Toledo police Lt. William Moton says he has wanted to be a police officer since he was 6 years old. On Jan. 2, the 68-year-old former Marine will become the city’s newest police chief. Lieutenant Moton says taking the job is ‘a way to give back.’
As a kid growing up in New York City, Bill Moton and his buddies would sit on the curb and wait for the police officers who walked along the streets of their neighborhood to pass by.
“They’d stop and talk to us … and I thought that the best thing in life was to be a police officer,” said the now Toledo police lieutenant who, on Jan. 2, will be named the department’s next chief. “I’ve known that ever since I was about 6-years-old that I wanted to be a police officer.”
Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins publicly announced on Monday his intention to promote the lieutenant to chief, just days after Chief Derrick Diggs announced he would retire, citing “irreconcilable differences” in policing philosophies.
Throughout the mayoral race, Mr. Collins made no secret of his wish to remove Chief Diggs, a personal friend of Mayor Mike Bell, from his seat if elected.
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The two didn’t seem to be on the same page, let alone reading from the same book, about how the department should operate.
Mr. Collins often spoke out against technological advances — like the real-time crime surveillance cameras that Chief Diggs called part of his “bold and ambitious plan” to move the department forward — saying cameras cannot replace officers on the streets.
Lieutenant Moton said he wants to build upon the data and intelligence-led policing that Chief Diggs brought to the police department and find ways to improve.
His plans seem to focus on merging the number crunching with “beat integrity,” a policing method that Mr. Collins spoke about at length during various campaign-time debates, interviews, and news conferences.
The strategy focuses on assigning officers to specific beats and holding those officers accountable for the crimes that are committed there.
That is the style of policing that Lieutenant Moton worked under when he was a rookie cop in 1983 — it’s also how Mr. Collins worked when he was a patrol officer.
As a newbie officer, Lieutenant Moton worked with Eugene Brownfield as a central-city wagon crew (Unit 222), doing exactly what they liked best: catching the bad guys.
Car thieves and various other criminals didn’t stand much of a chance — not with a former Marine and high school running back ready to jump out of the police wagon and give anyone who bailed from a vehicle a run for their freedom.
In his personnel file — which is full of mundane human-resources paperwork and various commendations — there is an ’atta boy for a 1984 catch that effectively ended a car-theft operation that was responsible for at least six stolen vehicles a day.
“He’s goal-oriented,” said police Sgt. Tim Noble, who worked Unit 122 as a patrolman, in close concert with Lieutenant Moton. The two work in tandem now in investigative services. “He wants to get the job done. He wants to catch the bad guy.”
Lieutenant Moton grew up with a dad in the military and, subsequently, moved around quite a bit.
His family eventually landed in Akron where a young Bill Moton attended Central High School. He played baseball, was an all-state running back, and ran track.
At 18, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines, nicknamed “Hell in a Helmet.”
Battle of Khe Sanh
From 1965 through 1969, he served in Vietnam.
He fought in the Battle of Khe Sanh. And while in Quang Tri Province, the Marines found themselves in an exchange of gunfire, and Lieutenant Moton was shot in his chest.
Later, during the same battle, his unit was barraged with land mines and he was injured by shrapnel.
At a hospital in Guam, he was given the choice to go home or return to service.
“You feel a bond with your Marine Corps people and you don’t just walk away and leave them there,” he said.
“I volunteered to go back into combat.”
For his service, Lieutenant Moton was award the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation.
After leaving the military, a former high school coach recruited him to Bowling Green State University, where he then studied sociology and psychology and eventually earned a master’s degree in public administration.
He also worked two years as an investigator for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The same don’t-abandon-the-corps attitude that Lieutenant Moton had in Vietnam carries forward in his police roles.
As chief, he wants to spend time on the streets with the street officers working the daily grind.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a cop and that’s all I ever wanted to be, to be quite honest with you,” he said. “I don’t think you can lead from behind a desk. … I believe that you have to be out there with the people you’re asking to do work. … I have to be out there and they have to see me out there with them. I care, you know. And the community has to see me out there.”
The lieutenant isn’t coming from a position that had him far-removed from the streets. In his current role, he oversees violent crimes, working closely with detectives on homicide investigations.
In a way, from that perspective, his appointment is somewhat unique — he hasn’t had a lot of time to forget what it’s like to deal with unpleasantness.
“When you go up in rank, you’re kind of isolated, you’re not on the streets dealing with it,” he said. “Just because you have bars on your collar doesn’t mean you have all the answers.”
One year to retire
There’s a lot for the soon-to-be chief to get done, especially since he will only have one year in that role before it’s time to retire.
The retirement is necessitated by the Deferred Retirement Option Plan not because the lieutenant, at 68, is the oldest on the department. He’s a young 68 — he doesn’t drink or smoke, and his free time is spent working out and “keeping up with my wife” and 22-year-old daughter, Lauren.
He and Mr. Collins said the short-term appointment will allow time for a younger command officer to be mentored by the lieutenant as a natural successor.
The lieutenant also has the task of fulfilling one of Mr. Collins’ major campaign promises: the reopening of the Northwest District Station on Sylvania Avenue.
The now-vacant building, where doors are cluttered with Toledo Police Department alarm notices, once housed the special-victims unit but was closed by Mayor Bell on June 29, 2012.
Mr. Collins promised the station would be reopened within the first 100 days of his administration.
“That is a priority that was promised to the community, and we will keep that promise,” Lieutenant Moton said. It’s still not known which units could be housed in the West Toledo substation.
There’s also the matter of personnel appointments, considering what special units — such as gangs and SWAT — might need to be restructured, and what programs, like the Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, to throw his support behind.
Some of the most important jobs of the lieutenant’s time as chief will be rebuilding a “trust factor” within neighborhoods where officers are oftentimes seen as the enemy, and making Toledo a safer city.
Also crucial is maintaining a strong relationship with the rank-and-file and making the department one that the officers are excited to work for.
Numerous officers already said they’re excited to see him take over as chief — one officer said the lieutenant comes into the Safety Building every morning with a smile.
“I’ve been involved in law enforcement for a long time,” Lieutenant Moton said.
“My wife retired from work four years ago and was looking forward to me retiring. I thought [being chief] was an opportunity for me to give back. I don't know where it’s going to lead, but I’m going to give it my damnedest.”