Seven months into his job as Payson Police Chief Ron Tischer revealed his philosophy and the resulting changes as he addressed business leaders at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at Mazatzal Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Tischer discussed a variety of topics ranging from community policing and homelessness to drugs and volunteers.
Tischer said the PPD has hired additional officers and dispatchers, which will allow him to implement a community policing system plan where officers are assigned to particular areas so they become familiar with local residents.
“That’s my philosophy,” he said. “That’s how I grew up in the police (department). We all worked together for one common goal.
“Years ago, it used to be, you have a problem, you call a police officer and they’ll come over no matter what time of day or night and they may not solve the problem, but they’ll make it better for that night or day or that week,” Tischer said. “Now we are coming to understand that policing is changing. Police officers can’t do everything. We can’t arrest our way out of every problem.
“Now that we’re almost at full staff we could start assigning officers to different parts of the community to hopefully build stronger ties and better relationships than we have in the past,” he said.
“When an officer is assigned to a part of town, if there’s a problem there and they don’t figure out how to fix it, they have the same problem day after day after day and eventually they’ll figure it out and say, ‘I don’t want to come here anymore for this problem.’ And the problem gets solved. So that’s our philosophy. It’s a little change.”
He said the department recently hired several new officers and dispatchers.
“They’re all going to be a great asset to our department,” he said. “The future’s looking really good for the Payson Police Department.”
He said hiring the right people is key.
“I think my biggest responsibility is to hire the best people, train and promote the best people,” he said. “Sometimes you learn the wrong way good things. I don’t want to be that guy. That’s why I promote and hire people way smarter than me. It’s pretty easy.”
Doing a bit of everything
Tischer said, with a small force, cops need to handle a wide variety of responsibilities.
“We’re trying to come up with some kind of plan for police officers, because we need it to be well rounded in a town where we’re authorized to have 28 sworn officers, they need to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “They need to write traffic tickets, they need to stop cars, they need to arrest people, investigate complaints, they need to process crime scenes, they need to do a little bit of everything. They need to be a jack-of-all-trades. But most importantly, they need to know how to communicate with all of you.
“I think there should be more than one person who knows how to do everything at the police department and that hasn’t been the case in the past.
“Change is good for the town, change is good for the police department.”
And he said the department will focus over the next several years on getting more involved in different groups, committees and organizations.
“We want to work with everybody,” he said. “We want to do what we can as a department to help a business succeed. I think we play a big role in the success of any town. If this isn’t a safe town, people aren’t going to come here. People aren’t going to open businesses. I look at our job as not to just respond to calls. That is something we will certainly do. We’ll do our best to fix the problem, but our job is to work with everybody to find solutions to the problems.”
Tischer said he intends to reduce the number of Payson-trained officers leaving to work elsewhere.
“One of the things we’re really going to try to do is make sure we retain employees,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest challenge of every police department in this country is when you get somebody and train them up for a couple of years and then they go work somewhere else because they think the grass is greener.”
He said this small community makes it more likely officers will treat everyone with respect.
“That’s what makes the Town of Payson different in terms of policing,” he said. “In a lot of places, officers aren’t going to live in the town they work in. Here, they don’t really have a choice, which is good, because that makes them, I think treat people a lot better, maybe treat people with a little more respect because the guy you fought with last night, you’re going to see at the grocery store tomorrow. It’s a lot different here, which is a good thing because this is a great town, otherwise, you wouldn’t all be here either.”
He addressed the scourge of drug abuse that’s plagued every corner of this country.
“Everybody has a drug problem and it’s not one that a police department can solve by themselves,” he said. “We’re part of the solution, but it takes everybody, whether it’s the business community, the health care profession, schools, everybody has a stake in that game ... We’re making progress but there’s a long way to go.”
He also talked about the homeless.
“Where I came from there was a significant homeless issue,” he said. “So we really sat down to learn why and try to figure out how we were going to fix it. And a lot of it was pretty easy. We had other agencies from other states bringing busloads of homeless people and dropping them in our city. So we said, ‘Well, why is this happening?’ It was because our city provided the best service or the most compassion for homeless people.
“So then we tried to dig a little deeper and started looking at homeless issues as two separate issues: the homeless people that need our help that are down and out from our community that we should be helping, and then there’s that other group of guys who chose that lifestyle. I say guys — it’s mostly guys, they chose to be homeless and they cause all our problems. They almost burnt our town down last year. They lit everything. They want to be criminals. They don’t want help.
“So, the group that really needs our help are the ones the police department focuses on and try to get them the resources they need — whether it’s giving them a ride to the homeless shelter or giving them other avenues to help them climb their way out.”
School resource officer
Tischer said he’s pleased they have been able to hire a new school resource officer through a grant.
“I couldn’t believe there was not a school resource officer,” he said.
He sees that officer as a big help in keeping young people out of criminal trouble.
“It’s a hard fight to get them out of the criminal justice system (once they get in it),” he said.
Volunteers a big plus
Tischer said the Payson Police Department is fortunate to have an abundance of volunteers to help when and where needed.
“Traffic control is the worst job police have and they do it for free,” he said. “They probably save us millions of dollars.”
Here to help
“If there’s anything I can do to help you, that’s what I’m here for,” Tischer said. “I look at myself as a servant leader. I’m here to serve the police officers and the dispatchers and the staff of the police department and I’m also here to serve you. That’s my job.”
From Midwest to southwest
Tischer and his wife moved to Payson from Wisconsin.
“I’ve spent about 25-plus years in law enforcement working for small departments, big departments, kind of all over the board,” he said. “My wife and I have talked about this for about 25 years moving to Arizona and lo and behold there’s an opening in Payson.
“Our last move didn’t go so well, so when I was getting ready for my interview, I looked at my wife and said, ‘Well, do you want me to try or do we just get a vacation on the town for a couple of days?’
“She said, ‘You better go and you better do your best because I really like it here and we’re moving here.’ So, I know I made the right choice because the other day she looked at me and said, ‘I just love it here.’
“I love it here, too. There are great people; it’s a great community to live in and work in. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people.
“I’ve always said I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to do a job and make this town as safe as we can. But there’s a lot of great people here. I know some of you in the room here and I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of you in the business community a lot better.”