After a nationwide search and sifting through dozens of candidates, a committee helping to find a new police chief for the Beaumont Police Department has unanimously decided to endorse a hometown favorite.
Jimmy Singletary, who currently serves in the position of major, overseeing the CID, Warrants and SWAT divisions at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, will be tapped to replace outgoing chief Frank Coffin, who leaves at the end of September.
Coffin announced in March his decision to retire from the department, and that’s when city leaders began looking for a replacement. In all, there were 54 people who applied for the job and that number was whittled down to 11. From there, four dropped out for various reasons. The remaining seven candidates were there interviewed Monday, Aug. 22, and a 10-member committee made its recommendation to City Manager Kyle Hayes. The name everyone seemed to reach a consensus on was Singletary’s — now he must be approved by the City Council.
“It’s really an honor,” Singletary said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It has been a weird couple of days, and I have never had so many phone calls.”Singletary said he never thought of himself as being the chief of the department because he has always loved just being a good cop. He said it was the support of people he respected in the community and the encouragement from those around him, including his wife of 28 years, his daughter and her husband that helped him make the decision to throw his name in the hat.
“I love being out there in the field and doing the investigations and operations,” Singletary said. “And when people started putting my name out there as a potential candidate, I couldn’t believe it. I never thought I would be the chief but there were a bunch of people who I really admire and respect that told me they thought I had what it takes to do the job. I didn’t know if I was a good leader but I knew I had been effective and that we have been very successful with the cases I had been involved with. I really put this in the Good Lord’s hands and said if he wanted me in this position, then it would be an interesting ride.
“Now that this is becoming a reality, I think it is going to be great and I intend to get BPD back on track. There are some really good cops over there and they want to do well.”
During his 40-year career in law enforcement, which began in 1970 with BPD, Singletary has gained experience in nearly all aspects of law enforcement. Some of his biggest cases included assisting the FBI in the investigation of former BPD officer Mike Siebe, who is currently in federal prison for stealing millions of dollars in cocaine from the police evidence room. He also headed the investigation into a local adult bookstore that lead to public corruption conviction against former Beaumont Mayor David Moore and Councilmember John K. Davis, and he shut down Boudreaux’s Non-Therapeutic Stress Management, a front for prostitution. Upon his retirement from Beaumont PD, he took a job with the U.S. Department of Justice as a law enforcement coordinator. And while he said it was great job, it wasn’t cop work, and after a couple of years he signed on with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.His experience in drug investigations from heading up the city’s narcotics unit helped him lead several major investigations with the former Southeast Texas Narcotics Task Force that was headed up by Sheriff Mitch Woods’ office. One of those cases resulted in taking out the largest ever Ecstasy drug ring in the history of Southeast Texas. And for the past 35 years he has been an instructor with the Lamar police academy program.
When asked about issues within the department, Singletary didn’t pull any punches, saying the department has lost the faith and trust of the community, and his No. 1 priority is to ensure that is trust is regained. He said the citizens need to have faith in their police and the police need to be in touch with the people in the community. That has not been the case and the problems at the department over the past couple of years have dealt a severe blow to community relations.
“We have to get back in touch with the community and we will,” he said. “Because of all the bad things that the department has gone through and the mistakes that have been made, the department has lost focus on the main priority, and that is protecting and serving the citizens. There are so many good cops working there, and I have so much confidence in them. I have faith in them that we can rebuild our relationship with the community.
“We have lost contact with the public and they have lost confidence in us. And I think some of the officers have lost confidence in themselves. Rebuilding that confidence for both sides is going to be my top priority. I know the morale is low at the department, but we can fix that. As for the community, I am going to reach out to the pastors in the community and rebuild our chapel program and develop trust within the churches so those leaders can have the faith in these officers that I have.”
Hayes said he was looking forward to having Singletary onboard and believes the City Council will support his recommendation at its regular meeting Tuesday. He added that he was aware of some of the changes that Singletary wanted to implement and that he was looking forward to him “hitting the ground running.”
“I am excited and I know that Jimmy Singletary is excited and ready to go to work,” Hayes said. “He has a lot of good ideas and plans for things within the department that he would like to see implemented and I know he plans to strengthen the relationship between the police department and the community.“He will hit the ground running and I believe public will notice positive changes in a quick manner. And I think it is going to be a good fresh start. This is what we need.”
Some of the ideas that Singletary will put forward will include bringing back the Police Explorers program that formerly worked with area youth and allowed those expressing an interest in law enforcement to get more involved. He also wants to expand the current citizens police academy on multiple levels, including hosting an abbreviated version during the summer for high school students. He said the goal is not only educate and reach out to the young people in the community but to use the program as a recruiting tool to find good kids who want a career and will make good cops in the future.
“It’s a great program and I think we need to gear it toward high school students,” Singletary said. “I will also look at bringing back the Cops and Kids Picnic. These things are geared toward citizens and we are going to convince the citizens that we are a good department and reaching out to them that they are going to be our main priority.”
Hayes said he realizes the morale within the department is low but he is comforted because he believes Singletary is far and away the best man for the job and the one who can right the course.
“I have spoken with a lot of officers and I know they have full confidence in Jimmy Singletary,” Hayes said. “That is what is so great about this choice. We looked all over and we found our guy right here. There is a lot of excitement from the officers in the department that I have spoken with and I know he will do a lot of positive things to boost morale.”
Singletary backed up Hayes comments by sharing his inter-departmental plans and how he believes officer want accountability and discipline. But he said it should be the same for everyone, and the good ol’ boy system that has been in place must end.
“Honestly, I have probably benefited from that during my career, all of us probably have, but looking back it wasn’t right,” he said. “The good ol’ boy concept has been a problem for a long time and it has to stop. I want to ensure that transfers and promotions and disciplinary actions are done consistently and fairly throughout the department, and I think that is what those officers want, as well. As I have said, we have a lot of great officers and the things want to change will help build morale, especially if everyone knows they are being treated fairly.”
Singletary added that one of the first things he plans on doing is involving Grade 1 officers in what is happening within the department. He said there is currently a disconnect between manager and staff officers and the guys that are out on the street.
“We are going to have a Grade 1 advisory committee to the chief and this committee will be made up of only Grade 1s,” Singletary said. “They will meet with me on a regular basis to have a clear line of communication so they can have input on what goes on inside the department. We are going try some things that we haven’t done before so that we can get back in touch with the community.
“I am also going to do something with the City Council members where they will have a point of contact at the department that is familiar with their area of town. I want to assign a patrol sergeant to each one of them so they can be in contact with someone in the department who is familiar with the areas they represent and who can not only be made aware of the concerns they are hearing from the community but also take immediate action to address the problems.”
Singletary said that as soon as he is affirmed for the position by council members, he will begin putting his plans into place. He understands it will take some time to implement.
“I plan on sitting down with each one of the staff officers and also going over all of the specialized units that we have to see where we are effective and where we can do better,” Singletary said. “It won’t be easy and it will take a little time, but I am looking forward to and I believe it is the best thing we can do for this community.”
Jerry Jordan can be reached at (409) 498-1074, or at jerry [at] theexaminer [dot] com.