Fountain Inn Police Chief celebrates 25 years at the helm!
The average tenure of a police chief in the United States is three and half years. In Fountain Inn, South Carolina, Keith Morton has served as chief for a record-breaking 25 years. In celebration of his 25th anniversary as Police Chief, which occurred last November, we asked Chief Morton to share some of his philosophies, challenges and successes with us in an exclusive interview.
SENTINEL: How have you been able to be successful working with several different employees, councils, and mayor?
MORTON: I feel truly blessed to have worked with 5 City Administrators, 4 Mayors, and more than a dozen Council Members. I can honestly say that I have learned something from each of those relationships, we have not always agreed, but I have always desired to respect their opinions. I have found that creating an atmosphere of cooperation rather than dissention is more desirable for all concerned. I believe you can confront problems/issues without being confrontational. I do not feel that one can ever sacrifice their core belief system of what is right and wrong, yet we should always be willing to follow wherever God leads us.
Berry Woods served as a Fountain Inn City Councilman for all of the 25 years of Morton’s tenure as police chief added these comments.” I don’t know of a finer gentleman to have been in charge of our police department. I had absolutely no difficulty with any decisions he made with regard to managing the Police Department and handling his personnel. I hope he never leaves”.
SENTINEL: Retention of employees has been high in your department, why?
MORTON: Retention has been an issue in Police Work for many years; we have been selective on who joins our ranks in Fountain Inn because we are a FAMILY. We try to create an environment conducive to respecting each other’s opinions while adhering to our Mission Statement.
We strive for no less than excellence in all we do.
-For every person, protection and service
-For every circumstance, fairness, respect, and understanding
-For every accomplishment, gratitude and opportunity
-For every endeavor, teamwork, and professionalism
-For every day, integrity, efficiency, and the Golden Rule (akm -1996)
SENTINEL: What are some of the techniques you learned to apply to a Police Department and its personnel?
MORTON: We aspire to treat no one ‘Special’ but everyone “Fairly”. Fair does not mean the same, because while people and circumstances may vary, fairness does not. One of our goals is to treat every person with respect, fairness, and understanding. This is not as simple as it sounds, but I have found it to be both successful and rewarding.
SENTINEL: Tell a little about your family and their support for you in your position.
MORTON: My Family has always come before my job. There have been times of course that I have had to miss family functions because of work but without their love, support, and understanding my career would not have been possible. When I do come home, when I turn into that driveway and park, I turn the car off and I turn the Police Officer off too. My wife did not need a Police Chief and my children did not need a Police Officer, they needed a Honey and a Daddy so that’s what I tried to become. I now have 3 grandchildren and love my entire family unconditionally.
SENTINEL: In the current tense situation between citizens and police what steps have you taken to ensure a continued good working relationship with the public?
MORTON: I discuss this almost daily with our personnel. I believe trust between those we serve and the police department begins with transparency. We began using cameras in all of our patrol vehicles in the mid to late 1990’s to insure we are treating people the right way. We were using Body Worn Cameras well before the tragedy in Ferguson, Mo., as well as using a Citizen’s Review Committee (CRC) to review each complaint on an officer as well as each Use of Force incident. We have used the CRC for approximately 10 years and they have never once disagreed on how we have handled these exchanges. However we need to remember that technology is merely a ‘tool’, and will never replace communication. Police Departments will never be able to solve diversity/perception issues alone, public cooperation and input is required for success.
One of the sobering realities that all police officers live with on a daily basis is; Out of 40 Million calls for Service Police used Deadly Force 995 times, while there are 150 daily incidents where Police Officers are assaulted and an average of 151 officers are killed in the line of duty or 1 officer killed every 58 hours.
SENTINEL: What changes would you like to see with regard to Police Department functions, training and funding?
MORTON: The trend in both Governmental and Civilian Organizations is to maintain an acceptable level of service that the citizens both expect and deserve, while competing for dwindling resources. We are therefore challenged with finding new or innovative means of acquiring grants or other potential revenue sources. Training is a priority for us and we use the theory of having those that have been sent to training to then share what they have learned with the entire Department.♦