Former patrolman acheives goal as chief

Dan Blair started his tenure as chief of the Clovis Police Department Saturday, taking the reins over from the retiring Bill Carey.
Blair has never worked for another law enforcement agency, spending all 21 years with the CPD. He spent most of his years working with the department’s Special Response Team, and has since risen through the ranks. His most recent position was as deputy chief, where he spent the last year and a half.

Q: How did you first come to work in law enforcement?
A:
I came to work for the Clovis Police Department. At the time, it was my first job. I wanted law enforcement as my career. I started looking and Clovis was the place that was hiring at the time.
I was hired as a patrolman. They had five-man teams. I was a West team patrolman. (We did) your basic everyday stuff, anywhere from calls for service, traffic crashes, anything that comes your way.
I spent five years as a patrolman, five years as a detective … almost five years as a sergeant, and it went a little quicker after that.

Q: When did you have aspirations to become chief?
A:
Years ago, (as) part of (my) training, other people would say, ‘That’s something you need to look at in your career.’ I would say over the last four years, through my education and training, I decided that’s a direction I wanted to go.

Q: You said once you became sergeant, your career ascension quickened. How do you speed up the process?
A:
I think most of it is (learning) leadership. I’ve been to the FBI National Academy. (Part of it is) different classes I’ve been to, a lot of executive classes.
I’ve seen people in our department who you think didn’t have great leadership ability, but they worked at it. A lot of where I come from, I was on the SWAT team for 14, 15 years. As you progress within that team, you are given more leadership responsibilities. I was made team leader — you have to make a lot of decisions, you have to make them quickly. I’ll never forget a time when the SWAT team commander and the second in command were out of town and it fell on me. You do what you have to do, and after you’re done, you discuss the decisions you made. You put people in harm’s way, and you have to lead them through situations.

Q:What was your upbringing like, and when did you decide law enforcement was the direction you wanted to go?
A:
I was born in Lubbock, but I consider myself growing up in Idaho. I went there (for) elementary, junior high. For the final two years of high school, we moved back to Texas.
The high school I was at in Idaho was one of the biggest high schools in the northwest. I graduated from Luke High School in Luke, Texas, with a class of 10. When you go to a small school like that, you have to get involved in everything … every sport, one-act plays, informative speaking, speech, FFA (which I never would have been a part of). There was one (play), “Lilly Doll and the Three Ladies.” I was a cop in that one (laughs) — an Irish cop.
Probably during high school is when I really decided that’s what I wanted to do as a career.

Q: When it became your career, did you ever question if it was what you really wanted to do?
A:
I was 21 when I started, probably naive about life. I remember a thing I told my dad. I told him, “Some people are just not very nice people.” I guess I was sheltered growing up. Everyone I grew up around was positive, and I just didn’t see that (negative side).
I’ll never forget years ago on the SWAT team. We’re barricaded in the early morning hours. There were three of us on concrete behind a car. I was thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing here?’ We’re freezing to death. We’ve been there for hours. We’re cramping up. We could be in bed. Then after it ended the way it did, positive, that’s what we’re doing here. But there have been times where you wonder.

Q:Now that you’re chief, you’re more likely wondering about your immediate future in the position. Chief Carey was in the position for roughly five years, so we’ll take that as an immediate tenure. What do you see as challenges during that period?
A:
What’s about to happen with Cannon Air Force Base, we need to be planning and looking to the future.
With the city administration and City Commission, what we’ll have to look at is as Cannon grows, how is the department going to grow with it? The city as a whole has challenges we are planning for.
Other things I would like to see within the next few years are (with) victims of crime, giving better service to the victim.
Some things I haven’t discussed with staff yet. I have programs I want to get going within the department, but I want the staff to be involved (before I divulge them).

Q: What are some of your core values of good law enforcement?
A:
It’s a wide area. I have something I developed when I was a captain. We’ve tried to get the officers to emphasize professionalism. Lt. Bob Morgan and I put together this will that we found important for professionalism — everything from behavior, motivation, attitude, all of it encompassed in this will. That’s something I want to continue to work with — professional law enforcement officers.
The first thing we looked at, and probably the easiest goal to attain, was how we looked, how we dressed. That’s an easy thing to measure. I’ll tell you one thing … (It’s vital) when you get feedback from the public. How are we doing? … When people pick up the phone and tell us how an officer handled an incident … court cases we’ve been through.

Q: What crimes do you think the department has to deal with more often today than five or 10 years ago?
A:
Graffiti. We’re getting closer and closer to implementing a program. Hopefully in the next month, we’ll have a program up and running.
It makes the community look bad. It’s dirty. If you don’t take care of your property, it generates negativism from people coming into the community. This is stuff we need to take care of.
We’ve (also) been combating (methamphetamine) for a number of years. It’s a huge problem. We have better cooperation, working together with the state police, sheriff’s office, federal agencies in the last five years than we have in quite a while.
I think the public is (also) more aware of it. Crime gets solved with the public’s help, plain and simple. A neighbor seeing somebody that shouldn’t be at their neighbor’s house, that’s how crime gets solved and stopped.
You have to educate the public on all kinds of things — crime prevention, deterring criminal acts and getting involved in the community. Law enforcement cannot do it by themselves. The community has to get involved.

Q: How much has technology changed the job?
A:
Where we’ve come with technology is just amazing. Ten years ago, we had computers within the department, but not like we have now where we could share information really quick.
We’re working a lot more on identity theft crimes, white-collar crimes. It goes back to technology, what people can do with computers and printers now. Keeping up with it (is a challenge).

Q: Any other thoughts?
A:
I’m looking forward to coming to work every day. It’s still exciting. When I hear the patrolmen talk about cases, I still want to go out and get involved. It’s an exciting time, not for me, but for the department. We’ve taken great steps within the last few years. We want to continue forward with those.

Based on an interview by CNJ Staff Writer Kevin Wilson and edited for style and clarity.