Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey announced his resignation Friday, after more than two years of service to the city of Palestine. His last day will be Oct. 18.
On Tuesday, Harvey sat down with the Herald-Press to answer some questions about his time in Palestine and what lies ahead.
PHP: You've always said you'd know when it was time to move and enter “another season.” What made you think it was time?
AH: I was very confident the police department was in a healthy place, where they could take it to the next level. I think leaders sometimes stay too long, and become a hindrance to an organization; they forget that leadership isn't about the leader – it's about the people.
PHP: What originally attracted you to Palestine?
AH: When I interviewed, I saw a department full of officers who were ready for change. I knew that I could help. That idea attracted me. [City Manager] Mike Alexander made it very clear change was needed. How that change manifested was left up to me.
PHP: What was the first thing you changed?
AH: I knew I had to get the police department involved with the community. I've always said a police department can lift up a city, or tear it down. I started having my officers build relationships with residents, and the press, and got us more involved on social media.
PHP: What about within the department? What did you feel needed changing there?
AH: We needed a whole new culture of quality policing over quantity of arrests. Also, officers had to realize promotions weren't rewards; they are decisions that are made for the best of the department. Since the first day, I started a succession plan, training my officers for future jobs, duties, and promotions.
PHP: Some say you've been grooming your assistant chief, Capt. Mark Harcrow to be your replacement. Do you believe he would be the best candidate for the job?
AH: Mark Harcrow is a superstar. Like John Daniels for the Texas Rangers, he's young, but he's bright, and he knows his job and can perform. Some might say that Mark is too young, but he brings many intangibles to the organization. I think he should be strongly considered, and given the opportunity to do the job. Critics of the PD have always said we don't have enough internal hires – well, here's your opportunity.
PHP: When you were hired, you said one of your primary goals was diversity within the department; you wanted the department to more accurately reflect the city. Today, however, there are only four Latino officers, including yourself, two females, and no African-Americans, save one who is about to enter the academy. What happened?
AH: It's true we still have work to do with diversity. Overall, our city is doing better than most cities in Texas when it comes to recruiting efforts, and diversity is still a challenge. However, it's a challenge we recognize, and a fight we will continue. Mark Harcrow understands this, and I'm sure if he makes chief, he will continue with this effort.
PHP: Speaking of diversity, your recent promotion of Officer Jamie Lester to Captain made her the first female command officer in PPD history. What do you have to say to critics who say this was nothing but a diversity promotion?
AH: Capt. Lester brings a skill set best suited for our organization. Where I acknowledge it's great that we have diversity at the command level, her sex was never considered when she was promoted. Capt. Lester is well-respected by the troops, and has a bright future ahead of her. I wouldn't be surprised if she became chief of this department one day.
PHP: Two years isn't a long time. What do you have to say to critics who say Palestine was just a pit-stop for you to build your resume?
AH: I believe those few people who say that are short-sighted and misinformed. I am not a self-serving individual, and I have never chased a promotion. My job was to move the department forward, and I tried to do so while also lifting up the community and making Palestine relevant within East Texas, and even on a national level.
PHP: On the national level, you were selected to be part of the federal Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force. Will you continue your work with them after you leave Palestine?
AH: Absolutely. I always want to be involved where I can effect positive change.
PHP: As chief, you've worked hard to effect such change in the Latino community. Do you think these efforts will continue once you leave?
AH: I am very hopeful. Griselda Castillo just took over UNIDOS in Palestine, and she is a strong force for change. I'm very proud she ran for city council last election, even if she didn't win. Her courage could very well be a microcosm for what's to come in Palestine.
PHP: What are your plans for the future?
AH: My passion is to help people add value to their lives, both in policing and overall. Whatever I do, I intend to help people chase their dreams, and to be vocal about what's good for policing.
PHP: What will you miss most about this job?
AH: Hands down, the camaraderie of the department, and the good people of this city.
PHP: If you were to offer one piece of advice for the next chief, what would it be?
AH: Always listen. Listen to your officers, and listen to the people of this community. If you truly listen to what the people need, they will always take care of you. Wearing a uniform does not separate you from the community; it makes you more a part of it.