I sat down with Chief Hill for an interview recently. I was able to ask him about his retirement and more.
Mike – What is happening?
Chief Hill -
Thursday, prior to the elections, my wife and I had been talking about it and it has been a long difficult decision making task. We finally made a decision that I was going to retire this week.
So I turned in my paper work to Terri Thursday and basically retired from TMRS. I have a really good retirement gig lined up. I am going to be working with the Southlake police department as a school resource officer for the school district. Actually I am being assigned to the same grade level as my daughter so I have a lot to relate to them and I think it will be a fun job. What is interesting is as a retirement job is I still want to be in law enforcement and I still want to do a lot of things for law enforcement but I also want to spend time with my family. That was the major cause of this was to be able to spend more time with my daughter and family.
So this was actually why I lined up this retirement I will be basically working like the teachers. I’ll be off on holidays and summers. So when my daughter will be off I will be off and that will be great. That was the most important influence in this decision. Not taking away anything about Italy.
I can leave with my head held high. Because I feel like we have been able to accomplish so much stuff here. And there is a lot more to go but I feel like we have been able to deal with the foundation of officers, supervisors and employees for that department that will carry on our tradition of maintaining a very professional department and that will be very effective for the citizens. I feel good about what I have done here but when I first came here three years ago and walked through that door there were a lot of issues. We had broken relationship with the community through previous administrations that just let things go and go until it got worse. There was no accountability for the officers, there was no training program. Matter of fact no office even had a policy book which is very unusual for these days even for smaller regions. So the first thing I wanted to do to get to a professional department is start building on those basic foundations. Training, accountability, through policies and procedures and supervision. Those were the things I wanted to work on.
I can see in these three years we have been able to improve in those areas. We have also brought us back to the 21st century with the use of technology. We have gotten computers through a grant. We were able to get a computer in every car without cost to the city. We have now integrated into a new record management system. The officers are able to run people, vehicles and do reports in their cars without having to go through dispatch. It is an officer safety issue and it is also an efficiency issue.
We have also created a Facebook page. We have almost three hundred followers now. I am proud of that because that is almost a third of our city. We can get information out quickly to the public. We wanted to bring up safety issues and we wanted to make sure to show the things the department is doing to improve for the citizens and to let them know we are not being stagnant. Everyday we are trying to improve ourselves. I have improved across the board in training all the way from field training. Before I was here officers were lucky to get 2-3 weeks of training in field training. That is not good. That does not develop an officer into the kind of officer we want on the street. So we put together a new field training program that there is a requirement no matter how much field experience this officer had they cannot be graduated from the field training program without at least six weeks, and that is the bare minimum. Officers that have no training will go through the full 16 weeks program. I wanted to make sure they had a broad knowledge of our police department from A to Z. So they know when they graduate from field training they will know they can conduct business the way we want them to.""
Mike – What do you think some of the challenges moving forward?
There are definitely some challenges. One of the things I feel we need to do, I wanted to get the department to a two officer shift to even heighten the safety of the citizens and for the officers as well. One of the things we did, we got enough officers to at least have 24 hour coverage. When I first got there we did not even have that. There were some times late at night there wouldn’t be anyone on shift. So we were able to get to the 24 hour and my goal was to get us to a two man minimum per shift. Every shift would have two officers. What that does is help the officers out. The majority of calls the officers go to are two man calls. Disturbances, suspicious persons and so forth. Right now when we don’t have two men we rely on men from Ellis County or sometimes Milford PD will back us up. They could be anywhere from 5 to 10 or maybe even more minutes away. Milford is not a 24 hour department so there might be times on mid-nights an officer may be stopping a car and there might be some concerns of the occupants of the cars that they would need backup for but our only backup is Ellis County and they could be on the north part of the county a long ways away. That is a concern for us. So that is one of the things I wanted to get improved on while I was here. Sargent Martin has been a great supervisor. He has respect for all the officers and citizens and he understands the direction we want to take.
Mike – Sergeant Martin is going to take over as interim chief?
We are going to put that on the City Council Agenda. And make it official but that is my recommendation for the city. So there is a smooth transition of authority.
Mike – When ever we heard you were leaving, the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is, is it because of the new city council elections? And are you worried about the new councilmen coming into the council? Did that effect your decision at all?
Absolutely not. I put in my retirement prior to the elections anyway on the Thursday before it. First of all, that should tell you no this decision did not come because of that. And I have said since day one to all of my officers, my employees, to the city administrator and to everyone that our jobs as police officers is to keep the city safe cannot and will not be effected by the political atmosphere. We have a job to do no matter what. It doesn’t matter who is sitting up there on the city council. I don’t have trouble with anyone that is on the city council and I have had this conversation with Sargent Martin as well and he understands that and believes that as well and all my officers do. It should not matter who is sitting up there or what is going on in the political arena of the city. We have a job to do and it is simple, the law gives us our guidelines, it tells us what we should do and what we should not do. We have a set of city ordinances that were passed by previous council members that we must abide by and enforce without regard to anything else. We have state laws and guidelines that we have to make sure we are following. And we have rules and regulations that we have to follow so those are the things that guide us in our everyday operations not the city council.
Mike – Do you have a message you would like to send out to the city?
Basically this, I have made a tremendous amount of friends through what I have done here in Italy. I have had a lot of people over the years that have came to me and mentioned how well things have changed to the better in this community and I feel proud about that. I feel proud for my officers that have been able to accomplish that. They are on the line everyday, they are the ones who make the difference. And I really do appreciate everything my officers have done to make this happen. It all pretty much comes down to the last city council meeting we had on the presentation of being a recognized agency. If you really see that, we are one of the first agencies in the state of Texas to be recognized and one of the smallest agencies in Texas. As a matter of fact, I had a chief of police from another agency in the state of Texas come to my office the other day that wanted to know how we did it. So we are an example for other small agencies and I am proud of that and I am proud of the officers for what they do on a daily basis. We have gained a lot of respect from other agencies in the county,. The Sherifs department-he was there at the presentation and has been nothing but supportive of our agency. The district attorney’s office has been very supportive and appreciative of our accomplishments and has been right there behind us.