After more than six months on the job, Choctaw Police Chief Kelly Marshall has a grasp on regular operations and is prepared to move the department forward.
“We’re working on getting more out into the community. We like our officers out in the community, and we want our kids to know our officers and not be afraid of them,” said Marshall.
“I grew up in the era of John Whetsel where he made us go out of our comfort zone and engage the community. You’re going to see us a lot more at different events and activities.”
The Choctaw PD currently has 18 officers with plans to add an additional two.
“You have a lot of talent within the police department, and I hope to find two more. It’s harder than you think to find good people for professional public service,” said Marshall.
Marshall believes her experience leading school resource officers at county, a program with about 30 deputies in different schools, will help her improve Choctaw’s existing relationship with the school district.
Choctaw PD has two fulltime officers dedicated to patrolling Choctaw Elementary, Indian Meridian Elementary, James Griffith Intermediate, Choctaw Middle School and Choctaw High School.
“Both of our school resource officers are going to the National Association of School Resource officers, and that gives them ideas on keeping our schools safer. That’s not just a security job, but it’s investing yourself in those kids,” said Marshall. “Part of the problem is often new officers, like the new kid coming in, had to go be a resource officer for two years. I don’t want that to be a ‘have to’ job. Instead I want them there for four years. I want them to meet kids in eighth grade and be with them until they graduate. It’s all about building those relationships.”
Marshall has already worked to auction off old surplus to generate funds and also modernized filing to a digital format to save time and labor.
Now she aims to outfit the department with some much needed vehicle upgrades.
“They haven’t had new vehicles in 12 or 15 years, and those vehicles that were bought were salvaged. So those vehicles had been wrecked, on fire and pieced back together. That was less expensive at the time, but now we’re hurting,” said Marshall.
“We’ll be getting some Chevy Tahoes, and coming out of a Charger at county I believe these will be safe vehicles. You should see some new cars by November, and I’m a stickler for taking care of what you’re given.”
At the July 16 City Council meeting officials approved the purchase of these five vehicles for a total of $256,659.60
Among other changes coming to the department is a new structure for shifts. Officers have been on 12-hour shifts, but will soon be switching to 10-hour shifts.
Marshall says Choctaw is relatively safe, especially concerning violent crimes, when compared to neighboring areas.
However, she has noticed some rising trends in the area.
“Something we’ve actually seen a lot of lately is sexual assault. A lot of it is interfamily, and Choctaw has a great number of foster children and living situations like that. We’ve worked several cases, and that really stood out to me and concerns me. I think there’s a lot of damaged children coming into homes, and things are happening,” said Marshall. “We’re starting to see homeless moving this way as well. Midwest City is getting it, and I think we’re starting to see it out here now coming off of I-40. As far as the schools, from January until May, the things we saw mostly was related to social media. We had a few fights, but it was mostly all coming from social media.”
Marshall confirmed the largest crime problem in the area remains burglary crimes of opportunity when cars and doors are left unlocked by unsuspecting victims.
In an effort to deter and reduce crime residents can expect to see a visual presence of Choctaw PD officers along the roadways.
“I don’t want us working traffic to generate revenue, but I want us to actually be making the streets safer,” said Marshall. “You’d be surprised what we find in traffic stops from outstanding warrants to drugs and weapons.”