Officials with the city of Jersey Village announced at a Feb. 17 Jersey Village City Council meeting that interim police Chief Kirk Riggs is slated to take over the position on a permanent basis March 1.
The announcement was made after a search process that started in November and yielded 53 applicants, City Manager Austin Bleess said. Riggs was appointed as interim chief in early November following the city's decision to cut ties with former police Chief Eric Foerster.
"We did a pretty competitive national search," Bleess said. "We tried to make sure we got our information in front of as many people as we could."
Riggs formerly served as police chief in Rockwall, a city of roughly 44,000 east of Dallas. He joined the force as the assistant chief in 2006 before being promoted to chief in 2015, according to information from the Rockwall department. Prior to that, he served with the Farmers Branch Police Department for 25 years.
During the search process, Bleess said the city was looking primarily for someone who was an effective communicator and demonstrated ethical integrity.
"We've got a really great group of officers right now; we just need a strong leader who's got that servant leadership style to really help the department move forward," he said. "[We want] someone that can recognize the complexity of policing a place like Jersey Village—a small community surrounded by a large metro area."
Bleess said it will be important for the new chief to be able to implement "21st century policing models," which he described as making sure officers are active in the community and are seen and known by residents. He referenced Dusty Bryant—a Jersey Village police officer who started a charity campaign over the holiday season to raise money and collect gifts for a local family in need—as an example of how officers can go above and beyond in serving the community.
Bleess said Riggs also brings budgeting and staffing experience to the role, and he is well suited to oversee the expansion of police presence to a part of the city where Village Center—a new 42-acre mixed-use project—will soon by under construction.
"Chief Riggs had the Harbor [Rockwall] up there, which is a similar type of development," he said.
In a phone interview, Riggs said he was drawn to the city of Jersey Village because of its supportive community and because of the work ethic of the other officers in the department. He said he decided to throw his hat in the ring for chief about one month into his stint as interim chief.
After serving in Rockwall, Riggs said he was glad to transition to a smaller city.
"I just really enjoy being able to work closely with people," he said. "That’s one of the reasons I like this size agency. I knew if I ever did take on another chief job, it would be a smaller agency where you can really have an impact on the men and women and be a leader. You get to be out on the street more."
Riggs said one of his top priorities is to provide leadership in a way that allows other members of the department to develop their own leadership skills.
"There are men and women here who are hungry to lead, and I’d like to see them get some good training," he said.
Prior to Riggs, Foerster had served as police chief in Jersey Village since 2010. Bleess declined additional comment on his departure.
The Jersey Village Police Department consists of a patrol division—which consists of 22 peace officers headed by a patrol lieutenant—a criminal investigations division and records division. The department's budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year came in at just under $3.5 million.
This article was updated Feb. 21 to include additional comments from Police Chief Kirk Riggs.