It’s been nearly a year now since Chief David McGill took over the helm of the Sedona Police Department. And much to his delight, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.
“It’s been outstanding — better than I could have imagined,” he said. “We’re really rockin’ and rolling here in the police department and even though we have a lot of plates spinning, things are going great. The thing that has impressed me is that the people here in the police department have embraced me and my ideas as we move full steam ahead.”
He said he’s also been embraced by the city staff and the public as he’s tried to attend as many events and meetings as possible to get his face out there while representing the department.
Despite being the new kid on the block, McGill said he wasn’t concerned in terms of his abilities as a police officer and leader after more than 30 years of wearing the uniform. It was something else.
“Police work is police work — the only difference is that the town is a little smaller,” he said. “I’m still doing everything I did with the LAPD, then Newport Beach and now here. I had a vision and did my homework about what I thought was needed here and so far we’ve been checking off the successes we’ve had this past year. But the fear you always have is, ‘Will the people you’re leading respond to where you want to take them?’ and they have. I feel very blessed about that.”
With the new year comes several major projects for the police department, starting with the new computer-aided record dispatch system, which not only carries a hefty price tag but takes a lot of time to implement. From what McGill has seen with other departments, it can run smoothly or cause confusion. It’s a long process and if it’s not done correctly, you don’t get a good product out of it, he said.
But with proper management, he’s confident it will be successful in providing the data they need to track crime in Sedona. “This will allow us to get the statistics we’ve been lacking in terms of what’s going on in our area,” he said. “While it’s low, there is crime here. We need to better manage our limited resources and to do that we need a really good system that we haven’t had in the past.”
Another major project this year will include modifications to the existing police station. While a new station may be on the far, far back burner, upgrading the current station will become a reality. He said with the courts moving to a new building, that will add much-needed space for the police department.
McGill said they are also looking to improve their communication system between the officers and dispatch. The plan is to work with the Sedona Fire District, since they have a radio technician to set up the system.
“We’ve kicked that can down the road for so long that we’ve reached a point where something has to be done,” McGill said. “We’re also getting new hand-held radios for the officers as well as new radios for the vehicles. This has all been a long time coming. This is one of those things that keeps me up at night. I’m fearful our officers are out there with inadequate communication equipment and being in a spot where they need help and can’t get it.”
McGill said that there was an adjustment period for him coming from Newport Beach to Sedona in terms of staff size. Because of fewer officers, some ideas he had in mind are more difficult to achieve. Like Newport Beach, Sedona is a tourist community, but the number of officers is based on the population of 10,000 and not the additional 10,000 to 15,000 visitors here on any given day.
He said they’re doing well with the staff they have but he’s not sure if the number is where it should be. In terms of crime in Sedona, there’s not much but it does occur. McGill said some of the more frequent incidents or crimes over the last year include those that are traffic related as well as domestic violence, DUI, drug-related arrests and outstanding warrants. Something SPD has struggled with in recent years has been keeping a full staff of officers.
In many cases, the officers accepted jobs elsewhere for more pay or excitement within the job. McGill said they are at full staff now and that during his tenure, no officers have left.
“The challenge is to keep staff here,” he said. “The reason I feel they stay here is because this is a great place to work and the scenery and people are wonderful. A year later and the fact we have the same staff makes me feel good that we’re doing the right things.”
In the end, he said it’s a team effort. “We’ve got a lot of things going on, all for the betterment of the city and police department,” he said. “Things are clicking here because we’re in a good spot now as a department. We have the right people and the right ingredients to keep that going.
We’ve all put a lot of effort into that. This is not the ‘David McGill Show’ — it’s the ‘Sedona Police Department Show.’ Everyone has contributed in their own way. Hopefully I’ve shown them a direction and now they’re taking that and running with it. It’s very exhilarating to watch.”