Police Chief Smith brings a different approach to department, community

November 16, 2013 • Local News

Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith brings more than 28 years [auth] and several generations of experience, along with a new perspective, to the RPD. (Jessica Palmer Photo)

Roswell’s new Police Chief Phil Smith is pleased with his new post and admits this is part of a long-term plan, but such was not always the case.

Career goals changed with the birth of his first child, Kaitlyn. Before, he was content to remain on patrol and coach high school wrestling. After Kaitlyn’s birth, he began to think in terms of specific goals and career advancement to ensure quality of life for Kaitlyn, who is now 21 years old.

Kaitlyn was later joined by brother Philip and sister Payton.

Smith will apply the same concept to his job of chief.

“We often discuss how we can enhance quality of life for all of Roswell’s citizens,” he said. “Only a small segment of society are offenders. We’re not going to stop it by putting people into jail and cycling them back out again.

“The social system is overburdened. Mental health care is a national problem and is in some cases absent.”

He holds similar goals for all the men and women employed by the Roswell Police Department — how to improve training and how to provide avenues for advancement — and the police department as a whole by getting New Mexico Law Enforcement Accreditation, as outlined by the New Mexico Municipal League.

“It is a mark of professionalism, best service, best practices by current standards,” Smith said.

The RPD has been working on this process for more than two years. The department has already been through a series of evaluations. Their deadline for completion is March 2014.

Smith started with RPD on Sept 15, 2011. He has developed an affection for his adoptive home.

“It has the best weather and some of the best people.”

He praised City Administrator Larry Fry and his one-time counterpart Deputy Chief Brad McFadin.

“This City Hall really cares about the community. They want to attract new businesses, which would provide economic development for Roswell and more jobs for the people. The goal is to provide amenities and a reason to not only visit Roswell but to settle here in Roswell.”

Smith brought with him from the East Coast years of experience in both law enforcement and administration. He boasts more than 28 years of law enforcement experience, working his way up through the ranks.

He has a bachelor’s in social sciences from Thomas Edison State College, Trenton, N.J., a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University, and is working on a doctorate though Indiana Tech.

Smith also has achieved an Executive Leadership Certificate from Cornell University.

Smith comes from a long line of police officers stretching through four generations — although it skipped one.

It started with his great-grandfather, then Smith’s father, Smith himself, his brother and sister, and most recently, his nephew.

Smith worked as town administrator in Atkinson, N. H., from September 2009 through 2011. He says he learned a lot, although he doesn’t miss it.

“I admit I disliked that job. It was a lot like being forced to go back to school. I came back to law enforcement as a cop re-invigorated,” he said.

Among the things he learned was the police department is not an entity by itself.

“You have to pull all the city departments to work together. Taking care of a community is a collaborative effort.”

The collaboration includes developing a relationship with the private citizens and each officer. He believes a good administrator develops a line of succession.

“You don’t develop one person, you develop all of them,” Smith said.

His long-term plan includes attending Neighborhood Watch meetings — the first occurred last Wednesday — and attending all City Council meetings.

Since he came to Roswell, Smith has participated in regular patrols, a practice he plans to continue in the future.

Smith said of the four different communities where he has been employed, the volume of calls was more or less the same.

“The nature of the calls are different. Here, the types of call outs are more severe. Crimes against persons, of course, they (the service calls) take more time.”

He is a facts and figures man. He studies service calls versus the number of people on a shift and divisions, number of calls per officer, response time.

“If I ask for 100 officers, it won’t be because I think it would be nice to have 100 officers. It will have the facts and figures to back it up.”

As for advice for the private citizen, Smith said: “Of course, you have to be cautious, here as elsewhere. People need to take the normal precautions. Lock your doors; talk about your vacation after you’ve come back and not before you go.

“Let’s address problems here in the city through partnerships, problem solving and being pro-active. Let’s work together to stop crime before it happens.”

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