Tag Archives: community policing

Memo to manager: Next chief should endorse community policing

Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller has a huge hiring decision to make soon. He needs to find someone to succeed Ed Drain as chief of the city’s police department.

Miller isn’t going to ask me for my advice, but I am going to give him just a bit of it here in brief form.

Mr. Manager, be sure the next top cop endorses community policing as a way to maintain the city’s relationship with the neighborhoods its officers swear to protect and defend.

Drain has been named the police chief of Plano, Texas, a burgeoning Dallas suburb. He went to Amarillo after serving for more than two decades with the Plano Police Department; he rose to the level of assistant chief.

Drain’s hiring in Amarillo was arguably the sole shining moment of former interim City Manager Terry Childers’ stormy tenure at City Hall. Childers took a hike and the city hired Miller from his city manager’s post in San Marcos.

Drain, meanwhile, reinstituted the community policing program that former Police Chief Robert Taylor let grow fallow during his years as the city’s top cop. I believe that was a regrettable policy decision on Taylor’s part, given the many miles the department had come under the leadership of his immediate predecessor, the late Police Chief Jerry Neal.

Community policing puts officers’ boots on the ground in the neighborhoods they patrol. They develop interpersonal relationships with residents. The policy is designed to build trust between law enforcement officers and the community … thus, the term “community policing.”

Drain has vowed to maintain the policy in Plano. As for Amarillo, I believe it is vital that it remain in force in that city.

I don’t know how Miller is going to conduct a search for a new police chief. He has some fine senior officers on staff already in the Amarillo PD. I actually have a favorite, if he’s willing to be considered for the post.

If Miller goes outside the department and looks far and wide, it would be my hope — no matter what he decides to do — that he insist that the next Amarillo police chief be as dedicated to community policing as Ed Drain was during his brief tenure there.

The policy works.

This top cop seeks to downplay the history he is making

There seemed to be a certain inevitability to the course that Ed Drain’s professional journey would take him.

He served as assistant chief of police in Plano, Texas, working in the Dallas suburban community for 22 years. Then he got a call about three years ago from Amarillo’s interim city manager, who asked him to come to the Panhandle to serve as the city’s interim police chief; Drain accepted the post.

Then he got hired as the Amarillo’s permanent chief of police.

Only that the term “permanent” is a relative term. Drain is coming back to Plano, this time as the city’s top law enforcement officer. Plano hired him as its first African-American police chief, a designation that doesn’t seem to phase Ed Drain one little bit.

This man’s skin color means nothing to the way he will approach his job, yet Dallas-Fort Worth media have been making a bit of hay over Plano’s decision to bring Ed Drain back to where he spent a lot of time protecting and serving the community. Indeed, I don’t recall the Amarillo media making quite as much noise about Drain’s racial background when he took over as police chief there.

I don’t know Drain well. He and I have spoken over the years. He arrived in Amarillo after I had left my post with the newspaper there. We belonged to the same Rotary Club. We would chat on occasion and I would thank him for the job he was doing as Amarillo chief of police.

He brought back community policing, elevating officers’ profile in the neighborhoods they served. Drain said upon his hiring as Plano’s police chief that he intends to follow that policy at his new job as well. Good call, chief.

Ed Drain is a good man and I am confident he will serve his new constituents in Plano well.

I know this is clichĂ©, but Amarillo’s loss clearly is Plano’s gain.

Community policing to the rescue!

Do you doubt the effectiveness of a law enforcement agency building relationships with the community its officers swear to “serve and protect”?

Check out the story that broke today in Fort Worth.

An 8-year-old girl was snatched from her mother’s arms. The abductor fled with the girl to a motel in the city. A neighbor’s door-bell camera managed to capture part of the incident. The neighbor phoned police while the mother was screaming in the street for her little girl. The police arrived and with the help of the neighbor and others in the area, they managed to locate the fellow who grabbed the girl; they arrested him and he now is in custody.

I watched the report of the story this morning on the news and was so pleased to hear the Fort Worth chief of police heap praise on the citizens who stepped up to assist the cops in the finding the suspect in the abduction.

Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald spoke also of the community policing effort his department has employed to help the police department build effective relationships with neighborhoods throughout the diverse, sprawling and rapidly growing city.

The chief made certain this morning to praise the efforts of the residents who came to the little girl’s rescue.

I have lived in communities that have placed great emphasis on community policing. Amarillo is one of them.

