Rosepine police chief: ‘I love this town, I love protecting it’

Police Chief Delbert Keel will tell you he has been a member of his community’s law enforcement for as long as he can remember, and it is a statement he makes proudly.

Keel was born and raised in Rosepine. It is where his children were raised, and it is where his grandchildren are now being raised. His grandparents still live in their family home, and it’s a community where neighbors know each other by first names.

Keel said it’s a community he prides himself on serving, and hopes to continue serving for as long as he can.

“I am very hands-on with cases here because it’s very personal to me. I love this town and I love protecting it and the people who live here,” Keel said.

Keel began his law enforcement career as a volunteer reserve officer at the Rosepine Police Department in 1975. For the rest of his life, he dedicated his time to the police department and he moved up through the ranks as he did so.

In 2015, Police Chief Dennis Parrot resigned from his position amid charges of malfeasance in office. Assistant Police Chief Andre Westlake was appointed as interim police chief by the town council and that fall, Keel decided to put his name on the ballot for election.

He won with 59 percent of the votes and went on to serve the remaining two years of Parrot’s term.

In 2018, Keel was elected to his first full term as police chief. Westlake continues to serve by his side as assistant chief of police.

“I take a lot of pride in this position; it means a lot to me to serve as chief. I have always said that my door is open, and it still is. I have always wanted people in the community to feel comfortable coming to me when they have concerns, and I like to think that they are. Rosepine is just as special to me as everyone else here, and because of that I take this job very personally,” Keel said.

Since taking office, Keel has worked to serve the community that he loves. He has continued a strong community-policing effort and has started a program where officers on duty perform check-ins on the community’s senior citizens.

Despite its small size, the town has found its way into headlines over recent years — with the most disturbing of those involving crimes against children.

Keel said those are the cases he is most passionate about ending.

“Those cases are the really hard ones. Because we are a small, tight-knit community, the officers here and myself have personally known the faces and names of the children involved and that makes it so much harder to handle when you see what has been going on. Those cases stick with you,” he said.

Protecting the youth in the community is a strong passion for Keel, and he said he is using that passion to help protect the futures of older children, as well. This month, he will be working with local school officials to bring a mock DWI accident event to Rosepine High School for the first time ever.

“It’s all about protecting these kids’ futures. We have seen great responses from these events at other schools that made me believe it was worth bringing to our school, and I hope that we can save lives by doing so,” Keel said.

Keel is also looking to build up his police force to better serve Rosepine. As of now, the city has two full-time police officers and two part-time officers, as well as four reserve officers. Keel said he hopes to add at least one more officer to assist with daytime shifts.

“It’s all about recruiting the right people, and we are looking for good post-certified individuals with experience that can be a benefit to our force,” he said.

Anyone hired would be welcomed into a workplace just as close and tight-knit as the community in which it serves. Keel said he holds the highest regard for the officers who work under him, and credits them with his success.

“I have been working with most of the officers here for several years now and we all work together to make an incredible team. I have a great staff and a secretary who is my right arm, and without any of them I wouldn’t be able to do this job. I’m incredibly grateful to them all,” Keel said.

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