Thomson Police Chief Anson Evans has now been on the job for two months. So, what does he see about the community now and where is he planning to lead the department?
When Evans interviewed with the city council, he arrived with a plan based on research he had done as an outsider. He delivered his strategic plan.
The chief said he plans to “stick to his strategic plan” and see if it “fits” what he is trying to achieve. However, he will adapt and adjust the plan as he moves.
“Most of the times it is kind of spot on because when you look at things as an outsider and you do all the research on everything, then you get a different perspective [than] if you are on the inside. Sometimes you get blinded by things you do on a daily basis, ” he said.
He still keeps that original plan nearby in his office, yet it is internalized to memory.
“I point blank said this was a millennial majority community that is desiring commercial and economic development, diversification, transparency, and inclusion and an improved quality of life through crime reduction in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods while attempting to maintain a small town tranquility and historical perspective,” Evans said.
What Evans sees is the need for the creation of more sense of community and pride of community. He said that many of the individuals he has met live in rental properties and that can impact on whether they take pride and ownership in the neighborhood.
“In some of the areas I have been in, some of them have no sense of ownership,” the chief said. “And that has to be something that we try to change because it’s not about ownership sometimes. It’s about what belongs to you and what type of environment that you want to be in and raise your kids in.”
“And the values of having that thought in mind is what is missing in some of the communities here,” Evans added.
He said that attitude sometimes is lacking in areas where children are running around with no sense of authority.
Evans acknowledges that Thomson takes great pride in football, but he wants the people to have that same sense of pride about their neighborhoods.
“Some of them are trying to get that back. I spoke with a lot of residents here who want that. They like coming home and having piece of mind and not worrying about shootings and everything else going on around them,” Evans said.
“So we have to give that back to them. It starts here at the police department.”
As chief, one of the first things he wants is for his officers to have visibility. He wants windows rolled down, officers out engaging the public, and not being separated by staying in their patrol car. He wants them immersed in the community and its neighborhoods.
“Like I tell these guys, roll your windows down. Start listening and seeing what’s going on in the neighborhoods when you ride through them. And, you need to ride through the neighborhoods on a regular basis especially when you know there are problems there.”
The chief admits that some officers in the past, during manpower shortages, felt like they did not have backup.
“You’ve got to get out and start talking to people. Once you build your rapport in that community and you start feeling safe in that community yourself then other people also, that you are trying to take care of, will feel safe,” he said.
He wants officers to have a vested interest in Thomson. As the department grows, he wants to recruit the proper individuals to begin a career in law enforcement in their hometown.
“I want to bring in a lot of officers that are from here,” he said. “You want to bring in the right people. This job is not for everybody, you have to find the right fit.”
The city council has approved three officers for this year — an officer, a sergeant, and an assistant chief. Evans has requested five more next year, and four the year after that.
When he can get staffing increased, he plans to divide the city into 10 beats, or communities. Although officers may patrol throughout the town, each will be responsible for building relationships with residents in an assigned beat.
What changes moving forward is that now Thomson will hire a recruit, pay them while they attend the police academy, then the officer has a two-year employment obligation to the department.
Past that, he wants them to pursue college degrees in their profession. Academic degrees specific to the job will be prerequisites for promotions within the department.
“You should know your craft, you are a professional. And you know your jobs and you are an expert in your field, so you need to go to school for it,” he said.
“All the education and training that you have reduces liability on the city, reduces liability on myself, and reduces liability on you the officer because you are a smart person.”
And as the department continues to engage the community, Evans will harness social media — now Twitter and soon Facebook.
Online and in other matters, the chief wants the department to maintain transparency.
“As a department, we should never be hiding anything from the public.”