‘We need the community’: Bethel’s new police chief looks for ways to connect

Leonard "Pete" Hicks
Leonard “Pete” Hicks is the Bethel Police Department’s newest chief. (From BPD)

Bethel Police Chief Leonard “Pete” Hicks is relatively new to the city, but he is not new to law enforcement. Hicks brings a unique perspective to the position, molded from experiences growing up in the Deep South, his time in the Army and a 20-year law enforcement career.

Hicks has plans for the department.

“One of the biggest things I’ve seen here, especially with the police department prior to getting here, was that there seemed to be a lack of engagement between the police department and the local community,” he said.

Earlier this month several officers, including Hicks, attended WinterFest. They were invited by library staff; some sang karaoke. In early December, Officer Chelsea Griffin joined Toddler Time and read to the kids. Hicks said that he would like more opportunities to engage with Bethel.

“You know, we’re trying to start more volunteer engagement. We just started a chaplain program with the police department, so we have a police chaplain here,” Hicks said.

The idea is for community members to be comfortable approaching police officers and staff.

“I would like us to be very transparent in how we operate,” Hicks said. “If someone wants to come down to the police department and sit down and talk to me, they’re more than welcome to do so. And if I’m there, I will; I will speak to them. I’ve had several people do that.”

In order to do that, it will require trust.

“We’ve tried to get our presence back on social media,” Hicks said. “Again, we want people to engage with the police department — we can’t do it ourselves. We don’t have enough officers to do that. We need the community to help us keep the community safe. And by engaging with the community, by building that trust, they gave their trust to us that we’re going to do the right thing. That also lets them know that if they come to us, they will trust that we’re going to listen and take them seriously, and help when they ask for help.”

Hicks also has plans to initiate a citizens’ police academy. He believes that this would be beneficial and would help build some understanding between the community and the police department. He thinks that it would give citizens a better understanding of how the police operate and why they do the things that they do.

Folks interested in the open positions available can visit the city’s website. Send an application to the police department and you might get a phone call from Hicks.

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