New Chief Setting A Great Example
E ven though he's still new in town, Earl Phipps seems a natural choice to lead the Pinehurst Police Department.
The musically inclined Phipps, who has a background in community policing stemming from his 22-year stint with the Greenville (N.C.) Police Department, is hitting all the right notes as he begins his tenure as the village's seventh police chief. He seems to understand instinctively that Pinehurst is a special place calling for special law enforcement.
Since taking over in December, the personable Phipps, who found his calling when he took a ride-along with the Greenville PD while he was a student at East Carolina, has displayed an impressive mix of enthusiasm, energy, personality, smarts and sensitivity that should be a winning formula for the village and its residents.
The two most valuable things he is doing early on are listening and building relationships.
Polishing Up the Badge
In recent years the department's badge has been tarnished a bit by some negative perceptions, especially a belief (that ultimately didn't seem borne out in the numbers) that Pinehurst officers spent much of their time lying in wait for possible drunken drivers.
That image, right or wrong, became a cental issue facing the department. Phipps knows that and is tacking it head-on. As a daily reminder of the job ahead, Phipps keeps a collection of published information that details perceived problems. He uses it as a daily reminder that no matter how well his officers do their jobs, they will be only as good as the community thinks they are.
So how do you forge a new image? Simple. Get out and get involved. Make your department visibly more user-friendly and community-oriented. As Phipps said: "I want our community to know our officers on a first-name basis. I think we are small enough to do that. We have an amazing staff of officers here, and I think it is good for our citizens to know who they are."
Learning About His New Home
Bike patrols, social media outreach and a citizen's police academy are just a few things that the department is considering implementing in the coming months to help to break down barriers and help the community and the department work with each other, rather than against one another. Phipps understands that building a positive relationship with residents and the business community ill help open the lines of communication that have long been clogged by a degree of mistrust.
Most noticeably, the engaging and energetic Phipps is setting a personal example. He is out in the community listening to concerns and learning about the village he now calls home. Whether it is riding a police bike around town or hanging out in the local downtown restaurants and pubs, Phipps is wisely immersing himself in the community. As he said in a Friday story, "I want to be that chief you see on duty and off duty."
It is much easier to ask your officers to hop on that bike and get out in the community if you yourself are out there pedaling around every chance you get.
Bottom line: Phipps is displaying a vested interest in the department and the community. He says he has no plans to leave, that Pinehurst is home. So far, that's music to local ears.
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