To Chief Anthony Holt, it’s relatively simple; an effective police force must be an integral part of the community. Using the best technology available is a critical part of understanding and diagnosing the dynamics of a community, and Holt emphasizes that having detailed and accurate data has played an indispensable role in helping his department keep Wayne State University and the surrounding Midtown community a relatively safe place to live and work. But the most important part of good policing is good police officers, and the most effective police officer is a well-educated police officer.
“To work in this department, you have to have a Bachelor’s degree and be academically eligible for a Masters degree. Eighty percent [of his officers] have a Master’s degree. We had one officer become a doctor. What it does, it allows you to mix with a very diverse population,” said Holt.
“That guy with that bachelor’s degree, with the training we give him, should be able to talk to the guy who’s right in the gutter, and be able to relate to him, and talk to him in a respectful and dignified way. And help him get on his feet. At the same time, he should be able to communicate with a professional. You have to be a guy who’s able to switch gears. An officer could be called to a bar fight at 2 in the morning, or be in a car chase, but at the same time somebody flagged him down and said ‘I have a flat tire’.”
A native Detroiter and son of a church minister, who himself attended Wayne State University, Holt has deep roots in the Midtown/Cass Corridor area, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge and memory of the community as it has transformed since the ‘60s until today. His first job as a college student which helped him pay his tuition was working the 3-11 pm shift at the full-service Oklahoma gas station that used to be located on the Southeast corner of 2nd and Alexandrine just a few steps from where the El Moore is currently located. His address at the time was 700 Prentis.
“It was great fun. I ran into everybody.”
It was getting to know the community, which is something Holt has always enjoyed and which is what fed his longtime desire to create his own form of community policing. When he first began his career as a WSU police officer (“I was in the Police Academy at the same time as Detroit Police Chief James Craig”) the mission was considerably more limited than how he has expanded it since named Chief in 2008.
Back then “the job was basically to circle the campus and patrol the campus to make it a safe haven. We answered Detroit calls because we’re all sworn in as police officers, but the focus was on WSU campus.”
But once Holt took the reins, he finally had his chance to realize his vision of what community policing could be.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon.