Canton names new police chief after Jorelys Rivera controversy



Canton, Ga. - The city of Canton has a new police chief, months after the former top cop resigned amid controversy over how his department handled the search for a missing girl.

Former Altamone Springs Florida Police Chief Robert Merchant has been named as Canton police chief.

Merchant was introduced at a news conference Monday morning. His hiring comes five months after 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera disappeared from a Canton apartment complex.

A maintenance man later pleaded guilty to her murder. But former police chief Jeff Lance took a lot of heat for how the initial search for Jorelys was handled, including a lack of leadership.

An independent audit confirmed complaints made by other agency leaders who showed up to help. Lance eventually resigned and the department put new policies in place. Merchant said he’s read that report.

“What stands out to me is to make sure that we as a police department have acted on the recommendations that he has made within it,” Merchant said.  “Some of them dealt with policy revisions, some of them dealt with training, where are we as far as progress in those areas?"

City leaders said Merchant’s application was one of 43 the city got for the job, including deputy chief Todd Vande Zande, who had been serving as the interim chief while city leaders conducted their search.

Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant spoke to Merchant at the news conference. Watch Channel 2 Action News at 4 on his plans to restore the department’s reputation in the community.