He says he applied for the thrills and stuck it out because of the people, but now, 41 years after graduating from the police academy and 17 years after restructuring the Valdosta Police Department, Police Chief Frank Simons says he's set to retire at the start of the year.
“It quickly became apparent to me that most of what police officers do is help people solve problems and keep our communities safe,” says Simons. “I've said this many times, but I've never been able to stand a bully.”
Simons grew up in Columbus, Ga., attended Ga. Southwestern University and joined the force in 1971 before rising from assistant to director of ABAC’s police academy. Simons spent the next eight years managing Perry’s police department and his wife Cathy had earned her tenure at a college in Macon near the end of that stretch.
When City Manager Larry Hanson accepted his job back in 1995, he placed his bet on Simons to restore order to the city’s troubled police department. Simons promised to polish up the department’s reputation and to help it receive national recognition in under five years. It took four.
In the midst of controversy and low citizen confidence in the police force, Simons says he focused his efforts on three areas:
Hiring and human resources
Simons says he increased the number of officers, while tightening their hiring practices at the same time. He admits that the police department had some serious issues when he came in.
“Care in your hiring process is vital to the operation of your department,” says Simons. “I've often said a police department can never be better than the people it hires. If you don't hire quality people, you can't expect a quality department.”
Many of the legacy staff just needed a little guidance because they ultimately wanted to do the right thing, Simons stated. You have to have the right attitude and right person to be a police officer, says Simons as he laments officer compensation.
“I don't understand why we pay police officers the way we do,” says Simons. “You take a person who’s willing to go out and expose themselves to danger. Then we expect them to know something about any and everything, and deal with the best and worst of the community within 20 minutes. And on top of that, we expect them to do it impartially and with a good temperament.”