The late Chief Jerry Neal helped push the concept forward during his lengthy tenure as Amarillo’s top cop. Community policing withered away during the time Robert Taylor served as chief. Then-interim city manager Terry Childers made arguably his only sound hiring decision when he brought Deputy Plano Police Chief Ed Drain to serve as “interim” chief of the Amarillo PD; Drain later was promoted to permanent chief and has restored community policing’s place near the top of his policy agenda.

Police policy is among the many things about which I know very little. However, I know a sound policing police policy when I see it. Community policing works.

The little girl who had the scare of her life — not to mention her desperate mother — are testimonies to the effectiveness of community policing.

‘Policing with empathy’

The dictionary defines empathy this way: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I knew the rough definition of the word when I noticed this morning this police car parked on the edges of a children’s festival in Fairview, Texas, where my wife and I had taken our granddaughter, Emma.

My first thought was that “Policing with Empathy” is one of the more unique law enforcement slogans I had seen. The usual fare declares PDs’ intent to “protect and serve.” Some of them in Texas have appropriated the phrase found on our currency: In God We Trust.

So, nosey guy that I am, I waited for the officer who belonged to the police cruiser toreturn to her vehicle. I approached her and asked her about the slogan, specifically, “What does it mean?”

Her initial answer was a bit vague. “We already have established that we trust in God,” she said, “so we now say we have empathy when we’re on duty.”

OK, I said … but what does it mean to “police with empathy”? I mentioned to the young officer that empathy suggests that one has an understanding of what someone else is going through, perhaps because they’ve experienced it, too.

She agreed. It’s a form of “community policing,” she said.

Fairview PD serves a Collin County community of more than 8,000 residents. Judging from all the hardware the officer this morning was wearing, my hunch is that the police department is well-equipped to handle any kind of call that officers must answer.

“We don’t want to approach a situation” where the officer instantly throws someone to the pavement, she said. “The chief knows what kind of officer he wants to hire,” she said.

Oh, the chief? He is Granver Tolliver, who — according to the Fairview website — brings more than 30 years of policing experience to his job. I will presume that with three decades of service under his belt, Chief Tolliver has damn near seen it all.

So, I got yet another education on the nuances of community policing. I am a big fan of the policy. I have seen how it works and my sense is that police departments that build relationships with the community they serve are better able to protect them when the need arises.

It helps, too, for officers to have empathy with those they serve.

Chief Drain: first-class hire for Amarillo

Terry Childers’s name pretty much is mud around Amarillo, Texas.

The one-time interim city manager came aboard after Jarrett Atkinson quit — and then “distinguished” himself by getting into a major-league snit with the city’s emergency response program in a case that became known as “Briefcasegate.” Childers misplaced his briefcase at a local hotel and then berated a dispatcher for not acting — in Childers’s mind — quickly enough to resolve his issue.

Childers lasted a year on the job, then quit — after calling a constituent a “dumb son of a b****” — and high-tailed it back to Oklahoma City.

But he did make a significant hiring decision while he was here. He hired Ed Drain as the city’s chief of police; Drain was hired initially as a temporary chief, then got the permanent job.

I want to salute Childers’s decision to bring Chief Drain to Amarillo, hiring him the Plano Police Department, where he served as deputy chief.

Why the salute? Because the chief is reinvigorating an important police program that was allowed to go fallow during his immediate predecessor’s time as the city’s top cop. Chief Robert Taylor didn’t think much of “community policing.” He let it go.

Chief Drain thinks differently. He is bringing it back. To his great credit. What’s more, community policing carries great potential for increasing the APD visibility in high-crime neighborhoods while building good relations between beat officers and the citizens they take an oath to “protect and serve.”

Community policing is aimed at exposing officers to residents on an interpersonal level. Officers work with community organizations, seeking to build relationships that build trust. And better trust creates an environment for residents to be more vigilant and to report to police when they suspect someone is doing something illegal in their neighborhood.

Former Police Chief Jerry Neal moved the community policing concept forward. His successor, Taylor, had a different view; Taylor didn’t do a bad job as chief, but I wish he had maintained a program that Neal had started.

This is my way of wishing the current chief, Ed Drain, well as he reinvigorates a progressive policing environment in Amarillo.

APD returns to community policing

Terry Childers didn’t exactly distinguish himself during the year or so he served as Amarillo’s interim city manager.

Childers did, however, make one stellar personnel decision in 2016: hiring Ed Drain — an assistant police chief in Plano — as the interim chief of police when Robert Taylor retired as Amarillo’s top cop. Then he took the next step when he named Drain as the city’s permanent police chief. Not long after that, Childers quit and returned to Oklahoma City.

