Serving means being engaged in community to RPD Chief Jeff Cross
Source: The News-Enterprise, Jeff D’Alessio
Growing up in Muldraugh where almost everybody knows everybody, Jeff Cross saw the town’s law enforcement and knew that’s what he wanted to do with his life.
As he got older, his career aspirations changed and life went on. Over time, his childhood ambition kept resurfacing and in 1993, Cross became a police officer after leaving a job at Fort Knox.
He said people such as Don Harris and Butch Kerrick were familiar faces in uniforms in Muldraugh and served as an inspiration to him.
“He used to ride his bicycle and follow me around,” Kerrick said of Cross.
Now serving as Meade County’s sheriff and formerly police chief in Muldraugh, Kerrick said he knows the Cross family well. Jeff often would visit Kerrick on patrol.
“I would be running radar on some streets and there he was, next to me asking a lot of questions,” he said. “He was inquisitive.”
Kerrick, who is retiring in December following a 46-year law enforcement career, said it’s a “great compliment” to be viewed as someone who helped shape another’s professional career.
In 1993, Cross joined the Radcliff Police Department as a patrol officer.
On Saturday, he will celebrate his 10th anniversary as the city’s police chief and is the city’s second longest serving chief among the 10 in Radcliff history. The late John Farrelly served from 1967 through 1989.
“I’ve always been appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been given and I’ve been given a lot of them here,” Cross said.
He said it never was a career aspiration to lead RPD or any other department. Cross said the move to chief “just kind of happened.”
“Even when I was a captain, I loved what I was doing and that’s what I was focused on,” he said. “I’ve never thought in any position of doing the next thing.”
He replaced Donald Bloodworth as chief in 2008.
Capt. Willie Wells has worked with several RPD chiefs during his tenure with the department. While they all had their strengths, he said Cross stands out among them.
“Chief Cross is the best boss I could ever ask for,” Wells said. “He is very personable and professional. His integrity goes without question and he is very responsible.”
Cross has served RPD in a multitude of roles — as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant and captain, among others. He was deputy police chief to Bloodworth when he was promoted.
Cross said he likes to be a hands-on chief and often can be seen at crime scenes. When a man was shot last November at a Radcliff apartment complex, Cross was among those who responded.
“I’ve been there and know what to look for, so anything that I can do to help, I want to do it,” he said. “I just don’t want to be in the way of my guys doing their jobs because they know what they’re doing.”
He said another reason he responds to “major call outs” is he knows the media will seek comments and he serves as the point of contact for the department.
Cross turns 55 in November and, in some ways, was late getting into his career.
“I was 29 when I started and now you see guys starting out a lot younger,” he said.
His first two weeks of duty he was with Lt. Jack Gruber and that initial impact remains today.
“He was a cop’s cop,” Cross said. “He was an old-school cop. He told me he would teach me to stay safe and to stay alive.”
Angie Bevill, administrative assistant to the chief, said Cross is “the epitome of a well-respected leader in the community and among his peers.”
“Right from the beginning, I knew he had a vision for the Radcliff Police Department and that he was passionate about pursuing that vision,” she said. “Knowing that he started here and moved up the ranks, you realize that he had a vested interest in this department.”
Cross is a big believer that to know the community a department serves, you have to be engaged and among its residents in times other than when a crime is committed.
“It’s important to have that trust and respect,” he said. “My door is always open and if anyone has a problem, I’m going to listen. You can learn a lot from listening to people.”
He said he encourages ideas from his department members as well as the public.
“Chief Cross is a people person,” Lt. Mike Holeman said. “He cares deeply about the city of Radcliff and the citizens. He is always concerned about the officers and their families. Being a chief of police is a tough job these days and he does it well…”
Cross said he has no timetable for his career. He still looks forward to walking in the police department doors each day and said the job “is fun.”
“Everybody says you know when it’s time,” he said. “I wouldn’t have sat in here for the last 10 years without the people around me. I have good people to work with.”
Cross and his wife, Teresa, have two children, Kayleigh and Houston.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without my wife and family,” he said. “Because of their support, I can do what I do.”
Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at 270-505-1757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.