After the city of Tomball announced his appointment Oct. 6, Billy Tidwell officially took on his new role as head of the Tomball Police Department on Nov. 10.
Previously, Tidwell joined the Liberty Police Department in 1981 and served for 20 years as an officer and police chief before entering retirement. In 2009, Tidwell rejoined the force as Liberty's police chief, where he served for the past five years before becoming police chief in Tomball. Tidwell is filling the role formerly occupied by Rob Hauck, who is now serving as Tomball's assistant city manager.
Under Tidwell's leadership in 2012, the Liberty Police Department became the 52nd entity of an estimated 1,100 departments across the state to be recognized for law enforcement best practices by the Texas Police Chiefs Association. In addition, Tidwell helped implement an Area of Responsibility program to divide Liberty into six geographic districts to increase the accountability of officers. The department also carried out an All Hands on Deck initiative to bring officers and other city services to each neighborhood and strengthen relationships with community members.
In comparison with the city of Liberty, Tidwell said Tomball poses a number of challenges for law enforcement with a large transient population as well as several public events, such as the holiday parade and the German Christmas market. Tidwell said he plans to increase the amount of partnerships with other law enforcement agencies in the area to streamline resources.
How do you feel your past experience has prepared you for your new role as Tomball police chief?
I've been in the position a couple of times to take over a department and walk in and kind of be the new person. The first thing is just to get acclimated before we do anything, find out what we're doing and find out why we do what we do. I went to the 2 p.m. roll call [Nov. 10], and one of the things I told them was the community likes this police department, and other agencies that I've worked with like this police department.
It's just a situation where, for me, it's just a matter of learning what we do and who does what. I'm going to be having one-on-one meetings with every employee over the next few weeks to talk to them about—"Where do you see this department going in the next few years? What do you see as your role in that?" Part of it is to look at what their expectations are for the department.
What is your vision for the Tomball Police Department?
My vision is that they maintain the relationship with the community that they have. From what I've observed [the department is] are viewed as a very professional, caring organization. I know it's a growing area, but one of the things that impresses me about all of the officers and dispatchers and personnel that I've dealt with so far is that they really don't want to get that big-town police department kind of feel. They really enjoy their small-town relationship with the community.
What are some of the top priorities you'd like the department to accomplish under your leadership?
One of my priorities is always training. I think training is important. I think we need to look at what training do we do, and what training do we need to take us into the future. If we're looking at doing new things, where's the training for that? My experience is, especially in a department that size, that there are untapped resources here of knowledge and experience. Are we tapping into that and teaching each other what we all know? I find a lot of times we forget the resources we have internally, so we'll be looking at some of that and seeing what training we can get out of that and things we can learn.
Five years into the future—where would you like the Tomball Police Department to be?
I want this department to be one of the leaders in the area as far as how you deal with crime and how you deal with people. I want other agencies to have discussions about the Tomball Police Department. We ought to be the model.
I'm proud to be here, and I'm proud of what [the department has] accomplished so far. It's just a real privilege to be in this position. We only solve problems through communication. If [residents] think there's an issue, certainly they are free to pick up the phone and call me or someone they know here, and let's resolve the problem. I'd much rather resolve the problem than someone harbor some misconception about how we've done our job. My experience is very often if there's a problem, it's just because there's some miscommunication or misunderstanding about what happened, didn't happen or what should've happened. You work those [problems] out by talking.