Drain, meanwhile, has distinguished himself in his few months on the job in Amarillo. Mayor Ginger Nelson brought out some key points regarding Drain’s tenure in her State of the City speech, noting some improvements that I want to look at briefly in this blog post.

One of them involves the return of community policing.

Former Police Chief Jerry Neal introduced to the city the notion of police officers making themselves more visible in the neighborhoods they patrol. He deployed bicycle patrols and instructed officers to engage in greater outreach to the communities they serve.

Then Neal retired. Taylor assumed command. Community policing disappeared. Then Taylor retired. In came Drain. Community policing has made a return.

As Nelson said Tuesday morning, the police department has instituted community policing programs in five neighborhoods. The program includes police substations where officers are able to do paperwork and perform other duties required of them.

The city has transformed the old North Heights YMCA into a community center now called the Charles Warford Center. It will include a police presence and will, according to Nelson, “provide a safe place for neighborhood children.”

It’s interesting to me that all this has occurred during Chief Drain’s time as head of the Amarillo Police Department.

I happen to be a big fan of community policing. It has worked in cities all across the nation. It puts police officers in more direct contact with the neighborhoods they serve. It helps remove the Us vs. The Man stigma that occasionally infects police relationships with the communities they serve.

Crime statistics suggest the city has work to do, according to Nelson, who said Tuesday that she intends to remove Amarillo from the list of “most dangerous cities in Texas.” She intends to make Amarillo known as one of the state’s “safest cities.”

I believe the mayor has a tremendous resource at her disposal in the form of Police Chief Ed Drain.

Top cops bristle at POTUS’s call for rough treatment

I haven’t talked to Amarillo Police Chief Ed Drain about this subject, but my hunch is that he likely has joined other chiefs of police in their opposition to a law enforcement policy pronouncement by the president of the United States.

Donald John Trump Sr. has suggested that police officers need not worry about being “too nice” with individuals they arrest. Police have been fighting a serious public-relations battle in recent years caused by the actions of some officers who’ve been accused of brutality against the citizens they are sworn to “protect and serve.”

That doesn’t bother Trump, or so it would seem. His remarks in New York this past week suggest that it’s OK with him if cops decide to rough criminal suspects up. Police chiefs sought to put immediate distance between themselves and the president.

As the Washington Post reported: “Some police leaders worried that three sentences uttered by the president during a Long Island, N.Y., speech could upend nearly three decades of fence-mending since the 1991 Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King ushered in an era of distrust of police.

“’It’s the wrong message,’ Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told Washington radio station WTOP while speaking of the trust-building work that departments have undertaken since King’s beating. ‘The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force.’”

Let’s circle back to Amarillo’s police department for a moment. Drain took command of the department a few months ago and immediately announced plans to reactivate the PD’s community policing policy, which encourages greater interpersonal contact between officers and the communities they patrol.

That kind of policy doesn’t lend itself to the sort of rough-stuff rhetoric the president espoused.

I’m going to stick with the cops on this one. They have a tough enough fight on their hands trying to maintain the trust of the communities they serve. The president’s message — if acted upon — makes the police mission virtually impossible.

Police risk their lives daily … if not hourly

I had a chance this week to renew an acquaintance with a member of Amarillo’s police department. He’s now a captain, but when I first met him more then a decade ago he was employed as an officer on bike patrol. He rode a bicycle around high-crime neighborhoods as part of the city ‘s community policing effort.

I won’t tell you his name, because he doesn’t know I’m writing this blog.

The young man had some nice things to say to me about the work I did back in The Day, when I wrote for the Amarillo Globe-News.

But I want to take a moment here to restate what I’ve noted already, which is that police officers have no greater fan or friend than yours truly.

My very first full-time reporting job was back in Oregon, at the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, which was a small-town afternoon daily newspaper that published five issues each week, Monday through Friday. I would start my day before the sun rose visiting police department dispatchers, collecting information about the calls that came over the past 24 hours. I would look for possible news stories to report on for that day’s paper.

I developed good relationships over the years with cops, with chiefs of police, county sheriffs and dispatchers. I came to understand early about the dangers these folks face every time they report for work. One sheriff scolded me once for writing the words “routine traffic stop,” and he informed me that “there ain’t no such thing as a ‘routine stop.'” I got it.

Did I encounter some bad actors along the way? You bet. One sheriff’s deputy in Oregon City was caught stealing drugs from the evidence property room. A sheriff I knew — also in Oregon City — got entangled in a controversy involving arms deals in southern Africa. One officer in Amarillo detested me because I wrote editorials critical of the police association’s efforts to get a dramatic increase in pay.

