While new Surprise Police Chief Michael Frazier did not officially take command of the department until Monday morning, over the weekend he spent some time performing a big part of his job: introducing himself to the community.
Frazier, the former El Mirage chief of police who was hired by Surprise last month, stopped by the joint open house arranged by Councilmen John Williams and Mike Woodard at City Hall Saturday to meet and greet the people.
“This has been a crazy few weeks for me,” Frazier said. “I’m 58 now and even at 58, I tend to be a little hyper. It was a great opportunity for me in El Mirage, but I felt like I needed a new challenge. I took the leap and now here I am.”
Frazier was among four finalists for the job, though city officials said there was a strong consensus from city and department staff as well as community members that Frazier was the right person for the job. He takes over from interim Chief Mark Schott, who announced plans to retire last fall. Schott had been serving as chief after Dan Hughes was terminated in April after the Surprise Police Department’s employee association submitted a letter of no confidence to the city council regarding the former chief’s leadership.
Woodard said he was happy to have Frazier stop by Saturday’s meeting, and not just for the benefit of the residents who attended.
“I’m going to be pretty much meeting him today, too,” Woodard said.
Woodard said he is confident Frazier is the right man for the job.
“Everything I’ve seen and heard so far leads me to believe he will be,” Woodard said. “I expect the council will have a great relationship with him.”
Frazier said his focus will be first and foremost on crime suppression, and he said building a relationship with the community will be paramount.
“People need to feel safe, that is our number one job,” he said. “We have to have good communication with our residents because we need to know if we are hitting the mark.”
Frazier frequently touched on that theme at the open house. He said he intends to ensure his department is one that acts with empathy and integrity and, whenever possible, resolves problems at the street level.
“I taught at the Phoenix Police Academy for 14 years, and one of the things I used to say is that you know you’ve made it as an officer when you don’t have to fight a guy to get him into the back of your squad car, you can talk him into it. You don’t even touch him,” he said. “Even better than that is when you are able to calm the situation down, realize no crime has been committed and resolve the situation without anyone going to jail.”
Frazier said his initial analysis of the Surprise Police Department is that everyone is doing his or her job externally. As he sees it, the departments issues are all behind the curtain.
“Our issues are internal issues,” he said. “The reality is they have to be dealt with. I’m a head-on person. I won’t allow those kinds of issues to go on. We’re a little off track, but we’re going to address that.”
Frazier received a warm welcome from the residents in attendance Saturday, including a handshake from Jack Locarni, a former friend and fellow Phoenix police sergeant. Locarni and Frazier were sergeants together for several years.
“Surprise could not have picked a better guy,” he said. “I spoke to some of the people over at El Mirage and believe me, they are sad to see him go. We’re happy to have him here.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.