Centerville’s new chief hopes to grow ranks, connect with community

Centerville’s new police chief took over a department last week that is working to prepare for replacing experienced staffers in the coming years while growing retention and community relations through efforts including social media.

Matt Brown served as interim chief since February, when former chief Bruce Robertson retired. The 1993 graduate of Brookville High School feels that gaining experience as the department’s leader, along with his prior duties within the organization, will help him succeed.

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“I have been able to do a lot of the same duties that I am doing now (as interim chief), in addition to my operations commander’s duties that I was doing,” said Brown, 43, a member of the department since 1998. “It’s been great. The staff here is tremendous, and they certainly are the strength of our department.”

Brown, who was appointed at a salary of $123,302.40, takes over a department with 52 employees: 37 sworn officers, 12 employees in records and communication and three administrative employees.

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He said he’s going to focus on hiring and retaining quality candidates to fill current and future openings within the department.

“I’d like to be able to increase some of our recruitment and the retention of our personnel,” he said. “We have several retirements in the upcoming years and we will be replacing some personnel. We have some promotions that will be upcoming as well and we have some sergeants that will be retiring. So, we will have lots of years of experience that will need to be replaced.”

But finding good candidates is not easy, he said, which is a trend across the country facing police and other public service agencies.

“I think it is more difficult (recruiting police officers) than any other public service aspect. We have talked to members of the fire department as well ,and they are having trouble recruiting,” he said. “Our numbers are a little bit down, I would say, across the nation. I’m going to guess that there probably is some impact because of some of the negative things that are happening across the country, but it may just be a shift in demographics and what people want to do with their lives.”

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One goal Brown is eager to tackle is having his officers connect with the community with the help of social media.

“One of the things that we have talked about internally is increasing the use of social media,” he said. “That is one of the things we’ve been (lagging) behind on. With the help of some of our younger officers that are more adept at doing such things we will take advantage of that and use it as much as we can.”

He noted that social media provides many resources that the department can use to its advantage not only from a recruiting standpoint but also to help combat crime.

“It’s a way to get our message out that we want to quicker,” Brown said. “Traditionally, we were waiting until the next day to send out a press release, whereas now we can get it out immediately.”

As far as safety concerns in the city, Brown said he feels the community doesn’t have a crime problem, but there are a few things to keep an eye on.

“I think overall Centerville is a very safe community. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of issues,” he said. “I think with the increasing traffic issues around Centerville around the Wilmington Pike area and the Cornerstone development with more businesses coming in, there certainly is an increase in traffic and that causes us some concern and we will be addressing that as well.”

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Brown has a wife and two daughters, and he wants the community to know he understands the importance of public safety for not only his officers but the civilians who live in the the city.

“I will tell the officers that they have my support and the support of the community, City Council and city manager. We are there to make their job easier and we want them to enjoy coming to work everyday and we want to make sure they go home safe every night to their families,” he said. “Just know that I am dedicated and loyal to the city of Centerville and residents.”

Wayne Davis, Centerville city manager, said the appointment of Brown is a result of his leadership and proven work as an officer.

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“Matt Brown is an excellent example of someone who is loyal, hard-working and smart, and who epitomizes the selflessness required of a public servant in law enforcement,” Davis said. “He is a strong and humble leader who gives of himself within law enforcement circles and within the community and region. We are fortunate to have Matt on our team, and we look forward to working with him far into the future.”

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