Beyond the Uniform: Meet the Finalists for Denton Police Chief
A community reception introducing the six finalists for Denton police chief to the public was held Aug. 30 at the Denton Public Safety Training Center.
After privately held panel discussions with local organizational leaders, the general public was introduced. Surveys on each candidate were gathered in order for City Manager, Todd Hileman to review in regards to his decision on who will be chosen.
As of now, there’s no set date on the final vote for the new Denton police chief, but you can voice your support, concerns and comments about the finalists to the city manager's office. Call (940) 349-8307 or email to Todd.Hileman@cityofdenton.com.
Born and raised in Arlington, Martinez has moved around across the metroplex in her career.
She was 16-years-old in September of 1999 when she attended Wedgewood Baptist Church. That evening changed her perspective of law enforcement. Larry Gene Ashbrook entered the chapel and opened fire.
"He shot Robert beside me, and a young lady behind me who passed away," said Martinez.
She also remembers a first responder who was an off-duty police officer that ran towards the threat after hearing the sounds of the bullets. Even after the chaos, he was a symbol of hope and rescue for Martinez.
“To give back to the community or to go towards a threat and make a difference has framed who I am.”
When she takes the uniform off, she’s a mother of two, and heavily invested in her children. Her 7-year old son and 5-year old daughter are her pride and joy. Since her son started piano lessons, she’s getting back into playing herself. She also enjoys lifting weights and working out.
Born at Fort Worth’s Caldwell Air Force Base, Dixon grew up as a military brat. He always knew as a child that he wanted to either be a firefighter or a police officer. The 100-foot aerial ladders used by firefighters swayed his decision to stick to the groundwork of community policing.
He said he always believed in giving back, and by his own definition giving back meant, "Letting kids who looked like me know that they could also be cops.”
After graduating high school, he joined the Marine Corps. He dedicated four years of service to the military before moving to Austin to start his career in 1995.
During his early years, Dixon had to deal with racist pushback by older officers of the 1960’s but ultimately pushed forward. As a young patrol officer, he obtained a mentor from a sergeant, even though he was told by many that the man was a racist.
Dixon said the sergeant looked out for his development and stuck up for him when he didn’t have to. He credits the man’s solid advice while learning the job.
"The job is dynamic, because you’re forced to make decisions on the fly," said Dixon.
He believes that to develop a good police officer, you need to have active leadership.
“Not sitting behind a desk or management. You have to go out and be present. Be engaged. You want to model, what you’re mirrored.”
A memorable moment for him in his career was when he was off duty in a store one day buying a drink.
A young man tapped on his shoulder to told him, “You don’t remember me, but you saved my life.”
Dixon had arrested the young man for assaulting his mother. He credited Dixon’s arrest as a way for him to get back on the straight and narrow.
When he takes the uniform off, Dixon is a father who’s chasing around a 4-year old and a 2-year old. He likes to work out since he loves to eat a lot. He tries to golf, but he’s not good at it.
Prior to his career in law enforcement, Gallagher was apart of the U.S. Army Military Police Corps.
Gallagher’s proudest moment in his career was a resurrection of a memory lost to history. He was working in Virginia as a police caption at the time.
A project for honoring Virginia’s first black police officers was underway when an elderly woman tapped him on the shoulder after the event.
She told him he forgot to honor a man named Hezekiah Little Jr. in the ceremony.
After doing research, Gallagher found that Little was a fellow officer that was accidentally shot and killed in 1953 by another officer in the line of duty.
Little was essentially forgotten as the officer that shot him was acquitted.
“How disrespectful is that? You have this hero, lost to history, and for me, I said that we’re going to correct that.”
Today, Hezekiah Little Jr.’s name is etched in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. He said it speaks to the value of what community policing is, and how far it can go.
When he takes his uniform off, Gallagher is a husband and a father. On his personal Facebook, he has a, “No politics,” rule as he doesn’t want to restrict his life to the life of his profession.
He has a workshop, and loves to build projects like bird houses. He has two dogs that he loves to death. He is also a huge Old Dominion University sports fan, and teaches at Tidewater Community College.
“I think that it’s extremely important for young adults to textualize their thoughts and beliefs, especially when it comes to the criminal justice system.”
Born in Queens, New York, Spruill grew up with his four siblings in a single-parent household. He said his neighborhood was poverty stricken with gangs, drugs and violence. Spruill’s mother moved the family to Richmond, Virginia to get away from it, but at the time Richmond was named the murder capital of the United States.
“We kind of went out of the frying pan and into the fire,” said Spruill.
Spruill understands what it’s like to live in a minority community full of poverty. He’s had first-hand experience of the issues that plague those communities, including police brutality.
“At first, I didn’t view police as friends."
Spruill went into the military when he was 17-years old. When he finished his service, he first joined the Alexandria Police Department in Virginia.
He wanted to be a lawyer at first and figured if he worked as a police officer for a few years, it’d allow him to learn about law from an officer's perspective.
27 years later, and his whole perspective about police changed.
“Now instead of viewing the police as the enemy, I understand that they play an important and vital role. The police need to be doing things to build relationships. Engage the community to ensure that they’re trusted."
He believes that police officers should hold themselves accountable in treating all people with dignity and respect.
Giving people a voice and understanding the long-standing issues in a community helps alleviate future crimes or issues.
Problem-solving is big for Spruill. He wants to make that officials not only police the community but internally within their departments. He said that’s done by giving officers bias training to dismantle racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
Outside of his uniform, Spruill spends his time volunteering with his church's youth ministries program.
Born and raised outside of Chicago, Schauer graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and worked for his father for about a year after until he realized he didn’t want to be in his father’s line of work.
He was selectively homeless for four months before entering the academy. He was living outside of his truck and a tent when he needed a job.
Schauer prides himself on his experiences with different backgrounds. He said his alma mater gave him a unique perspective globally by interacting with his peers. He also lived in Corpus Christi that has a large Hispanic population and believes it helped shape his understanding.
He said he believes that the community members are the experts, and wants to attain the information from those living in the area in order to create change where it needs to be. He believes residents should be able to go to school, operate a business and work while feeling safe.
“You want to feel safe without having some extraordinary police presence that stops you every five minutes,”said Schauer.
Outside of his uniform he teaches at Texas A&M where one of his favorite courses is Comparative Criminal Justice. The course educates on policing from different parts of the world. He’s also apart of different organizations outside of his career work and enjoys his family.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Mitchell went straight to the military after high school. He served four years in the Air Force before joining the Kansas City Police Department.
While in the Air Force, he was a security specialist and went overseas. That experience gave him the opportunity to do law enforcement work.
“It’s just something I fell in love with. The opportunity to be of service to my community,” said Mitchell.
He loves meeting people every day and said every day is different. He reiterates the opportunity to develop relationships with people no matter where they are in life, economically, as a part of the most memorable experiences in his career.
Mitchell notes that the stories of compassionate police officers, who have gone above and beyond the line of duty, don't get reported on.
He recounts officers that have taken money out of their own pockets to help individual families.
“No one’s looking for a pat on the back. It just happens, and I think if people really knew how much officers cared about their community and how much they do, that never gets reported, it would be astounding," said Mitchell.
Mitchell counts one of the most fulfilling parts of his career was helping create computer labs for underprivileged youth so they could have learning labs in their community. He loved working with the kids.
Header image by Jade Jackson.
Header design by Tori Falcon.