Paul Williams just celebrated his fourth anniversary of becoming Springfield’s police chief.
He says he has always dreamed of wearing this badge.
“My dad and my grandpa were both policemen in Detroit,” says Williams. “Everybody has a family business; I guess you could say that's ours.”
Williams graduated with bachelor and masters degrees and moved to Oklahoma to start his career as an officer.
30 years later, he moved his family to Springfield and took on the challenge of chief.
“You don't realize until you actually get here and sit in this chair is that the buck does stop here,” says Williams.
Williams says drug use is a main concern for public safety in this area, but our most prevalent crimes seem to go hand in hand.
“Drug use, child abuse, property crime and some domestic violence crimes,” says Williams. “All those things are related. So we try to attack each of those and hope they have an effect on all of them.”
Williams was asked what case stands out to him the most in his three decades of police work. His answer won't surprise many in this community.
“No case has affected me like Hailey Owens' case,” he says. “I don't think I could put anything in comparison with that.”
In the days following her kidnapping, Williams represented the police department as the story went national.
He says as a father of three, staying strong was a challenge.
“We get kind of hardened in this profession over time,” he says. “But it doesn't mean you care any less. It just means you compartmentalize and you put that away and you don't show it like everyone else can, but that doesn't mean it's not tearing you up inside.”
Williams hopes to impart the wisdom he's gathered in situations like that onto the youth of Springfield.
“Twelve to thirteen years ago I started teaching at the college level,” says Williams.
He teaches a course in policing at Missouri State University each semester.
“It really allows me to connect with that generation,” says Williams.
Williams says he hopes he leaves a positive legacy.
“I hope that people would look years from now when I leave and go ‘Paul Williams came in and the department was here and he maintained that and improved it dramatically,’” he says.
Williams says he hopes to leave the department in good shape for the next generation of officers, which might include his son.
“Just last year he wrote in his journal at school that he wants to grow up to be a policeman,” says Williams of his son. “I’d certainly be proud if he wanted to go do what I did.”
But until that day, he's happy being the only policeman in the family and says he will stick with it until he doesn't enjoy putting on the uniform and wearing the badge.
“That's the best part of my job, is getting up in the morning and getting ready to face the day and take on whatever challenge there might be,” says Williams.
Williams says he sees hiring qualified employees and being able to pay them a competitive wage as the biggest challenge facing the police department.
Currently, Springfield City Council is considering pay increases or adding money to the budget for new officers.
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