SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Police Department is running smoothly and efficiently because its officers are well tuned in how they are expected to operate.
“We’ve had a zero turnover rate in two years,” Sgt. James Woodcock said. “That is a direct reflection of the leadership (of Chief Paul Wynn). This is a family-oriented agency and that comes from him.
“It comes from the top down.”
Woodcock said Springfield citizens benefit from the officers’ familiarity with each other and their jobs.
“It makes things a lot easier because everybody knows how everything is done and what we expect,” he said.
Woodcock said recently promoted Det. Amelia Smith, Cpl. Nicholas Cavanah and Cpl. Clinton Easton are excelling in their new positions.
“We are very pleased with them,” he said.
After a delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith has been trained in interviewing children who are victims of egregious crimes.
“That’s another good addition to the agency,” Woodcock said. “On top of that, we are expanding her role in sex crimes. We are looking into monitoring sexual predators online.”
Thanks to a partnership with state and federal agencies, the Springfield Police Department can monitor some of the websites favored by the worst sexual predators.
“They allow us to have access in real time to see who is logging on and what they are doing,” Woodcock said.
The department expanded a bit, recently adding a 30-hour position filled by Officer Ryan Lloyd.
Woodcock said the extra hours are needed because of population growth. Several subdivisions and apartment complexes are under construction on the outskirts of town.
“You see it out there,” he said. “Chief (Paul) Wynn said — since he has been here (1993) — there is usually a 10, 12 or maybe a 15 percent increase in call volume. Last year, due to the addition of businesses and population growth, it was probably 20 percent.”
According to a U.S. Census estimate, Springfield’s population is 4,152. That is an increase of 1,300 people since 2010.
Springfield’s downtown area is also blossoming. Formerly vacant buildings are housing thriving business ventures.
“I have a few officers who shop in here,” said Heather Wright, co-owner of Wright’s Wicks, “and a lot of them eat next door, at Stoner’s or at Central Station. They are visible and I think everyone feels safe.
“We have a lot of people who walk and excise downtown, too, and I don’t think they’d be doing that if they didn’t feel safe.”
Woodcock is pleased to hear positive feedback from business owners and residents.
“I really like the way Springfield has shaped up,” he said. “As long as the economy stays good, I see Springfield busting at the seams in the near future.”
Woodcock said COVID-19 is no longer having much of an impact on police procedures.
“We are one hundred percent back to normal, like nothing has happened,” he said. “Obviously, if we get a medical call and it looks like it might be COVID related, we might keep some distance but we are still there like always. We don’t leave it to (Emergency Medical Services).
“We go in there (with the patient). We just might stand back at the door.”
Unlike many areas across the nation, Springfield didn’t endure a dramatic spike in domestic abuse cases during the pandemic.
“When COVID-19 started, it stayed pretty quiet,” Woodcock said.
Early in the pandemic, the Springfield Police Department tried to limit interactions with the public as much as possible.
“We rode by businesses instead of going inside businesses,” he said. “We probably quadrupled, if not more, the neighborhood checks to try to keep (crime) down and I think it had a big impact. We didn’t really see a rise in anything.”
Woodcock is confident that the Springfield Police Department is ready for anything that COVID-19 or population growth bring.
“I think the chief has it well in hand,” he said. “He pays attention to the call volume. I think, instead of being behind the curve, he stays one step ahead of the curve.
“I also think the Springfield City Council has so much faith him. He’s been here a long time and I think that they trust what he says. He sees what’s coming and, luckily, they bless us with the power and tools to handle what’s coming before it gets here.
“I think we are sitting pretty good.”