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Retired DEA official chosen as W.Va. police chief

January 29, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A retired high-ranking DEA official has been chosen to head the 12-officer Charles Town Police Department, Mayor Randolph Hilton said Wednesday.

Mike Aldridge, 56, was selected Tuesday night after an extensive search and interview process by a 14-member citizens advisory committee that went to work last October. Hiring a police chief to run the department was one of 33 recommendations made by a recent International Association of Chiefs of Police study.

"I felt I have something to offer the community," Aldridge said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Aldridge will be sworn in as police chief this morning at town hall. He will receive $34,000 a year as police chief, Hilton said.

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The town will not have to pay for his insurance or for a pension plan, both of which he has as a former federal employee, Hilton said.

Aldridge's experience at managing police officers and in narcotics investigations made him an excellent candidate for the job, Hilton said.

"I think we have a lot of talent in our city police department. With Mr. Aldridge's guidance and direction, I feel we'll have a top-notch police department, second to none for a city our size," the mayor said Wednesday.

Aldridge has an extensive background in narcotics enforcement from his years with the Drug Enforcement Agency

From 1985 to 1988, Aldridge was in charge of DEA enforcement operations and administrative functions in Colombia when more than 140 metric tons of cocaine were seized and 13 major traffickers were sent to the U.S. to stand trial.

From 1988 to 1990, he headed international investigations of marijuana and hashish trafficking.

He retired to Jefferson County after 20 years with the DEA and 32 years in law enforcement.

Charles Town officials approached him for the job of police chief in 1995. The Town Council voted 5-3 to hire him for the position, but then-Mayor Rufus Parks vetoed the move.

In 1996, Aldridge ran unsuccessfully for Jefferson County Sheriff.

After the police study was released in September 1996, Hilton formed a committee of residents from all areas of Charles Town to look for a new police chief and to serve as advisors to the police department.

The committee reviewed 37 applicants for the job, narrowed the list further and on Saturday put the final six candidates through role-playing exercises, written exams and interviews, Hilton said.

The committee gave the town council a list of two candidates to interview. The interviews, conducted at the Zion Episcopal Church to assure privacy, led to the unanimous vote by the six Town Council members present to hire Aldridge, Hilton said.

While Charles Town's drug trafficking is not on the same scale, Aldridge's expertise in narcotics investigations was a factor in the decision to hire him, Hilton said.

"We're interested in a zero tolerance for drug activity," Hilton said. "I know that's a lofty goal, but certainly we're going to do everything to reach it. Mr. Aldridge certain fits into that goal."

Aldridge, who said he'll walk the streets in uniform, is looking for a smooth transition. He'll work with Capt. Louis Brunswick, who has managed daily operations at the department since 1990.

Aldridge said he is not expecting to make any sweeping changes immediately.

"There's some good police officers in this department and I'm looking forward to working with them," Aldridge said.

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