AMARILLO, Texas — I love arriving somewhere and then getting a dose of good news.
It happened today when my wife and I pulled our recreational vehicle into its parking space on the western edge of Amarillo. My cellphone email server dinged at me; I looked at the message.
Amarillo’s new chief of police is a cop who’s been on the city’s force for decades: Martin Birkenfeld is the new chief. I could not be happier to share this news.
He had served as assistant chief under the tenure of former Chief Ed Drain. Birkenfeld has performed practically every duty a police officer can perform during his 30 years with the Amarillo PD. The Amarillo native now gets to command a police force that has been through some significant change, dating back to the time the late Jerry Neal took over a department in disarray and disorganization in the early 1980s.
Neal retired after lifting the department up by its boots and instituting a series of progressive reforms.
The city hired Robert Taylor to succeed him. Then Taylor retired after a less-stellar time at the helm. Then came Ed Drain, who was hired initially as interim chief while he was on the payroll at the Plano Police Department. Then he became the permanent chief. Drain did a good job while he was on the job, but “permanent” chief took on a different meaning when the Plano chief’s job opened up and Drain got hired to become his former PD’s new chief.
Now it’s Martin Birkenfeld’s turn to lead the department. Perhaps it could be understood that Drain would be a short-timer, given his apparent loyalty to another department. I don’t begrudge him for leaving Amarillo.
My hope for the city is that Birkenfeld, who I got to know well while serving in the Rotary Club of Amarillo with him, will stay on for the duration of his stellar law enforcement career.
I refer to Birkenfeld as “Officer Friendly.” He smiles when he hears it. He is much more than that now. He’s the top cop and I am supremely confident he will be up to the big job he is about to assume.