The Corsicana Police Department’s message is clear.
If you are selling or buying drugs in town they are coming for you.
“It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow,” said Robert Johnson Chief of Police, “But with every drug arrest we are gaining additional intelligence on the people who are manufacturing or delivering controlled substances. We have zero tolerance for meth, heroin, cocaine. Period.”
Corsicana police have been amping up narcotics enforcement with the addition of Dakota, the department’s new drug dog, increased traffic patrol and a re-formed SWAT tactical unit.
Johnson said the department has been understaffed by as many as 12 to 15 officers for the past four or five years.
Now fully staffed, they have no excuses.
“When you are that short-staffed you are running calls with no time to specialize,” he said. “This year we have been able to designate patrol officers on interdiction.”
Johnson said the department’s new proactive approach has resulted in over 120 narcotics charges in the first 73 days of the year.
“When it comes to property crimes such as robberies and burglaries of businesses and homes, It’s almost always tied to narcotics.”
He said drug users aren’t spending their own hard-earned cash on narcotics and when you tackle the root of the problem it prevents other crimes.
The Corsicana Police Department’s zero-tolerance drug policy means dealers face high stakes.
Police can seize a suspect’s vehicle if its is used to transport or deliver drugs and the charge leads to a conviction. In addition, court costs, lawyers and probation can get expensive.
“One arrest can cost a person as much as $20,000 Johnson said.” We want to make it so, if found guilty, they will never want to commit a crime again. Our local courts are very fond of sending drug dealers to prison. We want to make it cost too much to do business here, drug dealers and users will have to stop or move on.”
Johnson attributes the recent success to his strategic plan. The first step was filling the ranks with quality people.
“I have been trying to build a department that is sustainable,” he said. “And create a culture of professionalism which treats people with respect and dignity. I want my officers to be approachable. We want the public to see our officers are human and we are not afraid to let them see us smile.”
Johnson said not every traffic stop results with a citation, and it’s up to each officer’s discretion whether or not to write a ticket, depending on the severity of the crime.
However, during these stops they use their senses to determine if there is probable cause to search for narcotics.
In addition to new recruits, Johnson relies heavily on his seasoned veterans and command staff.
“I look at the police department as a business, I’m the CEO, Assistant Chief Ronnie MaGaha and Capt. Norri Rhodes are my VPs,” he said. “Our job is to sell safety and security, that is our product, our customers are every single person we come into contact with, we look at public contact as a customer service opportunity.”
Rhodes, who has worked in almost every department, agrees a big part of department’s recent success is getting more officers on patrol.
“The new officers are passionate and motivated,” she said. “Morale is so much better now. The officers are not afraid to work and do their jobs for fear of making a mistake.”
McGaha, who has been with the department for 37 years said it’s been a long time since they were fully staffed.
“We have a positive outlook in all our departments now,” McGaha said. “We are adding new positions and creating opportunities for our officers. That variety helps alleviate burnout.”
Other new plans in the works include community relations programs such as neighborhood crime watches, a citizens police academy for teens and liaisons with schools, businesses and ministerial alliances.
“We have received so much support from the community,” Johnson said. “We are grateful for the residents who come in and bring treats and food, the kids making cards. We have a huge support base here in this town. When the officers see the overall support it pumps them up to do their job. We appreciate the citizens greatly.”