PARIS — Things have come full circle for new Paris Police Chief Hartley “Skip” Mowatt and his grandson, Jordan Davis.
As Jordan was there in 2000 – albeit in diapers – when then-Police Chief David Verrier pinned and promoted Mowatt to sergeant, Jordan was again there on Thursday, June 16, this time putting the pin on his grandfather as he was named chief of police. Photographs of both events now hang side by side in Mowatt’s office in the Market Square police station.
Last fall selectmen began exploring contracting for policing services with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office as a way to reduce the budget. Since former Police Chief Michael Madden left in September 2015, the department has had an interim chief. Jeff Lange served since Madden’s departure until May, then Mowatt – Lange’s second in command – replaced him.
Paris residents voted last week 2-1 to keep their department and two days after the vote, Interim Town Manager Sawin Millett promoted Mowatt. Hiring and firing in town lies solely with the town manager. After his promotion, Mowatt sat down with the Advertiser Democrat to talk about the future of his department.
Earlier that morning, Mowatt reviewed the requirements for the school resource officer (SRO) position, which will be reimbursed by SAD 17. He is accepting applications currently from his officers and the opening will hit the rest of the world come July 1. He spent nearly 10 years as the SRO and he said the most important skill for that position is communication.
“You have to relate to the kids,” Mowatt said, noting all of the students called him Skip and he often would get high fives, hugs and hand shakes on a daily basis. “I think that’s why I did so well because I came from a big family. My family wasn’t rich, but we weren’t poor. It makes you appreciates kids. … You have to treat them all the same because if you don’t, you’re just going to bury yourself.”
Even though the fiscal 2017 budget was passed on Saturday, June 18, Mowatt said he’s already working on next year’s spending plan. He noted his handling of a much larger budget when he was in the military, serving during the Iraq War.
“That’s why I should be pretty good with budgets. I used to have a budget of $15 million,” he said about when he was overseas. “I fed them, clothed them, got them ammunition. … The biggest thing … I learned in the military over money is you watch what you pay for.”
Mowatt asked if he needed a patrol sergeant since that position – the one he held before becoming interim police chief in May – was cut from the current budget.
“I would like to have one, but right now the money is not there to have one,” he said. “That’s another $50,000, $60,000 … and I am not going to burden the people with that.”
Mowatt said he told residents at town meeting he would request a cruiser in the upcoming budget cycle to stay on schedule with the two-year vehicle replacement plan.
“If you don’t, you get yourself in a hole and you end up like we did two or three years ago … spending thousands of dollars on repairs,” he said Monday.
The oldest car in the department’s fleet – the 2010 Crown Victoria – is currently in the repair shop because “it just died on me, it quit running,” Mowatt said.
Also in the works is having all of the department’s vehicles marked as Paris Police Department.
“We will not have an unmarked car,” he promised. “My point for that is people say, ‘I don’t see the police drive.’ Well you go by an unmarked car, you don’t see it. … I believe in everything being marked so when one of my officers pulls into your driveway, you know it’s the police and not some stranger.”
Another goal the new chief has is to bring back walking patrols in town. He plans on strolling down Market Square himself and creating better and new relationships with the people of downtown. He hopes his officers will be able to do the same.
“That’s how everybody got to know me,” he said about his walking patrols of the past.
Mowatt began his career when he was hired part time at the Paris Police Department in 1991. He came on full time in 1993 and was terminated in 1995 for a dog bite on his hand, he said. He was hired back full time in 1997 and in all has been with the department for roughly 25 years. During that time, he has served as a reserve officer, patrolman, DARE officer, detective and second in command, in addition to his aforementioned positions.
He noted he can relate to his officers because he has worked almost all the shifts and and positions possible within the department. He added he relies heavily on his second in command, veteran officer and recently promoted Detective Sgt. Mike Dailey for the day-to-day operation of the department. Because they’ve worked so closely together, Dailey can fill in at any time for Mowatt. The chief also wants to give his guys a say about policing matters in the community.
“It’s not ‘I,’ it’s ‘we’ as a team,” Mowatt said, adding Dailey and he first discuss a matter and then bring it to the remaining officers and work with them. “That is the way I want to operate this Police Department. They all know I have the final say, whether they’re happy with the decision or not, they know at least they had input.”
And input is the reason over the weekend he spent his own money to purchase a table and chairs for his office. Mowatt has an open door policy for anyone and everyone in the community.
“This is a power chair,” as he sat in an high-backed rolling chair behind his desk.
“We sit over there,” Mowatt said, pointing to the small table and chairs in the corner of his office. “They know who I am, I don’t need to throw the power. That is what citizens need here, they don’t need a power trip, they need someone who’s going to be down with them and talk with them.”