Mike Broadhead, now scheduled to begin work April 17 as Statesboro's police chief, says the heart of his mission will be to promote the Statesboro Police Department as an asset to the community, inseparable from it.
He formally accepted Statesboro's job offer March 8 and has given a full month's notice in Riverton, Wyoming, where he has been the Riverton Police Department's chief for seven years. Broadhead, 51, has 29 years experience as a municipal police officer, after starting at age 18 in the Army as a military police officer.
Here he will start at an annual salary of $99,000, and the city of Statesboro has agreed to reimburse him for "reasonable and necessary" moving expenses up to $5,000, said city Human Resources Director Jeffery Grant. On the phone Tuesday, Broadhead said he and his family are excited about the move, busy with things such as getting their house ready to put on the market, while he is tying off loose ends at work.
Meanwhile, he has also been in contact daily with the Statesboro Police Department.
"I really am just eager to get there and get busy and get my hands dirty, so in this period of time it's difficult to sit back and know that you're going to be there and then try to have an impact, but not be able to be there yet," Broadhead said.
SPD Deputy Chief Robert Bryan, who has served as interim chief since October 2015, has been bringing the incoming chief up to speed. Bryan has sent him good information "to make sure that I understand where they're at and how they got there and what's been going on lately," Broadhead said.
He has also been reading the Statesboro Herald online, he said.
Broadhead visited Statesboro twice in February during the interview process, to which the city and search firm Developmental Associates LLC invited six candidates selected from 45 applicants from 20 states. Four of the six took part in an "assessment center" scored by a committee, helping identify Broadhead as the one finalist before City Manager Randy Wetmore made the hire.
Broadhead has not been back in town since, but after his contacts with Bryan, he complimented him by first name.
"Everybody that I've spoken to has spoken very highly of Rob and the work that he has done as an interim chief, and being an interim chief is a difficult job ...," Broadhead said. "He's been very helpful to me already, and I'm looking forward to working with him and all of the folks there at the Police Department."
'Assets to community'
Broadhead said he has asked Bryan to help him set up a departmental meeting, or possibly two, within his first few days on the job so that he can properly introduce himself to as many employees as possible.
At this point, no similar meeting has been slated for the general public. But Broadhead said he will be meeting the community in one way or another, "not just as a welcome-to-town splash, but as a normal way of doing business" because he sees being the public face of the department as part and parcel of his role.
"If I had to describe my style, it would be that I really, truly believe in a spirit of community, and I really, truly believe that police departments can be assets to a community, but we just have to be literally woven together," Broadhead said. "There just shouldn't be a police department separate from the community."
They need to work together with the goal of treating everybody fairly and equally and improving the quality of life for all, he said.
In Riverton, population about 11,000, Broadhead supervises a department with 41 employees, including 28 sworn officers and 13 civilians. The Statesboro Police Department, if fully staffed, would have 74 sworn officers serving a city with about 31,000 residents.
More comparable to the SPD in some ways is the Littleton Police Department in Colorado, where he worked 21 years, rising through ranks from patrol officer to detective lieutenant and staff services lieutenant before leaving in December 2009. Littleton has more than 40,000 people, and he said its department had about 75 sworn officers.
When Broadhead was announced as the only finalist for the SPD position, some readers commenting through social media noted that the Western cities where he has served have relatively few African-American residents.
Riverton's population at the 2010 census was 81.5 percent white and 10.4 percent Native American, half of 1 percent African-American, and 9 percent Hispanic or Latino. Littleton's population was 89 percent white and 1.4 percent African-American, but 12.4 percent Hispanic or Latino. Meanwhile, 39.4 percent of Statesboro residents were African-American, and only 53 percent were white.
Asked how his experience will translate to a diverse Southern community, Broadhead gave a philosophical answer first.
"What people really need from their police department is to be treated fairly and equitably, and that's what the police department can provide, regardless of the demographics of poor, rich, old, young or different ethnic or racial backgrounds," he said. "They all should have the expectation of equal treatment from their police, and I think that piece translates very well, regardless of ethnicity or birthplace."
On specifics of the cities he has served, Littleton was becoming more diverse during his two decades there, he said. In particular, Spanish-speaking people were a growing segment of the population.
He also noted that Littleton is part of the Denver-Aurora metroplex, which he described as "a melting pot" and "constantly in motion," so that African-Americans, Asians and people of other ethnicities were present in Littleton, if not necessarily its resident population.
Riverton, in central Wyoming, is beside the Wind River Reservation, home to both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal governments. Riverton is the area's commercial hub, so a visitor standing on a corner might observe that about 25 percent of the people in town at a given time are Native Americans, he said.
Because the tribal governments are autonomous, they have direct relationships with the U.S. government, making for an interesting mix of local, state, federal and tribal authorities, Broadhead said.
"Trying to work through that has been a real learning experience for me, but again, it comes down to just people, right?" he said. "We sit down and we have a conversation across the table, and we find out what's important to each other, and then we try to accomplish that."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.