New Police Chief Paul Noel calls Knoxville ‘a great city’ but is surprised by magnitude of homeless problem

Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel speaking last night to a gathering in West Knoxville hosted by two City Council members.

Knoxville’s new police chief, Paul Noel, had been on the job just five weeks and two days when he attended a community “meet and greet” gathering last night at All Occasions Party Rentals on Middlebrook Pike. But he seemed totally comfortable in his new hometown.

He told the 40 or so folks gathered there as the guests of Councilmembers Lynne Fugate and Janet Testerman that the biggest surprise for him after moving from New Orleans was the magnitude of the homeless and vagrancy problem here.

He has told his officers to enforce the laws against violators of “public order” — such as urinating in public — but not to immediately enforce the new state “felony homeless law” that makes it punishable by up to six years in prison for people to camp on public property.

“Homelessness is not a crime. It’s a public health issue,” Chief Noel said. “Police play a role. But we are not going to arrest ourselves into a solution. You should call the police if you see someone committing a public order crime.”

I call this photo “church and state!” That’s Father David Boettner, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, with Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon.

Noel said he has been to roughly two community meetings per night since his arrival. At each meeting, he emphasizes his four top priorities: crime, community, culture and career development.

He did not back away from discussing recent disciplinary actions he has taken since arriving here, suspending a captain and firing a lieutenant for their alleged roles in covering up racist remarks and placing on administrative duty two officers arrested for driving under the influence.

“I want to truly improve the culture at the Knoxville Police Department,” he said. “Accountability starts with me. Discipline is a part of what we do.”

Even so, he said he was impressed with the professionalism of the Knoxville Police Department. “This is a very good police department,” he said.

Noting that the department is severely understaffed, he asked those in attendance to send anyone interested in police work to the department. Candidates can be hired as public service officers even before they go through training to be a police officer, he said, adding that he would prefer to hire people from this area.

And he said addressing violent crime will be his top priority.

He noted that “Knoxville is a great city” and said “everybody wants to live here,” mentioning that that is affecting his ability to find a home to purchase. “I spent a lot of time researching this community before I moved my family into this super cold environment,” the Louisiana native joked.

From left, former Vice Mayor Finbarr Saunders, City Council candidate Tim Hill, current City Councilmember Lynne Fugate and Alan Carmichael, a non-politician!

Councilmember Janet Testerman with Knox County Trustee Ed Shouse.

I love china and crystal and lovely place settings. So, I found it great fun to look at all the options on display at All Occasions Party Rentals. Like this autumn-themed table.

From left, Tony Binkley, Tammy White and Helen Harb.

Another stunning fall table setting.

From left, Megan and Grady Vanderhoofven, Terry Turner, owner of All Occasions, and Michele Hummel.

A cute children’s table.

Brian Tapp, left, and Jerry Bodie.

This might have been my favorite table setting.

From left, Knoxville Director of Engineering Harold Cannon, Chief Noel and Carol Evans.

Here’s a beautiful little table.

From left, Michael Covington, Janet Testerman and Mike Parton.

Owen Ragland and City Councilmember Seema Singh.

Tim Hill and Mayor Kincannon.

How about this table setting?

David Butler, left, and Harry Gross.

This table looks soothing.

I love how All Occasions displays their chair options on the wall!

Councilmember Lynne Fugate welcoming everyone. In her non-political life, she is executive director of Girl Scouts Council of the Southern Appalachians.

Councilmember Janet Testerman also is CEO of Young-Williams Animal Center. She currently is running for the District 18 seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Terry Turner making remarks.

Alan Carmichael with Janet Testerman Crossley.

Tim Hill with Chief Noel.

I know the table settings were beautiful and all, but, in this heat wave, this might be the most important thing offered for rent at All Occasions: a “Big Ass Fan!” Ha.


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3 Responses to New Police Chief Paul Noel calls Knoxville ‘a great city’ but is surprised by magnitude of homeless problem

  1. Gay Lyons, on July 21st, 2022 at 7:52 am said:

    I always love looking at the table settings at AOPR. They do a great job with those. Makes me want to throw a party!

  2. Shannon B, on July 24th, 2022 at 8:42 am said:

    “Homelessness is not a crime. It’s a public health issue.”

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