I frequently get asked the question by those seeking a career in law enforcement, “If you had to do it all over again, would you be a police officer?” Parents of high school and college students who are thinking about becoming a police officer often ask me to speak with their children to give guidance or advice. In the past, I have had no problem being an advocate for the profession. “It’s exciting, always different, a way to give back and a great way to serve others” were typically my common statements.
I have been a police officer for more than 28 years. The current climate in the nation is, to say the least, disappointing. Every time you turn on the television or look at social media, the police are the topic, and most are negative stories. Now, there are many reasons for this, and I could place blame in all sorts of directions, but I won’t, because frankly, it doesn’t matter. The truth is, perception is reality and “we” as a profession have to deal with it.
The good news is, in Westfield, we are supported by the community. I can’t think of a day in the past few weeks that we haven’t received a thank-you card in the mail, a handshake or a delivery of food, snacks and goodies to the department. Recently, it’s hard to stop for coffee and not have someone from the community fight you for the bill. It has been overwhelming. Here in Westfield, the community understands that police officers are human. That we are very capable of making mistakes, feeling pain and having bad days. They understand that we are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons and spouses and that we have lives outside of police work. People in Westfield understand that we have a job to do, and even though sometimes not popular, they see the importance of traffic stops and even the occasional citation. Westfield residents recognize that an active, professional police department translates to low crime.
The Westfield Police Dept. embraces a true, community-based policing philosophy, understanding that partnering with the community is the only way to combat crime and solve issues. To do this, we realize that we must build a relationship with those we serve. Our department has focused on outreach programs for the past several years and placed emphasis on stepping away from our patrol cars to conduct foot and bike patrols. I believe a department that is rich in outreach programs and strong in customer service can not only win over a community, but draw strong public support. I also believe that the perception of the community can be strengthened by holding ourselves accountable. We do this in many ways. One way is to reward and acknowledge officers doing a good job and to have a system of progressive discipline in place for those who don’t. Another way is to operate under a set of written directives approved through the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The Westfield Police Dept. was nationally accredited in April of this year.
The 45 officers of the Westfield Police Dept. understand that it is their job to create a safe environment for the people of Westfield to work, live and play. We appreciate the relationships that we have established and greatly appreciate the continued support that we receive each day.
So, when asked the question would I do it all over again? I would respond, “Absolutely, as long as it’s in a city like Westfield.”
Westfield Police Chief