Tag Archives: Ed Drain

Amarillo’s new police chief: a winner!

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.

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 cliché, but Amarillo’s loss clearly is Plano’s gain.

Amarillo PD chief about to come back home?

This must be said about a man whose name otherwise will live in infamy in the annals of Amarillo municipal government.

The one hire that former interim City Manager Terry Childers made that qualifies as a home run was when he brought Ed Drain in to become chief of police in Amarillo, Texas. Childers eventually resigned in disgrace after popping off publicly about a constituent and making an a** of himself over a misplaced briefcase at a local hotel and a run-in he had with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

As for Drain, he returned the concept of “community policing” to the city. He instituted progressive police policies. Drain became a presence in the community.

Well, now he’s coming back home to Plano, or so it’s being reported. The Plano Police Department announced today that Drain is its sole finalist for the chief’s job; he had served as deputy police chief when Childers lured him to the Panhandle. Drain says his hiring isn’t a done deal. Well, OK, chief. Whatever you say.

Drain said he has to undergo the requisite background check and the Plano City Council must sign off on a hiring decision.

I’ll just offer an opinion that when a city as substantial as Plano names a lone finalist for a key administrative position, then it looks like a done deal to me.

Whoever becomes the next Amarillo police chief, whenever that occurs, must continue the community policing program that Chief Drain brought back after he succeeded former Chief Robert Taylor.

As for Drain’s apparently pending return to the Metroplex, I am certain he will do a stellar job for a department with which he is intimately familiar.

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.

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.

Response times in APD chief’s sights


Amarillo Police Chief Ed Drain is a commanding individual.

As someone told me the other day, you know when Chief Drain walks into a room.

Thus, it is with that context established that Drain is setting out to fix what he believes is a potentially serious problem with the department. Response times need to be reduced, he says, and he plans to implement strategies to accomplish that goal.

Did I mention that he’s a commanding individual?

A study the city commissioned found that response times for APD were roughly double the length of time for other comparably sized departments.

That cannot continue.

Drain, who recently took over as the permanent chief after being appointed to the interim post by interim City Manager Terry Childers, wants to implement other improvements to the department. They involve possibly using more civilian personnel and tweaking the emergency call center operation, which already has undergone some significant overhaul over the past few months.

I’ve already commented favorably on Drain’s decision to re-deploy bicycle patrols in higher-crime neighborhoods, emphasizing community policing techniques that had been abandoned under the tenure of former Chief Robert Taylor, who recently retired.


Yes, the response times need improvement, as the study indicates. Someone in need — or in potential danger — must be able to rely on quick response when the call goes out.

Chief Drain strikes me as someone whose very presence can bring along those under his command to implement the changes he believes he needs to make.

By all means, let’s shorten those response times.

‘Interim’ city manager going to stay?


I cannot shake this feeling that Amarillo’s supposedly “interim” city manager is in it for a longer haul than he or the Amarillo City Council is willing to acknowledge.

Terry Childers announced a big hire the other day when he appointed Ed Drain as the city’s new chief of police. Drain had been brought aboard as “interim police chief” from the Plano Police Department.

Drain took some recommendations offered to make the Amarillo PD a better unit and enacted them. Perhaps the most notable reform has been a re-emphasis on community policing, namely the use of bicycle patrols.

Good deal, yes? Of course it is.

Back to Childers.

The police chief appointment is a major obstacle that the city manager has just cleared. Does he just pack up and leave the administration of the city — and its appointment of the city’s top cop — to someone else? My gut tells me no.

My gut — along with my occasionally reliable trick knee — also tell me that the City Council is quite happy with the way Childers is running the city.

Recall that the city embarked on a city manager search. It collected some resumes from a nationwide job posting. Looked them over — I am going to presume — and then tabled the search.

Am I the only one inclined to think the City Council is decidedly less interested now in looking for someone other than Childers to operate the city’s government machinery?

I’m wrong more than I’m right.

Something, though, tells me that Terry Childers is here to stay a lot longer than he and/or his immediate employers are letting on.