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March 06. 2014 8:30PM

Danville police chief's challenger says department in dire shape

DANVILLE — For the first time in his 19 years as Danville police chief, Wade Parsons will face opposition at the polls on Tuesday when voters will decide whether he should stay or be replaced with one of his sergeants.

Parsons is seeking re-election to another three-year term but is being challenged by Danville police Sgt. Ryan Furman.

The fight for the chief's position comes after a year of personal tragedy for Parsons and criticism in the wake of a teen suicide a year ago inside his Danville residence.

Parsons has remained on the job and tried to move forward after his girlfriend's 15-year-old son, Jacob Carver, killed himself with the chief's gun, which was left sitting unsecured in a closet.

Parsons was charged with a violation-level offense for allegedly failing to properly secure the firearm on the night of the shooting last March. His defense has argued that he shouldn't be held responsible, and he's now awaiting a ruling by a Salem Circuit Court judge on whether the charge should be dropped.

In the meantime, Parsons and Furman are trying to win support for their election bids and both took to the podium at a packed candidates' night Monday at Town Hall.

But Parsons wasn't able to avoid questions about the suicide raised by Jacob's 19-year-old sister, Sophia, who said his failure to follow gun safety rules "cost my little brother his life."

Parsons wouldn't discuss the case, but said it was a tragic event and added, "My heart goes out to you."

He also said that he plans to offer a program that touches on firearm safety in the school.

Parsons spoke about the accomplishments during his 30 years on the department — the last 19 as chief — and the awards he's received for exemplary service to victims of crime and his contributions to the field of drug enforcement.

Parsons also shared a long list of community service projects that he's spearheaded over the years and his plans to introduce teen and adult activities at the Danville Community Center for social gatherings, discussions, dances and creative arts over the next year.

"Danville is my home. It's my community. I love the people that live here, and I've always been active in trying to find ways to bring people together," he told the crowd.

Furman commended Parsons for his community service work but said the focus needs to be on the police department.

Insisting that the department has "crumbled" over the last five years, Furman criticized the chief for what he claims is a lack of leadership, mismanagement and poor judgment.

"I'm not trying to destroy this guy. I'm not trying to harm his reputation, but I'm telling you this department is in dire need. This department is in dire shape over there," said Furman, who was hired as an officer in 2000 and was promoted to sergeant in 2006.

Furman stated numerous times that the department isn't following standard operating procedures, which has caused many internal issues.

"I can't sit around and allow this to continue to occur," he said.

Parsons said many of the standard operating procedures have been rewritten over the past and that "we've still got a ways to go."

"Do I get it right every time? … No, we don't get it right every time but we do our best," he said.

In response to some of the criticisms, Parsons said it was "painful to listen to some of these things, but being the boss, is that so unusual? I don't think so, but I see things in a different light I guess."

jschreiber@newstote.com


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