City marshals join Mansfield police force

08/28/2014 9:46 AM

08/28/2014 9:59 AM

Mansfield 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.

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

The aims of the reshuffling are to improve efficiency and end the confusion among residents about the role of city marshals, said Fowler, adding that he and Aaron have been working on the consolidation off and on for a year.

“As administrators, you have to analyze your operations and yourself,’’ said the 24-year Mansfield police veteran. “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. 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 added, but in the course of their duties, 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 a ceremony in the City Council chambers at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

As police chief, Aaron will continue his dual role as administrator for the 240-inmate jail, which the city built in 1990 to earn revenue from housing other agencies’ inmates. City Manager Clayton Chandler emphasized that the change has no impact on the city Law Enforcement Center’s contracts with its two clients, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Fort Worth police department.

The change does not affect the structure of the public safety department founded in 2005, which brought the police and fire departments under its umbrella but lets them continue operating as independent departments. The DPS focuses mainly on coordinating emergency responses between those departments, Chandler said.

Aaron, 48, joined the police department in 1989 as a patrol officer, rising to sergeant and commander before taking the jail administrator position four years ago as chief of the marshal service, founded in 1990 when the jail opened. 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 already were 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 at 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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