Chief of Police Envisions Empty Jails for His City
"In five to ten years, if I can come into work and not have someone in jail for some type of substance abuse related crime or incident I think we are heading in the right direction," Chief Goodwin replied when asked what he envisioned for his city in the next five to ten years.
We recently had the privilege of spending some time with New Philadelphia Chief of Police Michael Goodwin. He was candid about the area's drug problems, his officers and department, and his vision for the community he is entrusted to protect and serve.
Chief Goodwin's life long dream of, "becoming a police man or firefighter," has come to fruition. Goodwin was born and raised in New Philadelphia and has been in local law enforcement for twenty nine years, six of which he has been the Chief of Police. Decades of community service has granted Chief Goodwin a front row seat to the escalation of America's drug crisis.
"What we've really seen in the last ten years is an explosion of drugs in our community, like any other city in America. Drugs are just taking over. We have seen it go from cocaine to heroin, then to meth and back, and it just sort of ebbs and flows depending on what the drug of the day is," explained Goodwin when asked what his job was like ten years ago compared to today.
"There is a social cost to this, probably three quarters of the crime investigations we do are drug related in one way or another," he continued, "I've seen in the ten years, and I'm still amazed, the number of grandparents raising their grand kids because mom and or dad are abusing drugs."
As head of a rural police department that protects and serves a city of just under twenty thousand, Goodwin certainly has a heart to see his city improve on a continual basis.
When asked why community members should be encouraged to call the police first, not last, Goodwin painted a picture of citizens cooperating with law enforcement, "I always tell people, please call us, you're not bothering us...if it's three o'clock in the morning and you see someone walking down the sidewalk that you think is strange, please call us. We will come out and check and determine if we need to talk to this person. If nothing else, if that person was going to do something no good that person is going to have second thoughts about doing it because now there is a police presence there."
As we drove around the city and conversed in Goodwin's police cruiser he elaborated on the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with surrounding cities, counties, and state law enforcement agencies.
He also candidly shared about the importance of monitoring the mental health of the officers in his department, "We see a lot, we see things that most people never see...but mental health for my officers is very important."
The Chief shared about the services available for his officers, "The city of New Philadelphia has a great employee assistance program, it's completely anonymous and all they need to do is pick up a phone and if they need to talk to someone they can make an appointment and it's all taken care of...we always encourage them to seek the help that is available to them."
Even amidst its struggles New Philadelphia is safer then 73% of American cities. Goodwin's response to this statistic was, "I have not heard this statistic, but it doesn't surprise me. I've heard rankings that we are in the top five to ten percent of safest cities in the state of Ohio...I think that is something to be proud of not only from my department but from the city administration, which allows me to do what I can do, plus it's also the citizens of the city. They are the ones helping us, we can't do this alone. We need their help to do this job."
When asked what his definition of a healthy community was Goodwin described his viewpoint, "I think certainly as a healthy community that everybody is getting along, that people feel safe to go out of the house and not worry that something is going to happen to them...If you feel good about your city you're going to take care of your city."
As we spent the afternoon together Goodwin felt proud of his city, but he is not in denial of the present challenges. He has a powerful community vision for the coming years. "Five to ten years, If I can come into work and not have someone in jail for some type of substance abuse related crime or incident I think we are heading in the right direction. At the end of the day it all rolls back to the drugs and substance abuses that are affecting our community...I think we are heading in the right direction and we have resources."
As we walked the clean streets of New Philadelphia waving at honking cars and saying hello to passers by, Goodwin was asked what he would want the public to know about him and his department, "At the end of the day, we work for them...we work for the citizens and the people that come and visit New Philadelphia."
You can follow the New Philadelphia Police Department Facebook page here. They regularly post about drug busts that have been made in the city. They also leverage the tool of social media as a connection point for community involvement. The department regularly post pictures of suspects and ask for help from community members. Community members have assisted in solving crimes through this approach.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, reach out and get help. There are great local resources available.
ADAMHS Board - 330-343-1811
Recovering Reality - Recovery Coaching- email@example.com - 619-880-6935
Tuscarawas County Job and Family Services - 330-339-7791