Q & A Gerald Simpson, Police Chief, New Garden Township
By Kerigan Butt
Chief Gerald Simpson of the New Garden Township Police Department.
Q: You've been the chief in New Garden for nearly three years. In that time, what have you learned about the people of the township?
A: I have met a lot of nice people, and they have been very welcoming to me. They support their local law enforcement. Everybody uses the term “small-town police,” and in every sense of the word, this department shares that close relationship with the people who live here. Coming from a law enforcement agency in a larger town (Newark, Del.), one with a large university, you don't necessarily have that small-town feel. But here, you can feel that immediately. What I've tried to do is lower those barriers so that they can get to know us better, and share information with them. I hope we're making it easier for our residents to access information on what's going on from a policing perspective.
Q: In your time in New Garden, your department has been very proactive, in terms of your appearance at town hall meetings, the anti-gang laws that you helped to create, and an upgraded, user-friendly website. How do you manage to keep one eye on the reactive aspect of law enforcement, and yet continue to make broad strokes to remain proactive?
A: It's a difficult balance to walk. I'm always thinking, "How can we do things better? What can we do to continually improve our service to the community?" We're in a customer service business, albeit law enforcement, but we serve the people who live here and work here. If it works, there's no need to reinvent the wheel, but you should always self-evaluate. Next year, we're going to do a citizens concern survey, and target communities and hear from their perspective, what do our residents think about safety and security in their community, and then address those concerns. It's trying to identify what the problems are, and trying to address them in a thoughtful manner, to reach a positive result.
Q: Lately, there has been talk of expanding the physical plant of your department. When you think about the future needs of your unit, what do you see?
A: For me, any police force location needs to fit the function of a law enforcement agency, and also be a symbol that's reflective of our local government. We've got to have a building that is set up so that when we operate in it, and everyone who comes in it, we all have the feeling of security and safety. It's no secret that we're not set up that way now. It was a building that was put down that wasn't designed for police function, and we've made it work. Our future facility should be a symbol of our local government that we should be proud of. When you walk through the doors of the township building, it's something that people can point to and be proud of. I would hope our future location will be something like that.
Q: No police chief achieves success working alone. What has working with the officers and administration in your unit meant to you, and to the direction of the department as a whole?
A: When something bad happens, it belongs to me. When something good happens, it belongs to my team. I'm not the kind of person who pats himself on the back; it's always about the organization first. We are a team, and yes, we are a paramilitary organization which law enforcement is. Yes, there are lines, but we work together as a team. At the end of the day, I'm here for them [the police officers], to help facilitate their successes. We progress together as a unit. I like to think of myself as their safety net, helping to ensure their success. When they're successful, I'm successful. And that's the beauty of it, and I don't have to say a word.
Q: What's your favorite spot in Landenberg?
A: I'm a big fan of hiking. If I could retire and hike in the woods all day long, I would. I love Landenberg proper, the natural area down along the White Clay Creek and the tributaries. Landenberg still looks much the same as it did when I grew up in the '70s and '80s in this area.
Q: Who would be your ideal dinner guests?
A: I'm a big admirer of history, so I would love to sit down with our forefathers, like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. I would love to pick their brains for a while, or better yet, just listen to them talk. Then if I jump ahead to the Civil War area, the easy pick there is Abraham Lincoln, but I would also like to hear the generals from both sides. By knowing history, you can learn so much from our past and hopefully not repeat the mistakes in the future. ... And on a much lighter note, I'd like to sit down and have a happy hour with Elvis Presley!
Q: What food is always in your refrigerator?
A: The honest answer is salad fixings, because I'm very careful about what I eat these days.
– Richard L. Gaw