By Carol Stark
Carl Francis says his move from the Joplin Police Department to the top spot of a smaller force has given him a whole new perspective on his career.
Francis, the Webb City police chief, says he used to view his role mainly as that of a crime fighter. He’s had an attitude change, he says, as he sees more and more the importance of “customer satisfaction.”
“It’s not all about busting the bad guys,” Francis said. “I’ve learned that maybe you can fight crime by working to get the trash cleaned up in a neighborhood. There’s a definite change when you can accomplish some of the little things.”
That theme — one of community service — was echoed by the three other police chiefs who ,along with Francis, met with the Globe’s editorial board last week.
Joplin police Chief Lane Roberts, Carl Junction police Chief Delmar Haase, Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan and Francis spent about an hour answering our questions about trends they are seeing in law enforcement and the challenges they face.
Haase, Dagnan and Francis all spent a good part of their careers at the Joplin Police Department, so it was an interesting exchange between them and Roberts, who has led the department for a little more than a year.
While it’s hard to compare the problems Haase has with a department of 12 members with those of Roberts, who has a department of 97 officers, all of the chiefs lamented the ever-shrinking pool of officer candidates.
Roberts and Dagnan have budgets that allow them to send new hires to the Missouri Southern State University police academy. Haase and Francis don’t. That means their new hires must already have gone through the academy or they must be willing to spend the $5,500 it takes to receive the police training.
“That stops of lot of potential hires in their tracks,” said Haase.
That means retention and recruitment are key in the departments, and all four chiefs find themselves competing to attract the 30 to 40 candidates who graduate from the police academy each year.
“And we all want those same top 10,” Dagnan said.
While the four jurisdictions are only miles apart, there are distinct differences in the communities.
Traffic is one of Joplin’s biggest issues, according to Roberts, while the other three chiefs cited crimes against property.
Dagnan doesn’t just run a police force, but also the town’s crossing guards and its taxi service. His community also has a 16 percent Hispanic community. Four of his officers speak fluent Spanish, but he says the dialects sometimes differ so that communication is a big problem in his town.
Roberts has put together a special enforcement team that has been meeting with bar owners in an effort to reduce problems seen in some of Joplin’s bar districts. Increased enforcement, he says, has also helped reduce some of the downtown problems blamed on cruising.
Drugs, particularly meth, continue to be a problem, say all the chiefs.
It was an interesting exchange of thoughts and ideas and, in some cases, it opened our eyes to the challenges of these four administrators.
It takes a lot more than a badge to fight crime these days.
Submit your questions
New Joplin R-8 Superintendent C.J. Huff will meet Monday with the Globe’s editorial board for the first time since his hire. He took over the position on July 1, after Jim Simpson left for a superintendent’s position in a school district near St. Louis.
Gubernatorial contenders Kenny Hulshof and Sarah Steelman, both Republican candidates vying for a spot on the November ballot, will meet with the Globe’s editorial board later this month.
If you have questions for visitors to the editorial board, please e-mail them to email@example.com. Or, you may mail your questions to me.
Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, Mo. 64802 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Carol Stark