Oak Ridge North City Manager Vicky Rudy describes Police Chief Andy Walters as a character. Walters describes himself as a mammal. Walters has spent 41 years in policing, and for 27 years Walters has been a part of the Oak Ridge North police force, including his current position as chief of police, which he earned in 1999.
Walters said he has hired every officer who works in the department today, and he aims to continue the policing tradition in the city through them and future generations of Oak Ridge North police officers. Walters is a certified forensic hypnotist, graduated from FBI command leadership institute and the Blackburn Law Enforcement Institute.
In his spare time Walters likes to travel and go camping with his family.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a police agency?
Building and maintaining the trust of our citizens. It is something that we hold tantamount in the police department— providing exceptional service for our citizens. The reason that is a challenge is because, at times, we have to deal with the citizens and it is difficult. Depending on what your definition of fairness is—if we arrest you, your feeling is it would be more fair if we cut you loose. At times we will upset a citizen because we will make an arrest on them or a kid or we will write them a ticket or we will have some police action. To us, fairness is treating everybody exactly the same. I have this obsessive disorder about fairness.
Are there any challenges related to having a small police force?
A football team doesn't have all quarterbacks. You have to have somebody to catch the ball. The coverage for our patrol is you have two officers per shift per day, under ideal circumstances. Out of that we cover 336 man-hours per week with those 10 individuals. We have challenges when we send them off for training, we have vacations, we have sick days and other things that pull the officers out. There are times when we have one officer, but there is never a time when we have no officers out [patrolling].
How does having a small police force benefit the officers?
I would put any of our officers up against any big city police officer, and they will police [well] because our officers are exposed to so much more and expected to know so much more. It doesn't matter if you are in a big city or a small city, the same steps have to be taken with fewer people.
How do you work with other first responders throughout the county?
We have a tremendous relationship with the Sheriff's Office. We have a great relationship with Shenandoah. Through interlocal agreements, Shenandoah can come over here and do the same job that we do in our city, and we can do the same job in their city. If there is an event that takes all of our officers off the street, Shenandoah Police Chief John [Chancellor] will send his officers down [to ORN] to patrol and take calls and be first responders for us, and vice versa. We work with fire and EMS also.
How have things changed in ORN since you first joined the department?
When I started here, I-45 was four lanes. People did actually leave their keys in the ignition of their cars. There was innocence in the community that I don't think you see now, and that is kind of heartbreaking. The city of Houston and Harris County have such a strong police presence that the experienced crooks are now moving out of those areas, and they are coming into the suburbs. So we are not getting new and inexperienced crooks that are easy to catch.
What are you most proud of with your service at the department?
I was fortunate that I was brought up in this business by old [school] police officers. I was indoctrinated into the idea that you don't let them get away. It is a philosophy that I have insisted on in the police department. The tradition of police is important, so I feel honored that I got to know the officers from that era, and I was able to take some of the good things and bring them to today and pass them to the young officers who in 30 years, I hope, will pass them to the next officers.