GENOA — It wasn't 36 years in law enforcement or the seven years he was the elected Ottawa County sheriff that guided Bob Bratton in the transition to the job of Genoa police chief.
It was the experience he got during the 1970s as Swanton mayor that has helped him most in running the village police department.
"That has helped me more than anything," he said. He retired from the sheriff's department in September to accept the job as police chief.
Mr. Bratton and his wife have lived in the village since 1993 when he left the Northwood police department to become an Ottawa County deputy.
He said the two years he was mayor of the Fulton County village gave him an understanding of the problems that police in a small town face and the issues that are most important to residents.
Mr. Bratton was elected in 1971 at age 18 to Swanton council, becoming one of the youngest elected officials in the country.
"As mayor of a small town, I dealt with every type of issue that is out there. It has given me the ability to deal with people and understand people at a young age. I was working in Swanton handling complaints ranging from complaints about police officers and employees to sewer problems," he said.
In stepping down as sheriff, he went from an office of 62 employees and responsibility for ensuring the safety of a whole county to an operation with three full-time police officers and several part-time officers for a village of 2,300 people. Genoa is in the southwestern corner of Ottawa County.
"To be honest, it's kind of neat and fun to come back to that type of environment," he said. "I enjoy the interaction. I am big on that. I guess that is the politics coming out of me."
He said the concerns and issues village residents have are different: "The complaint structure in a small town is different. However, you still have a victim and crimes need to be looked at. You don't get the volume of crimes in a small town, but you have crimes that are annoying to citizens."
Still, he has not been hesitant to introduce programs to Genoa that he used in larger departments.
A Block Watch program began in March, and the chief is communicating with residents to provide information on meetings and Block Watch issues via Facebook.
Because crime isn't a big issue in Genoa, he plans to have speakers, including judges and prosecutors, give presentations at the monthly meetings.
Also, Chief Bratton got village council to approve the purchase of Tasers. He said officers underwent training on their use of the instruments, which so far have not been used in the line of duty.
"We keep up on everything that is happening with Tasers. These are new tools for the officers. There is a belief if they are used right and appropriately there should be no problems," he said.
The department's computer system and two of the department's three police cars have been outfitted with laptop computers since Mr. Bratton took over the department.
He said they give officers instant access to crime databases.
Among the changes made by the chief has been having officers on duty around the clock.
He said the team, although small, has worked out well and officers arrange their schedules to make that happen.
In addition to working during the week, Chief Bratton said, he schedules himself to work Saturdays, when he alternates between office work and patrolling the community in a police cruiser.
He said he has been working with local businesses to assure that their concerns and issues are being addressed.
Officer Michael Woods said his new boss relates well to residents and his presence has been positive for Genoa.
"Chief Bratton is a good people person," he said.