By Joe Gorman
As he was sworn in as police chief Friday in Youngstown City Council chambers, two of Robin Lees’ former co-workers could barely hold in their excitement.
Retired Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey and Councilman Nathaniel Pinkard, D-3rd, retired Mill Creek MetroParks police chief who also once served on the city police, said they were looking forward to having Lees sworn in by Mayor John McNally. They both joined the force with Lees in 1978.
Lees replaces former Chief Rod Foley, who was appointed by outgoing Mayor Charles Sammarone. Foley will stay on the department as a captain. His official duties have yet to be determined.
Baldwin-Casey said Lees’ strengths will be the roles he played in the department as head of the Vice Squad and the Planning and Training Bureau as well as his leadership of the Mahoning Valley Crisis Response Team and the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force.
“He always did have a leadership role in the department,” Baldwin-Casey said.
Pinkard, who is now chairman of council’s safety committee, said Lees’ role at the task force will be a big help because he is used to overseeing long-term, complex investigations, which is what the task force does.
Lees retired as a lieutenant in 2011 after 33 years on the department. He was chosen by McNally after McNally told him to submit an application and resume. He was not an original applicant for the job after McNally won the election in November.
When asked why he submitted his resume, Lees said, “It was a little difficult to tell him no.”
Lees told those who attended the swearing-in ceremony that he is taking over a department that is working well.
“I’m inheriting an efficient police department,” Lees said.
Lees said in the next few weeks he wants to see how the department allocates its resources so he can figure out how to put his own stamp on operations. He did say he expects several of Foley’s initiatives, including the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence program, to continue.
Lees said he already has had discussions with McNally about his visions for the police department, and he wants to meet with the unions that represent groups of officers as well as council members to explain his plans and hear their concerns.
Lees did say he wants to find a way to increase uniformed officers’ presence in the neighborhoods.
Baldwin-Casey said Lees’ best strength is the way he deals with different groups of people and that will serve him well as chief.