The Tuscaloosa Police Department announced Friday the promotion of two officers to its highest levels of leadership, including the new deputy chief of community policing, a position created under Project Unity, a sweeping initiative announced by Chief Brent Blankley and Mayor Walt Maddox last month. 

In a press release, a TPD spokeswoman said Stephen Rice has been promoted to assistant chief and Severn "Sebo" Sanders will serve as deputy chief of policing.

Both officers have served the city since they joined the department in 1997, and will join Blankley and assistant chief Mitt Tubbs in TPD's upper echelon of leadership staff.

In a statement, Blankley said Rice and Sanders have a diverse skill set that will be instrumental in these positions.

"Together, Chief Rice and Chief Sanders bring years of experience to their new roles," Blankley said. "Both will undoubtedly serve the Tuscaloosa Police Department and the city of Tuscaloosa with honor and professionalism."

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Prior to Friday's promotion, Rice was a captain who voersaw over TPD's Training and Logistics division. He has also served as the department’s bomb squad commander and Special Response Team leader, its helicopter division commander, a patrol lieutenant, assistant evening shift commander, training division and patrol sergeant, commander of the Crime Suppression Unit and an investigator in the Criminal Investigations Division.

Sanders has steps up from the Traffic Division, where he was its first-line supervisor. He
has additionally served as commander of the department's Crime Suppression Unit, as an agent with the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force and a patrol supervisor. He is also the current president of the local Fraternal Order of Police.

Rice replaces Ronnie Dunn, who recently retired after 36 years of service, and will as assistant chief will serve in more of an administrative role, supervising the communications, training, standards and integrity, logistics, police academy, Violent Crimes Unit, municipal security, air patrol, records and code enforcement divisions.

As the deputy chief of community policing, Sanders will collaborate with citizens and local partners to ensure the department provides the best service to all of Tuscaloosa, free of bias or prejudice.

"Both Chief Rice and Chief Sanders are strong leaders in the department and community,” Blankley said. “Their ideas and enthusiasm will serve us all well as we develop innovative ways to reduce crime and protect the people of Tuscaloosa.”