New Arlington police chief tries to reassure public

Posted Friday, Jun. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Police Chief Will Johnson acknowledged Thursday that four recent homicides and a federal investigation of reports of illegal steroid use by police officers may have some residents questioning the safety of their community and the integrity of their police force.

“It can cause doubts in people’s minds and concerns about safety,” said Johnson, who has been chief since March. “I understand that.”

Johnson sat down with the Star-Telegram on Thursday after a news conference in which he announced a new drug testing policy and the firing of one officer arrested during a federal investigation.

Johnson said he is temporarily increasing the number of homicide detectives to help with the workload. Also, he said, he has refocused officers’ attention on geographic policing, which enhances police visibility and builds strong relationships with neighborhoods. It also allows officers to communicate with residents and businesses to identify crime concerns, develop custom solutions to those problems and help them understand more about what they are seeing on the news, Johnson said.

“That helps in the restoration and reassurance of the community that we care about the safety of their neighborhood,” Johnson said.

Four homicides occurred from June 4 to 10. Before that, the city had only one reported homicide for the year, which Johnson said was “unprecedentedly low.”

“Our historical average is to have eight homicides by this time of year,” Johnson said. Arlington had 17 slayings total in 2012.

“Yes, we’ve had four homicides. Yes, it’s very concerning. Yes, we need to bring these people to justice,” Johnson said. “But things are not dangerous.”

In addition to media attention on the rash of homicides, the Police Department was rocked this week with news of a federal investigation involving possible illegal use of steroids by officers. The investigation was made public Tuesday after one of the officers, David Vo, committed suicide. Later that day, Johnson announced that officer Thomas Kantzos was also under investigation. Kantzos faces federal charges and Johnson fired him Thursday.

“These actions were not consistent with our values and they are not tolerated within the organization,” Johnson said. “When we make mistakes, we will own them and be transparent about them. Although we are experiencing the same emotions as the community, we have to persevere through them and demonstrate to the community that we are going to provide the same level of public safety as always.

“Ninety-nine percent of the police employees are dedicated, hardworking public servants that want to make a difference in the community. They are sad. They are frustrated. They are disappointed that our department is being viewed through this lens because of the actions of a few.”

He declined to discuss the federal investigation. But he said he will take the same disciplinary action against any officer found to be involved in illegal activity.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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