way he wanted to be treated as he was ascending through the ranks.

“We share responsibilities and it builds ownership among the guys,” he said. “It kind of creates buy-in if you give them the responsibility and let them run with it, and just oversee it.

“Just because you give somebody a task doesn’t mean that the supervision isn’t there. You just keep the temperature checked on it and as long as they are showing that they are competent in their new responsibility, you leave them alone and let them run with it. If they have a hiccup, that’s the only time it should be addressed and maybe go into a training scenario to bring them up to speed and let them go again.

“You congratulate them if they are doing a great job and it’s not the end of the world if they do make a mistake.”

Rincon officers help Murrell make key decisions.

“I’ve got one who helps with the budget and one, Lt. (Daniel) Thompson, who is our patrol commander and oversees the fleet,” Murrell said. “We’ve got two guys who are in charge of training so it takes more off of one plate and gives others a sense of accomplishment when they are able to achieve a task.”

Murrell is open to any idea that will improve policing in Rincon. He doesn’t care where it originates.

“Everybody has got a voice and everybody can bring something to the table,” he said. “I try to use the officers for their strengths instead of focusing on their weakness.”

This open approach has proven to be a morale booster among Rincon officers and is popular with citizens, too. The department has worked hard to establish strong links to the people and businesses it serves, helping it avoid the kind of adversarial relationships that a prevalent in many places today.

“I don’t see that happening in Rincon —or Effingham County, for that matter —unless we had an influx of people from other states or other cities who wanted to come in and do a violent protest and tear stuff up,” Murrell said. “If that was to happen, I don’t think it would last very long because Effingham County, Rincon, Springfield and Guyton citizens support law enforcement here greatly. I think we would have a whole lot more support standing behind us than they would have standing behind them.”

Murrell expressed gratitude for everyone who helped him get to this point.

“It’s been great so far,” he said. “The support from the council, the mayor, the city attorney and the city manager has been great. They have supported me on that side and the men and women inside the department have been very supportive.

“Other agencies — (Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie) has been very supportive — and Chief Paul Wynn (of the Springfield Police Department and (Chief  James Breletic) in Guyton have, too. We’ve got a good relationship with other agencies and I think we are in a real good spot.”