Inside the WMPD: Officers on Patrol
Patrol Division is the city’s front line in fighting crime
By Michael Coulter
A Times Special Report
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles on the West Memphis Police Department, its officers and bold initiatives that are factors in the city’s noticeable reduction in serious crime over the past several months.
This third article delves into the WMPD’s Patrol Division and the men and women who patrol our streets and neighborhoods 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They are considered the “tip of the spear” — the men and women who take the point or the ones considered first responders.
The first person we usually call when we discover our vehicle has been broken into, our lawnmower has been stolen off our carport, or when another driver slams into the back of our vehicle is a police officer — a figure we consider the person of authority and the enforcer of our laws.
These men and women in uniform are known by many different titles, and when it comes to responding to a simple fender-bender, theft of property or the more serious of crimes they are the ones we rely upon for help.
The officers assigned to the West Memphis Police Department’s Patrol Division to patrol the streets of this county’s largest municipality 24-hours a day, seven days a week are doing an important job keeping a close watch on neighborhoods, homes and businesses to ensure the bad guys don’t get a chance to commit a crime, whether it be breaking into our homes, our vehicles or selling illegal drugs.
There is a sense of security when the citizens see a white Chevrolet Tahoe with blue markings on the side that says “West Memphis Police,” because when they are highly visible the bad guys are usually nowhere to be found.
The patrol officers play a vital role in the WMPD’s very successful crime reduction initiative that brings together every aspect of the police department from its newly formed Special Response Unit, Major Crime Suppression Unit, Criminal Investigation Unit, its Narcotic’s Division to the department’s school resource officers assigned to each public school in West Memphis.
One of those patrol officers is Lieutenant
Charles Burch who oversees one of four shifts. Each shift has one lieutenant, one sergeant and nine patrol officers. A typical day begins with a shift meeting where the officers go over anything of importance from the previous shift, particularly areas called “hot spots” or areas of the city where there is high crimes occurring.
“Each shift has what we call our “deter cars”. They are our target cars that patrol specific areas that have high crime. When they are not in the deter zones they then go to the hotspots
“These officers do everything from traffic enforcement to citizen contacts. They are encouraged to talk to the people and see what is going on so we can then feed important intelligence to the Violent Crimes Unit and also the detectives,” Lt.
Burch said most of the situations he and his officers deal with involve property crimes such as burglaries, breaking and entering and theft of property.
“We make a real effort while on patrol to make contact with the residents
most of the vehicle break-ins are due to the fact the vehicles are simple left unlocked.
We try to encourage people to make the necessary changes that can prevent such crimes,” Burch said.
He also said most of the home burglaries are because doors have been unlocked or windows left open.
“Something else we try to tell the citizens is to purchase a home video camera and install it on their homes. A lot of home break-ins we solve today is the result of video from cameras that residents have installed for security purposes,” Burch said.
Burch said he also encourages citizens to contact the police when they see a suspicious person in their neighborhood.
“This allows us to make contact with that person and find out exactly what he or she is doing in the neighborhood. We can get their identification and pass that information on to the detectives to see if they may have been involved in a previous crime,” Burch said.
Burch, who joined the police department in 2008, and who has worked in the CID and narcotics, said he has seen a very positive difference in how the citizens react since the creation of the community relations initiative, and the “them against us” mentality no longer exists.
“What we are doing now is simply opening up a better way to communicate with the citizens. Back years ago it wasn’t like that at all. “I make an effort to tell my guys that we are the backbone of this department. Without us there is no information,” Burch said.
NEXT: An interview with West Memphis Police Department ATF Task Force Lt.
Harvey Taylor. Lt.
Taylor partners with the Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency regarding gun related violent crimes, a relatively new investigative unit that works hand-in-hand with the department’s other divisions.