REDFIELD — Police Chief Steve McFatridge is intent on building a "home-grown, self-contained" police department for this Jefferson County city capable of handling just about anything involving law enforcement.
REDFIELD — Police Chief Steve McFatridge is intent on building a “home-grown, self-contained” police department for this Jefferson County city capable of handling just about anything involving law enforcement.
McFatridge, 52, who moved here with his family as a child, was appointed police chief on Jan. 1, 2011, to succeed the retiring Jack Wakefield. He found three full-time officers on the force and has since seen the department grow to four full-time and two part-time officers.
The department now relies on its own personnel to investigate criminal cases instead of calling on the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department for assistance, he said, and recently identified suspects in a number of felony crimes through latent fingerprints and DNA evidence.
Detective Teri Patterson, who joined the department Sept. 1, who has received training in crime scene procedures, was able to help solve cases involving three stolen vehicles with the aid of fingerprints she collected and identify a suspect in a residential burglary through DNA.
“His DNA profile was in the Arkansas Crime Information Center database and we are actively seeking him now,” the chief said. “While it is not ‘CSI’ we can do as much as possible.”
McFatridge remembers the days when Wakefield called the sheriff’s department for help because McFatridge headed up the department’s criminal division. He also knows how law enforcement has changed since he entered the field in 1983 as a Redfield city marshal.
“They gave you a badge and a ticket book,” he recalled. “You had your own gun.”
Since then, during stints with the sheriff’s department and Pine Bluff Police Department, McFatridge said he learned to appreciate the training now required of law enforcement personnel.
“My goal is that the department will grow with the city and meet all the needs of the city to the best of our ability,” he said. “We are on track to do that.”
Samuel Buffkin has joined the department earlier this month and is scheduled to begin a 12-week class at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in East Camden on Sept. 30.
Officers Donald Tucker and Jason Anzaldua fill out the department’s law enforcement personnel roster.
McFatridge said he has placed an emphasis on hiring Redfield residents because of their knowledge of the community and its residents. “When they have a home and family here, they know the people.”
When the department receives a complaint, the address might not be complete, but a Redfield resident “can respond quicker with his or her knowledge of our community,” McFatridge explained.
Redfield aldermen earlier this month authorized hiring Buffkin after McFatridge said the municipality needed a fifth full-time police officer to provide 24-hour patrols in the city.
Eventually he hopes to have many of the department’s officers certified as instructors, reducing the time lost by sending officers off for required in-service training.
“As a small department, we need to cover the streets, so keeping our officers in Redfield makes for better use of their time,” McFatridge said. “If we can conduct our own crime scene investigations, work our own traffic accidents, including fatalities, we can better serve residents of the city.
“Training is crucial today because the bad guys on the streets are better equipped than ever,” McFatridge added. “They have portable police radio scanners to keep track of us, so we must do a better job keeping track of them.”