Four candidates running for Police Chief of the San Angelo Police Department. They are Frank Carter, Jeff Davis, Mike Hernandez and incumbent chief of police Tim Vasquez. San Angelo NOW’s Skyler Nichols interviewed each of the candidates in the police chief election. Additionally, each candidate was interviewed for a podcast included in this story. Click on the link following each interview to hear the podcasts.
Jeff Davis is running for San Angelo Police Chief for the third time. He was hired onto the San Angelo Police Department in 1985, and retired in 2007, to campaign. After the loss in that election he went to work at Goodfellow Air Force Base for several years before retiring from there also. In all he has 25 years of work experience.
Davis said that when he was working as an officer at the San Angelo Police Department a lot of the officers were under extreme pressure.
“They [SAPD officers] wanted someone they could count on and someone with leadership qualities. They convinced me to run,” Davis said.
He wants to run also because Davis feels criminals have slowly been allowed to come into our community.
“I think the stance in the past 12 years has not been strong enough to keep these individuals out of our community,” Davis Said
According to Davis, San Angelo’s crime rate is 27 percent higher than the state average and 48 percent higher than the national average when compared similar-sized communities. He did say the crime rate is down what it was in the past but his goal is to make San Angelo one of the top safest cities in America.
Davis said if elected he would also be a chief on patrol. He wants to see first hand what is going on in the community and go on calls with officers. He would also enact drug testing police officers. According to Davis San Angelo is one of the only police departments that does not have random drug testing for officers. He would also focus on retaining police officers.
Mike Hernandez began his career in law enforcement in 1990, right after he got out of the Marine Corps. Hernandez worked on patrol until 1993, when he was assigned to the gang unit. Over the five years he worked in the unit, he and the six-member team identified 30 gangs and 800 gang members in San Angelo. He has won Officer of the Year while working in the gang unit. Hernandez moved to narcotics, then began the special operations divisions. After moving to several different positions he was asked by the FBI in 2013, to attend its National Academy where less than one percent of command officers are invited to attend.
“From that school I believe I can lead from the top,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is running because he feels the current administration has become stagnant and has lost focus and vision of the course of this police department.
“I believe you have to do your time. Being a former military guy I feel like I have done my time. I’m 48-years old and I think my training and my experience and the things that I have done for this department has given me the experience to lead from the top,” Hernandez said.
He wants to change the culture of the police department.
“I want to give the officers the personal and leadership from the top, not management. I want to lead by example and show officers you can provide service through leadership because offices are leaders as well,” Hernandez said.
If elected Hernandez’s first priorities would be the gang unit, narcotic unit and patrol back to focusing on just their specific problem area. Not focus on gangs one day then narcotics one day.
“We need to be proactive not reactive. They need to be experts in their field,” Hernandez said.
He thinks those units need to be specialized and they need the personal. Hernandez believes he accomplish those needs by mending fences with not only other law enforcement agencies in town but with City Council and citizens to start working as a team.
Incumbent Police Chief Tim Vasquez was first elected as chief of police for the San Angelo Police Department in 2004. His goal when he first was elected was to see a 50 percent drop in crime. According to Vasquez, he was nearing his goal before San Angelo’s population increased because of the oil boom. He says he is running again because he wants to reach his goal he set many years ago.
“The population increase put a hindrance on that goal, it set us back a little bit but my focus is still to accomplish that fifty percent, so I’m not done, I’m not satisfied but I am very happy and very proud of the men and women in the organization but I’m not satisfied,” Vasquez said.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting, San Angelo’s crime per 100,000 went down. Vasquez said from 2003 to 2014, crime has decreased 42.6 percent.
If reelected, Vasquez wants to keeping pushing for more personnel and to continue to build trust with the community.
“With the tight budget we are facing next year hiring more people is not going to happen.”
So Vasquez plans to focus on the practices that are currently in place and improving the current style of policing. The SAPD is working to implement a new records management system in June that should help on productivity. But his two main goals for the future are to be fully-staffed and to bring crime down.
“In 2010 we were 1.7 officers per 1,000 as San Angelo’s population has grown we are down to 1.5. We should be functioning at 1.8 officers per 1,000. In order to get there SAPD needs 19 additional officers. San Angelo is very unique in that our sales tax and tax revenues are small compared to other cities. So we are having to do more with less,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said one of the problems is that his officers are doing a great job so when he explains to City Council that there is a shortage in officers but crime is down it’s hard for City council members to see the need for more money to hire additional officers.
Vasquez also wants to continue to build trust in the community between officers and citizens. He wants the residents of San Angelo to know their police officers.
“I’ve always felt if the community felt like I was approachable and they knew me personally then that would bring down some walls are rebuild the relationships with the officers and that’s where it is now,” Vasquez said.
This is Frank Carter’s first time running for police chief, but he’s not new to law enforcement.
“I am a firm believer in there is a time and place for everything and it’s that time for me to run. I’ve had support and encouragement from people in the community and fellow officers who have asked me to run in the past,” Carter said.
Carter was born and raised in San Angelo. He served in the military and has 24 years of experience with the San Angelo Police Department. He has been a supervisor for 17 years, he’s been a Master Police Officer and is currently working as a patrol commander, K-9 Unit commander, Lake and Airport Commander and Incident Commander with the San Angelo Police Department. In the past he’s worked everything from Criminal Investigation Commander in charge of detectives, Gang Unit to Crime Stoppers.
His accomplishments include receiving Supervisor of the Year, voted on by his peers. He has also received an award for his community service for continued participation in Show of Support Hunt for Heroes. He says that between him and his family members, they have a total of 74 combined years of service with the San Angelo Police Department.
“I think leadership is my greatest strength for the position of police chief. I’m a leader and I am highly respected,” said Carter.
If elected Carter said his first priority would be to concentrate more on narcotics and gangs. Throughout Carter’s many years of service on the police department he has seen how crime has developed and changed in San Angelo. He believes the biggest problem facing the community of San Angelo are drugs and gangs.
“Drugs are an epidemic in san Angelo. Meth has become so prevalent. It’s coming from Mexico and it’s a lot cheaper and affordable for people to buy. Drug addiction is the root of most crime. I’m talking about gangs as well. In the 1990s, we had drive-by shootings each day and we got that under control but now we are seeing that rise back up. We are behind on our gang database. The Stripes convenience store robberies were gang-related as well as the shooting that killed two teenage boys recently,” Carter said.
Like his colleagues he believes that the San Angelo Police Department is short on officers. To generate more man power, he would have a different patrol tactic and change the hours in an officer’s shift to add man power to the force. He also says he will put proven leaders in the right places within the San Angelo Police Department.
In the end Carter feels that his experience and leadership is what he has to offer and are both great qualities that could benefit the San Angelo Police Department.
Election Day is May 7. Early voting continues through May 3.