PENNINGTON GAP — The fallout from last month’s arrest of Pennington Gap’s police chief continued Monday as the town council turned over administrative control of the department to Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons.
The town council voted unanimously to give Parsons “absolute control of the Pennington Gap Police Department in all aspects on a temporary basis.” Parsons will take over control of the department beginning Nov. 26.
“They came to me and I agreed to take it on a temporary basis until they get back on track,” Parsons said. “Once they hire a new chief I’ll move on.”
“It benefits me to have a good department in the county,” Parsons added. “That helps me and my officers to have a good working relationship between those departments and I hope we can foster that.”
Parsons said he would likely run the department for several months, but he added that no particular amount of time had been set by the town council.
Pennington Gap has been without a police chief since William Bryan Young, 41, of Stickelyville was arrested Oct. 19 on drug distribution, weapons and burglary charges. Young was fired by the Pennington Gap Town Council on Oct. 22.
The council also voted to table a decision regarding a new police chief, but it will continue accepting applications for the position.
Parsons, who has served as Lee County’s sheriff since 1996, said he felt the council’s move would help restore town residents’ confidence in the department.
“Somebody’s got to step in and do it, and the council asked for some assistance here and we’ve offered it with this situation with their chief,” Parsons said. “We’re glad to do it to help out and we have to rebuild the confidence in that department, and that’s what we hope to do with that department’s reputation. We’re going to try to give them some good guidance.”
Parsons said he plans to cut down on the amount of overtime work carried out by town officers, and also change the way the department works by promoting more community policing.
“We’re still going to enforce traffic laws, but I’m going to get more off the main drag and over into the neighborhoods and residential sections patrolling instead of running the main road looking for speeders all the time,” Parsons said. “We’ll still write speeding tickets, but we’re not going to concentrate solely on the main street through town.
“I don’t want Pennington to be known as a speed trap. I want it to be known as a safe community.”
Young has been held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon since he was taken into custody by federal authorities.
Young and three other individuals — including his brother Kevin Andrew Young — were indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 31 for allegedly engaging in drug activity and for their alleged roles in the Sept. 28 burglary of the Rite Aid Pharmacy in Pennington Gap. More than 5,400 prescription pills were reportedly stolen during the break-in.
Young’s arrest stemmed from a two-year investigation conducted by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Southwest Virginia Drug Task Force, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.