August 27, 2014

All Mansfield marshals sworn in as police officers

Mansfield disbands its city marshals service and Chief Marshal Tracy Aaron becomes chief of police. Gary Fowler is now assistant police chief.

The city disbanded its city marshals service Wednesday, swearing in all 17 deputy marshals as Mansfield police officers and installing Chief Marshal Tracy Aaron as chief of police.

Gary Fowler, with an eye toward eventual retirement, stepped down as police chief to the rank of assistant chief at his own recommendation, Fowler said.

The goals of the reshuffling are to improve efficiency and end the confusion among residents about the role of city marshals, said Fowler.

He said he and Aaron have been working on the consolidation for about a year.

“As administrators, you have to analyze your operations and yourself,’’ said Fowler. “It’s taxpayers’ money. Are we getting the best bang for the buck? And this really made sense, it really did.”

The main point he wants residents to know about city marshals is that they are certified police officers, Fowler said. They will dress like police officers and drive former marshals cars tagged with new police decals, but their duties will remain the same, including transporting city jail inmates and collecting fines on Class C misdemeanor warrants.

The newly enlisted police officers won’t add manpower to the patrol force or criminal investigations division, police spokesman Thad Penkala said. But they will increase the police presence on the streets and certainly can intervene if they witness a possible crime.

“Nothing is going to change for them except for the badge they wear and the patch on their sleeve,” Penkala said.

The new officers were sworn in at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Aaron has had a dual role as chief marshal and administrator of the 240-inmate jail, which the city built in 1990 to earn revenue from housing other agencies’ inmates. He’ll continue to supervise the jail as police chief.

Chandler said the change has no impact on the city’s contracts with its two clients, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Fort Worth police department.

Nor does the change affect the structure of the Department of Public Safety, which was founded in 2005 to bring the police and fire departments under one umbrella, although they continue to operate as independent departments. The DPS focuses mainly on coordinating emergency responses between the departments, said City Manager Clayton Chandler.

Aaron, 48, first joined the police department in 1989 as a patrol officer, rising to sergeant and commander before becoming jail administrator and chief marshal.

Earlier in his Mansfield career, he left active duty and joined the police reserve ranks for several years.

“I left for a little while and worked at our family business,” he said. “But I ended up coming back.”

He said the merger is going smoothly. The police officers and deputy marshals were already training together. And because of budget constraints in recent years, the marshals had been assisting the police in some roles.

“We’ve been integrating over the last four years,” Aaron said. “Now we’re at budget time, and it only made sense to put them together. Now we’re one unified department.”

Officials aren’t expecting big savings, but there will be some. As an example, Fowler cited the annual racial-profiling report that each policing agency has to file, including city marshals. They have to pay outside consultants about $12,000 to analyze city data to determine whether the racial makeup of people stopped by police reflects the city’s demographics. Now the city will pay only one fee.

Fowler said he plans to stay on the job for about six more years. He wants to retire after 30 years with the city, which would bring his total law enforcement career to 44 years, including four as a military police officer in the U.S. Air Force.

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