SALTILLO – When Grant Bailey was named chief of the Saltillo Police Department in July 2013, his top priorities were to restaff his severely understaffed department and then build positive relationships within the community.
Until he could restaff, to maintain the necessary two-patrolman shifts, officers (and Bailey himself) worked overtime. Now, with reserve officers and three full-time officers, the force is up to size.
Now, with nine full-time officers, Bailey said the department can handle the shifts and save overtime funds for exciting assignments, like community outreach and sporting events.
“We are still short-handed if someone needs to take off their shift but we’re good on a day-to-day,” Bailey said. “The biggest overtime thing is when we’re in the community.”
Bailey said now that they have a big enough department, his next goal is to expand the department to meet the needs of the growing city and up their two-patrolman shifts to three.
“This past month we answered over 400 calls,” he said. “We stay busy and with limited manpower it can be hard.”
Bailey now also wants to build a bridge between the department and the community, starting with the schools.
“It’s important because we’re there to protect the kids and that’s the bottom line,” he said. “If we get involved with children at an early age and establish a good relationship, even in high school, it will help us do our job and let them know we’re here to help and not harass.”
The department has provided security and crowd control at each of Saltillo Schools’ sporting events as well as escorts to many away games.
“Our buses are traveling and if they break down two hours away we have an officer who can help quickly or at least keep traffic off of them,” Bailey said. “We’ve gotten great response from the parents.”
To connect with the business community, Bailey has made sure his patrol officers spend time around shopping centers and in parking lots.
“Working with them is important because they keep us here by bringing revenue to the city,” Bailey said of the businesses, which have provided about $14,000 in donated items to the department since Bailey took over – paying for new office furniture and bulletproof vests.
To improve relations with other city departments, Bailey has worked with department heads to enact new policies like the requirement that a police officer respond anytime the fire department is dispatched.
“We go out on each call they go on so we can help with crowd control or whatever we need to do,” he said. “It helps, if you need something, to be able to call the head man and know that department will help out.”
Internally, new policies require each officer to be certified on and use a department-issued weapon and allow night-shift patrol officers to wear more comfortable tactical uniforms.
“Before they had to use their own guns and maybe an officer qualified on a .45 but he wants to carry his .40 – that could be a liability,” Bailey said. “Now we know the serial number, know they’re qualified and know what bullets they’re using. It takes a huge liability off the city and officers themselves.”
“It’s been challenging but I’m enjoying it and it’s gotten better,” he said. “Every day I’m trying to learn something new, and I won’t ever know everything, but hopefullyI’ll get better and I can continue to keep myself motivated to do my best for the people out there.”
Bailey said the past year has been the best and most rewarding of his law enforcement career. “To have this opportunity, I’m blessed.”