One for All
Each morning, the members of the McKee Police Department are in a single patrol car.
The chief is present, along with the patrol officer and detective. In fact, the administrative staff and community-services officer also are in the Dodge Charger.
The kicker is there is only one person in the car. Jonathon Sizemore has served McKee – a city of about 800 nestled in the eastern Kentucky county of Jackson – as police chief for six years. He is a police force of one.
Sizemore began his policing career in 2000 as a member of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office. During his career, Sizemore also has worked for the University of Kentucky Police Department as a sergeant, Fayette County Public School Law Enforcement Division and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Sizemore says policing in a small town is not any different from doing the job in a larger city. It’s just on a smaller scale.
“You name it, and we have it,” Sizemore said.
Because of the limited number of officers in the county, (the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has four deputies), Sizemore said cooperation and coordination efforts are necessary.
“We don’t have 24-hour service around here,” Sizemore said. “You have to make the relationships you have work. I rely a lot on the sheriff’s office. The firefighters – there are times I am at a scene and the fire department is the only help I have. It is reciprocal. They have to know I’m going to be there to help them.”
As proof of that, one has to look no further than the county’s drug problem.
“We have every type of drug you can imagine,” Sizemore said. “As far as drugs I see and deal with, it runs the entire gambit. We have cases of carfentanil, heroin, meth, flakka, crystal meth, cocaine and prescription drugs.”
Sizemore said he works with Jackson County Sheriff Paul Hays on many drug cases.
“One of the things about being in a small community, you know who the drug dealers are,” he said. “However, what I know and what I can prove are two different things.
“Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows what is going on; there are no secrets in McKee,” Sizemore continued. “I had someone call weeks ago (late May) and said, ‘(The suspect) always goes in the woods at this location.’ I’m hearing he has all of this stuff buried out there, so I go out there and look around and I find a big water cooler buried in the ground. It had everything you needed to make meth, including a little of the finished product.”
Upon discovering the cooler, Sizemore conferred with Sheriff Hays and opted to confiscate the cooler and drugs.
“We’d love to do a stakeout, but it goes back to [lack of] manpower,” he said.
Interagency cooperation has paid dividends on several occasions, including shootings that occurred in the community of Sand Gap, located in the western portion of Jackson County in May 2017.
“We had [two] shootings that happened, same suspect, two victims about five minutes apart,” he said. “The incident was in Sand Gap, and I live in the city of McKee, so I’m 15 or 16 miles away. I was the closest officer by a longshot.”
In order to respond to calls, the police department has to be well equipped. Sizemore said MPD has the equipment, but given the mountainous terrain of the eastern Kentucky city, an SUV would help.
To that end, Sizemore and McKee Mayor John Tompkins are working on a United States Department of Agriculture grant for a Ford Explorer.
“The Dodge Charger is a great car, but it’s best to run up and down the interstate,” Sizemore said. “When I can wash it in my front yard and it gets stuck because the grass is wet … it is not made for this area.”
Everyone Knows the Chief
“I have a good relationship with the community,” Sizemore said. “I walk into the store and everybody knows me. They ask about my kids and my girlfriend.”
However, being in a small community, many people take advantage and sometimes show up at Sizemore’s doorstep, unannounced.
“When I’m working and I’m out in the community, I embrace [being known by everyone],” he said. “At 9 in the morning, when someone comes knocking on my door because I arrested them the night before, I don’t necessarily embrace that. It’s only happened two or three times. Or, I’ll have someone who will come up to my house and tell me, ‘Someone stole my Lortabs last night, so I need a report.’ First of all, we’re not going to do a report [at my house], and second of all, don’t come to my house; call dispatch.”
Sizemore said he tries to keep a professional distance when it comes to his private life. However, having a girlfriend from McKee can make him figuratively beat his head against the wall when people show up at his house.
“There are some people who I would be upset with for stopping by my house unannounced, because I don’t want them around my kids. I know the type of people they are and what they do,” he said. “But she’s like, ‘How’s your momma doing?’ and I’m like, ‘Can we get the drug dealer out of my house, please?’”
That is life for a one-person law enforcement agency, Sizemore said.
“I can honestly tell you I never had that happen to me when I lived in Lexington,” Sizemore said. “It is different.”