ELIZABETHTOWN — Friday marks the beginning of a new era in Elizabethtown’s law enforcement community, as the new police chief assumes his duties.
Tony Parrish began his career in law enforcement 26 years ago as a patrolman with the Greenville Police Department, where he served for two years. In 1990, he moved to the State Highway Patrol and served there for 24 years, obtaining the rank of first sergeant. Upon his departure, he was overseeing 28 patrolmen in Bladen and Columbus counties.
“In the times I’ve been with him, I’ve been very, very impressed,” said Town Councilman Ricky Leinwand. “He’ll bring a continued level of professionalism to the department, and I think he’ll work well with other law enforcement personnel in the area, on both the town and the county level.”
Parrish is bringing with him some of the ideas and practices from the Highway Patrol.
“One of the main things I want to create is a community policing position, in order to get involved with the residents of area,” he said.
According to Parrish, the community policing officer would be responsible for building rapport with Elizabethtown residents through, for example, a program that would check in on the elderly. The officer would also oversee what has become for the department an annual event held in April, “Kids Appreciation Day.” In the February budget planning retreat held by the Elizabethtown Town Council, Parrish told the board members that he would be looking into a grant from Homeland Security to fund the position.
Parrish also plans to implement a program which he has seen proven successful in the past and about which he seemed passionate — a Citizens’ Academy.
“A Citizens’ Academy is a six- to eight-week program that would see residents come in every Tuesday and Thursday, for example, and learn about the police department,” explained Parrish. “They would learn the organization of the department — who does what and what positions we have. They would also learn about the process from the time a call is received all the way through an arrest being made, which would help them understand what we can do and what we can’t do.”
Graduates of the Academy, armed with information, would be able to, upon hearing complaints or speculation about the department, explain to others why officers acted in a particular way or why the departmental process moves as it does.
“Knowledge is key,” said Parrish.
He also wants to create pin maps of Elizabethtown that plot accidents and crime data, which would enable the department to focus their efforts on high-impact areas. Parrish wants to team up with area colleges to get interns who would, along with graduates of the Citizens’ Academy, plot the necessary information on the maps for analysis.
Department patches have been redesigned by Parrish to reflect local history and to include the department’s core values. In addition, the officers unanimously voted on new uniforms, which they will begin wearing in July — a light gray shirt with dark gray pants.
Future plans also include community watch programs, expansion of the highway safety program, and proactive efforts in patrolling the business neighborhoods in order to keep down the number of break-ins. Parrish plans to have a website with community events outreach so that residents can see local happenings and a Facebook page dedicated to the department that would inform residents of any breaking news stories.
The chief spent some time observing the department prior to his arrival and likes what he sees.
“There is a great group of guys employed here, and they’re doing a fantastic job. I’m looking forward to working with them,” he said.
Leinwand added, “I’m very optimistic. I think we have a bright future in the Elizabethtown Police Department.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.