Sherry Knight

Sgt. Sherry Knight will be police major, the department’s third-ranking member of its command staff, beginning in January, Mayor-elect Doug England announced Thursday.

The 12-year veteran of the city force will be in charge of shifts, equipment and vehicles. England said Knight — one of five female officers on a roster of 65 — would be the first woman to join department leadership.

“I can’t think of any better officer with the background to be major,” England said.

Said Knight: “I look forward to the opportunity. I think the department’s been making progress the last several years.”

Knight initiated the Crimes Against Children Unit and is a SWAT negotiator. She downplayed the historical significance of her promotion, though she said she was pleased that “here in the last few years, we’ve had female officers progress in rank.”

Knight’s pregnancy in 2003 sparked debate about instituting a maternity-leave policy, something likely to be included in the department’s next employment contract. Her son Zachary, 4, attended a brief news conference in her honor Thursday.

“I just think that’s going to help officers in the future, not to have to contend with that stress,” Knight said.

Knight will replace Capt. Mike Lawrence, who was promoted to assistant chief — second in command — last week. At that same news conference, England named Sgt. Greg Crabtree the next police chief.

Knight said she hasn’t assessed the state of the police-vehicle fleet and was reluctant to ask Lawrence about the job before England’s announcement. Current department leaders, including Chief Merle Harl, have regularly approached the City Council asking it to buy new cars to replace ones that have worn down.

Since his election, England has announced his command staffs for the Police and Fire Departments and retained Kay Garry as controller, the city’s financial director. Garry served in the position during England’s previous mayoral tenure.

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