Police, Fire Chiefs speak at chamber event
Safety was the topic on hand at the Burleson Area Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon last Thursday.
Chamber president Andy Pickens made opening remarks and was proud to be celebrating his one-year anniversary as the chamber president. The invocation was led by Pastor Chris Shirley of North Pointe Church.
Fire Chief K.T.Freeman and Police Chief Billy Cordell spoke about public safety improvements and the challenges of a quickly-growing community.
The main concern for Freeman is that his department continues to have adequate staffing and resources. The Burleson Fire Department answers approximately 4,800 calls per year, has 48 paid firefighters and mans three stations covering 26 miles. The department was also awarded an ISO rating of 1 this past December.
“There is a clear sense that we need to keep up with the residents we gain and that we continue to expand fire safety in general, Freeman said. “Those resources can’t become static as the community continues to grow or we won’t be able to provide the same level of service that we do now.”
Freeman was also excited to share that the department will be gaining a new fire engine soon, as well as an exciting partnership with Texas Health Huguley Hospital and MedStar for an EMS service that will act as a community paramedic.
“Everything we do should accomplish our missions statement, ‘The mission of the Burleson Fire Department is to improve the quality of life and safety of our citizens by providing the highest level of services through fire prevention.’ That is our number one goal and we are very proud of that.”
Police chief Billy Cordell was happy to share with the audience that the department is currently seeing a decrease of Part One crimes by 15.4 percent.
“Part One crimes are more serious offenses such as murder, sexual assault, robberies and kidnappings, but it can also include theft and burglaries,” Cordell said.
Cordell was quick to note that while the overall number of these types of offenses are down overall, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still happening.
“Our violent crimes rates are down, but we’ve had a couple of stabbings this year and we did recently have a homicide,” he said.
The chief also talked about the strangulation ordinance that passed on Jan. 22, making it mandatory for police officers and emergency responders to document and render aid when strangulation is suspected during a domestic violence offense.
Cordell also highlighted a video that the department recently put out on social media about the importance of removing items and property from a vehicle when it is parked somewhere.
“I’d like to see our numbers lower on this, so that’s why we made the video and released it online,” Cordell said. “You should remove your property from your car and lock your car to prevent theft.”
School safety has been on the minds of many recently, Cordell said, and he assured the audience that BPD takes this issue very seriously.
“We’re not immune to having violence in our schools,” Cordell said. “So protecting our kids is one of our highest priorities. We work very closely with BISD on how to prevent violence. Recently I met with principals several times to give some insight, talk about the history of violence in schools and do some practical exercises.”
While the chief hopes that nothing happens in Burleson, he said that extensive training will help if such a situation does ever arise.
“We aren’t just sticking our heads in the sand,” Cordell said. “We are also working with a few Joshua schools because we have Joshua schools that are here in Burleson as well.”
The chief was also excited to show off the department’s new aerial drone which was funded by the Burleson Police Foundation and will aid in the use of several operations.
“It’s going to save us time, which is a huge factor,” Cordell said. “At nighttime it has a flare on it to detect heat so you could find someone in a field, which is a whole lot faster than us doing a search on ground.”
The drone will also keep officers safe in potentially dangerous situations and act as the eyes for officers when they need heightened sight.
“The great thing about this is you can use it in so many ways,” Cordell said. “Tactical operations, assessments, bad weather, crime mapping and there is even software for mapping an accident.”
The department has already received their certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration and has selected which officers will act as drone pilots. Those pilots will start training soon.
In addition to speaking about crime rates and new equipment, Cordell shared with the audience the daily stressors of being a police officer, saying most people don’t quite understand what the police do.
“Three minutes and 34 seconds can change an officers life forever,” Cordell said. “We had an officer involved shooting last year and the entire call from when the officers were dispatched it was something like 10 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to that call. Then within six seconds somebody running, approaching them, with a gun and a knife- this was after they arrived opening the car door, 22 seconds later they were involved in a gun battle, and then 39 seconds the shot fired, and 72 seconds from arriving on the scene, they had the person in custody.”
Moreover, Cordell talked about how non-traditional the job of a police officer is, from dealing with daily stressors, to shift work, as well as the hardships on families.
“One minute you’re sitting there doing nothing and the next there’s a murder investigation,” Cordell said. “Our dispatchers are right there with us because they’re answering those calls, and the mental toll that it takes on them, sometimes talking about the mental side of that, and calls you make that will stain your memory forever.”