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Published: Wednesday, 12/18/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

COMMENTARY

From street cop to top job

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

Mayor-elect Mike Collins is fired up. His trips to Harvard and the White House have re-energized him. He likes his new cabinet — but especially William Moton, his new police chief.

Mr. Collins kept saying to me: “You have to meet this guy. This is an exceptional individual.”

I thought Lieutenant Moton could not possibly live up to Mr. Collins’ hype. After sharing an hour with him, along with The Blade’s police reporter Taylor Dungjen, I think the mayor was understating the case.

Chief-designate Moton is the real deal.

To begin with, he is a cop’s cop. He ran the SWAT unit. He was fascinated by the puzzles and the pursuit of the bad guys in homicide, where he says every case is personal. He ran the Moody Manor murder investigation and says the key was to win back the community from the thugs who were intimidating it. Because in police work you need to match data to relationships.

Mr. Moton has done many jobs on the police force, but never sought to be part of the hierarchy. “I like to be out there,” he says. “I like people.” He’s a street cop, past retirement age, who thrives on the action. “We are a rare breed,” he says, “we run toward trouble.” The last thing he expected was to be picked as chief. He says this may be “an opportunity to give back.” He says his wife despairs of him ever retiring.

And yet, he says, it is a young force. It is really his job to prepare the next generation for leadership.

Police work is not a job he says, but a 24/​7 vocation. “You live it.”

Mr. Moton always wanted to be a cop. As a kid in New York City, he saw the police officer as the anchor of the neighborhood. He always wanted that job. He imagined it was the best job a person could have. And he has never wanted any other.

When justice is done, and the bad guys go away, he says he still feels great satisfaction.

The new mayor wanted Lieutenant Moton from the start. And no one else.

Why?

They knew each other on the force, of course, back in the day. They kept in touch. They share an approach to policing — yes, it must be data driven, but it must also be people driven. The police officer must be visible on the beat and build relationships of trust. The new chief says he will be “out there” with his men and that he will listen.

Sometimes the troops, he says, see things the generals don’t even know exist.

But Mr. Collins says that, most of all, he responded to the total integrity of Mr. Moton — as a man and as a police officer. “He isn’t part of any clique, and he is respected by one and all.”

You can feel that integrity when you talk to the man.

This is a quiet man whose country awarded him a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.

He was shot in the chest in a firefight and sent to a hospital in Guam to recover. And when he did, he chose to go back to Vietnam.

Think about that.

He was a Marine and, he says, “You don’t just walk away.”

If Mike Collins does nothing else, his appointment of William Moton as chief of police justifies his election.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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