Q&A with Chuck Hadden
Residence: Warner Robins
Occupation: Chief, Centerville Police Department
Q: You were officially appointed chief Feb. 21 but had been acting as chief for more than half a year — what was the difference walking in on Feb. 22 as new police chief?
A: Knowing everything is officially on me — and that’s not something I take lightly. Our department is a public entity paid for by public funds. I want to make sure on a daily basis we’re open and available to the public as a department and that we’re acting responsibly with the funds and the duties they’ve entrusted to us. At the same time I want to make sure my guys are given every opportunity to get it right by being well trained, well equipped and well supported by leadership.
Q: What are some immediate goals now that you’re free to act as chief?
A: We have two vacancies we need to fill. We have to determine just how we’re going to organize command leadership for the future. We’ll be reviewing policies and standard operating procedures, and I’d like to work on developing some special operations areas, such as a K-9 program. I want our officers to have continual training, so that’s at the top of my list. Community projects are big in my eyes, too, so there are a number of things to work on like meeting the public more and figuring out how the department can best communicate with citizens through social media.
Q: Communicate what?
A: Information about the department, about laws, about safety issues. Like why certain laws are in place and things like why distracted driving is such a danger — whether it’s eating or digital distractions. But I want people and businesses to know they have my ear.
Q: How many chiefs or police department heads have you served under in your 10 years at Centerville?
A: Let’s see — six I guess. There have been six. I’m the seventh.
Q: Rising to the top in only a 10-year career isn’t the norm, is it? Even for a smaller department?
A: No, I guess not. Oddly enough, it was 10 years to the day — literally to the very day — from when I joined the department to now starting as chief. But I know my role and my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m not the smartest, most experienced or best educated person they could have found, but I have to say, I don’t think there’s anybody more dedicated to this city.
Q: Since you’ve had a 10-year total law enforcement career and served under six chiefs in Centerville in that time, and since you’ve made chief yourself in a brief career, two things come to mind. One, you may have taken on a dangerous position for anyone to hang on to, and two, your own ambitions may take you to greener fields and bigger challenges. What’s your response to that?
A: I anticipate being chief as long as (Centerville’s mayor and City Council) will have me. I joked with them I’m here until the day they find someone better looking than me. They laughed and said that shouldn’t be a problem. But seriously, Centerville needs and deserves a stable figurehead in its police department, and I fully intend to be that person. Just because I’ve reached the pinnacle of the department I won’t stop digging and striving to better myself or the department. If I have ambitions, it’s to serve my officers and the people of Centerville to the best of my ability. I didn’t take the job for a jump to a larger department somewhere. I’ve built my career here and have no intention of jumping ship. I have no need to: I have a great job here and the opportunity to make sure it’s the best department it can be. I was a “free agent” when I left the police academy and chose to come to Centerville. It’s where I want to be.
Q: Have you always wanted to be in law enforcement?
A: As a kid, I always wanted to be a Marine. I did that right out of high school. After getting out of the Marines the war started, and I served with the Georgia Army National Guard in Operation Iraqi Freedom III. That gave closure to that portion of my life and taught me to appreciate things in my life — mainly my family and also my community. When I came back I did a ride-along with a buddy in law enforcement and was hooked. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, what I needed to do.
Q: What’s been a highlight with the department?
A: Solving the Kimberly McKenzie murder in 2011. It wasn’t just me, of course, but it came to me as detective here. The case began as a missing person report in Centerville then went through to trial in Bibb County where her body was found. We saw the perpetrators brought to justice. It’s very sad, but I’m proud of being part of seeing justice done on behalf of one of our citizens.
Q: What qualities do you feel have made you a good officer and law enforcement leader?
A: Realizing it’s not about me but about the work the department does. As an officer or interim or as chief it’s the same. It’s still about the work for the city, about answering calls day in and day out and about standing in the gap for our citizens on what may be the worst day of their life. Another thing is I don’t like drama. Somebody told me when I got into law enforcement not to get caught up in drama in a department but to keep my nose clean and concentrate on my work, doing it faithfully and well. As chief that’s what I expect from my guys. Something else someone told me — and I try not to get emotional about it, but it’s something important for all of life and that I try to instill in my kids — but it’s that if you want to be a leader you have to be a servant. And if you want to lead in a big way you have to be a servant of all. Leadership isn’t about ego; it’s being willing to serve others day to day. It’s about doing the best to take care of our citizens and our officers.
Q: A council member said your time leading the chief-less department as senior captain was the best interview they could of done. We’re you aware you were being eyed?
A: Initially, my marching orders were to lead the department and keep things going. They told me they trusted me to do that and weren’t in a hurry to hire a new chief. I just wanted to do a good job for the city and department, and I trusted the process. If they hadn’t considered me I’d still be here serving my best as captain. This is my city; that’s how I feel. I did get the feeling they were looking at me, then they started talking to me. I’ve already done the job for a combined eight-plus months, and I’m not perfect — I’m human and can make mistakes — but I haven’t done anything big wrong and have always done my best. And I keep learning along the way. I’ve had overwhelming support from City Hall, department heads and from people in the community. I try to keep good relationships. People have said I’m either crazy for sticking around for so long or I really do care about this city. I think I care. My role is an honor, and I’m excited to get on with it and see where we go from here.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.
Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at email@example.com.