News and Tribune


May 21, 2014

MORRIS: Whitlow was always Mr. Cool

— Like the way he used to police the streets of New Albany or deal with media requests, Keith Whitlow never seems to get rattled. He always seems to be in control of the situation. He’s cool without trying to be cool.

But even Whitlow couldn’t slow down father time. Due to a city ordinance, all police officers are forced to retire at age 65. And while Whitlow is still a few months from his 65th birthday — Sept. 2 — he decided to go ahead and step aside. He is still technically on the payroll, but his last official duty as a police officer ended last week. Vacation and other saved days will carry him through until his birthday.

On paper, it looks like Whitlow may struggle being a civilian. He was a military officer before joining the New Albany Police Department 37 years ago. But Whitlow said he won’t have a problem, until he sees someone breaking the law.

“I have some things to do around the house that I have been neglecting,” Whitlow said last week. “It will be different now when I am out and see things. That will be totally different.”

Whitlow won’t have any problems. He seems to be looking forward to spending more time with his wife Theresa and his family, without having to worry about being called out, or being bugged by a reporter for a quick comment.

Whitlow wore a lot of hats at the NAPD and will retire at the rank of captain. He served 24 years as a detective before volunteering to go back out on the streets again in 2011. After the election of Mayor Jeff Gahan, Whitlow served as an assistant chief. He was chief of detectives from 2004 to 2010.

“I appreciate the confidence he [Gahan] had in me,” Whitlow said.

Whitlow said he has enjoyed planning for special events over the past 2 1/2 years in downtown New Albany. He also said being part of former President George W. Bush’s motorcade during his visit to New Albany in 2008 was a special moment. He also worked security for then presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton, both of whom made stops in New Albany.

During his career Whitlow said there were opportunities to go elsewhere, but leaving New Albany was never an option.

“Nothing has been any better than being a police officer in the town I grew up in,” Whitlow said. “I remember as a kid, growing up around 15th and Dewey, police officers used to ride their motorcycles around town and I thought that was pretty neat.”

Whitlow would later become one of those officers, and for 37 years, he wore the badge proudly. He has  tried to pass on some of his experiences to younger officers.

“When I became shift captain [2011] all those guys on the shift except for one could have been my kids,” he said. “I would tell them you have to police New Albany like it is New Albany. It’s not Louisville or Indianapolis. I think we have a good community here and it’s been made safer thanks to the efforts of the police department.”

Whitlow was always easy to deal with, and in this profession that goes a long way. So many times police departments and other government agencies play games, don’t call you back or fail to understand they have a job to keep the public informed. But Whitlow always called me back, or responded to an email request. He may have been limited in what he could say, but he would return a call.

“I never had any problems working with the news media,” he said. “You have to have transparency.”

He also said he enjoyed his near four decades of being a police officer.

“There were ups and downs, but it was very satisfying. I feel good about it and I think the department has a great future,” Whitlow said.

Like so many of his past colleagues and friends, Whitlow’s career with the NAPD has come to an end. A retirement party was held for him recently and while he will remain in the area, many of his days will be spent at his Greenville home instead of the police department.

But while he will no longer wear the uniform, make no mistake about it, Whitlow left his mark on the department and the city. He was a good guy with no agenda, and that is important when a man is wearing a badge and carrying a gun.

“I would like them to know that I was as fair and impartial as I could possibly be,” he said about his legacy. “I was dedicated to the job. That is what I would want people to remember, that I tried to set an example for younger officers to follow.”

From this viewpoint, he did just that.

— Assistant Editor Chris Morris can be reached at or by phone at 812-206-2155. Follow him on Twitter: @NAT_ChrisM

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