But the vast majority of officers and their bosses did their jobs well, with dedication and with honor.

I was given a bit of an up-close look at police operations as a member of the Citizens Police Academy. I had written a column that was mildly critical of something I witnessed involving a police officer. The young captain I saw this week reminded me of that column and of the time we first met while I was attending those academy classes. One of the senior officers at APD read my column, then called me out, telling me in effect that I needed to get a more detailed look at police work. He invited to apply for the Citizens Police Academy; I did and got accepted.

Yes, I read news stories about police officers acting unprofessionally. I understand fully the anger among some communities about cops who harass citizens needlessly, or who demonstrate racial or ethnic bias against citizens. Many of these incidents end tragically and I generally am sympathetic with those who call for reforms within various departments.

However, my support for police remains resolute. My admiration for those who do their jobs well is as strong as ever. I’ve had the pleasure and the honor of knowing many of them over many years in journalism and, yes, I understand the inherent tension between cops and the media.

My professional experience with police in my chosen career has loaded with many pleasant memories of what I’ve witnessed. They have earned my undying respect.

Welcome back, APD bike patrols

drain

Amarillo’s interim leadership command includes a policeman with a keen working knowledge of the city’s needs.

Accordingly, interim Police Chief Ed Drain has revealed a plan to bring back an element in the city ‘s policing strategy that I’m quite sure will be welcomed in the neighborhoods that need it.

Bicycle patrols are returning, Drain recently told the Rotary Club of Amarillo.

To which I say, “You go, chief!”

Drain is on loan from the Plano Police Department. He was brought in by interim City Manager Terry Childers to lead the Amarillo Police Department temporarily while the city looks for a permanent chief to succeed Robert Taylor, who recently retired and hit the road on his Harley.

Taylor suspended the bike patrols some years back, apparently believing the city could do just as good a job with cops in cars as they could with them on bikes.

The city, though, apparently had received numerous requests from constituents to return the bike patrols. They had been a staple in many neighborhoods, such as San Jacinto and North Heights.

They are part of the city’s community policing outreach, putting the officers in more direct contact with residents who get to know the officers more as men and women, rather than just simply as people carrying guns, cuffs and clubs.

Community police strategy seeks to build trust between police officers and residents, which — if you’re aware of what’s been in the news a good bit lately — has been lacking in many communities across the nation.

I am heartened to hear that Amarillo PD is seeking to stay ahead of that potentially dangerous curve.

Amarillo PD might be seeing some change, too

amarillo-police-car-2-300x224

A fascinating era is about to end at the Amarillo Police Department.

A longtime Amarillo cop, Police Chief Robert Taylor, is about to retire. He says he’ll climb aboard his Harley and hit the road with his wife. I wish him well and thank him for his service to the community.

Taylor spent 30-plus years vowing to protect and serve the residents of the city and he did it well.

We’ve got a new top cop in town: Ed Drain, a deputy chief with the Plano Police Department, who’s come aboard to serve as interim chief.

Are there more changes afoot for the PD? Maybe.

The city has enacting a series of action plans that likely will involve some administrative changes and strategies the police department employs to enforce the laws.

I’d like to offer one idea for the men and women in blue to consider: bring back the bicycle patrols.

Officers used to patrol many neighborhoods on bikes. The effort was aimed at instilling the principle of “community policing,” allowing officers more personal contact with the residents they serve. It allowed them to build relationships in the neighborhoods they were assigned to protect.

I’ve always rather liked the idea of emphasizing community policing as a concept that builds bridges between the police and those they serve.w

The bike patrols ended during Taylor’s time as chief of police.

I’ve spoken over the years to some of my friends within the department about the bike patrols. They contend that while the patrols worked well, the PD is continuing its outreach with patrols involving police cruisers.

I get it. But the idea is now out there.

My police friends now how much I admire and respect them for the work they do. I’ve had the privilege of attending the Citizens Police Academy that the department puts on every year; its aim is to acquaint laypeople with many of the different aspects of police work and to give residents a tiny taste of what it takes to become a police officer.

Yes, it’s a public-relations tool intended to strength police-community relationships. It also is a worthwhile effort to give residents a peek into the rigors of what can be very dangerous and life-threatening work.

The new police chief is going to take over a police department in good condition, just as it was in good condition when Chief Taylor took over from Jerry Neal.

The city has been embarking on a lot of change lately. I’m all for it … but only if it’s necessary.

There. You’ve got one idea for change to ponder.

Keep up the great work, ladies and gentlemen of law enforcement.

Thanks again for your service to the community.