Making ECPD Plans

New El Campo Police Department Chief Gary Williamson (pictured in both photos) is reviewing the department and preparing to implement several plans including a data-driven approach to fighting crime.  Above: Williamson visits with dispatcher Stephanie Padilla while she monitors officers’ progress throughout the city.  At right, Officer Joseph Whitley visits with Williamson while stowing his service pistol in preparation for entering the department’s holding facility.

New El Campo Police Chief Gary Williamson has plans of making his officers more visible in the neighborhoods and more responsive to crime trends throughout the city.

Changes will come soon, he said, sitting in the office he earned just two weeks ago.

Williamson hasn’t had time to unpack his stuff, but he’s already working toward a plan to increase police accountability and visibility.

“I want to continue with community-oriented policing, engaging the public,” he said, adding that’s not just meet-and-greet events like Coffee With A Cop.

The effort the chief envisions includes responding to statistical trends.

Traffic accidents up in a specific location? Why? Is it lit at night? Is there a traffic control device? A problem in the roadway itself?

Car burglaries up in a specific section of town? Get officers out there to hunt down crooks, but also try to determine why the spike happened in the first place. Is the street well lit? Are people locking their car doors? Do people leave valuables inside their vehicles in plain view?

“It’s an operational model that is more data driven. (Former Chief Terry) Stanphill used to call ‘be the stats guy,’” Williamson said, adding he plans to use data to “redistribute forces ... it’s a holistic approach.”

For example, “Ninety-five percent (of local vehicle burglaries) are crimes of opportunity. If it’s a locked vehicle, they keep on going. In the past year, very few of our vehicle burglaries have had a smashed window,” Williamson said.

The first thing people will see is more officers and not just on the main streets “They will be spending more time in residential neighborhoods,” Williamson said.

He added, “We are a part of the community.”

Plans include working with churches to reach congregations.

He also hopes to realign the command structure, possibly before the end of the year.

Under the recently retired Chief Stanphill, the department had one assistant chief (Williamson), one lieutenant (Russell Urban) and then a cadre of sergeants, corporals, patrol officers, dispatchers and other staffers: 38 in all.

Williamson’s vision is three lieutenants – one each over criminal investigation, patrol and support divisions.

“One thing I learned in my time with emergency management is that you can only be effective over so many people,” he said. “It would increase accountability.”

The two new lieutenants ideally would come from within the department, he said, which in turn would create open sergeant and corporal spots.

First, however, he has to fill the evidence clerk spot, a job previously held by officer Johnnie Busby who took a post in Richmond and a patrol post held by officer Cesar Olmedo, who was dismissed from the force after being arrested on charges of family violence and home burglary.

The evidence clerk spot, responsible for collection, processing and storage of evidence, is being reviewed now. “I’m thinking about making that a civilian post,” Williamson said, adding, “Two would be nice, one is sufficient.”

Recruiting for the patrol officer’s post will be difficult with the timing of the vacancy, he said, adding, “I am confident we will be able to fill it.

“On salaries, it’s important that we remain competitive and, at the moment, we are okay,” Williamson said.

Working in a small community offers patrol officers the ability to live where they work and to be active in the community and attend family events. The department, for example, does what it can to allow an officer working a 12-hour shift to briefly stop in on a child’s school program if call volume at the time allows for it.

“The morale in the department, I think, is pretty good. We are very fortunate to have a lot of support in this town, and we greatly appreciate it,” Williamson said.

A 20-year veteran of the El Campo force, Williamson is a Texas native who grew up in Galveston. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M before opting to enroll in the Alvin Police Academy.

After finishing the academy, Williamson worked for the Austin Airport police from 1998 to 2000. He was then hired on in El Campo.

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