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On the Job with Albany Police Chief John Proctor

Albany Police Chief John Proctor stands in front of the Albany Law Enforcement Center on West Oglethorpe Boulevard. A 32-year veteran of law enforcement, Proctor has been Albany's chief of police since 2009. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

Albany Police Chief John Proctor stands in front of the Albany Law Enforcement Center on West Oglethorpe Boulevard. A 32-year veteran of law enforcement, Proctor has been Albany's chief of police since 2009. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

As a self-described person of deep faith, Albany Police Chief John Proctor has conducted his ministry of law enforcement for some 32 years, he says, choosing it over the Christian gospels for his life’s work. Proctor grew up in a poor but supportive family, crediting his strong-willed mother for much of his success.

Coming from Tallahassee to be chief in 2009, Proctor has served in most every police position. Now he’s “fallen in love” with his adopted city and the great things he expects to happen in the future. When he’s not working to rid the city of crime and dangerous endeavors, he likes to read law enforcement journals, the Bible on his iPad, go hunting, fishing or spend time “spoiling his grandkids.”

THE JOHN PROCTOR FILE

Name: John Proctor

Age: 58

Position: Chief of Police, Albany

Family: Married to Barbara with three grown children

Education: Bachelor's degree in criminology, Florida State University, Tallahassee

While he loves being head cop, if he had to make another choice he might be tempted toward politics, he says, but with only a hint at which direction.

Recently, John Proctor took a break from his official duties to speak with Herald reporter, Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I grew up on a farm, doing farm work, and any money I got was from doing chores or from other odd jobs. Our family was not too well off — in fact we were poor — so we pitched in to get things beyond the general needs of the family.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. Most likely it was for clothing. Again, my mom and dad had to provide for a fairly large family, so anything beyond what was truly necessary was aided by us. All of us were loved, but strongly encouraged to succeed and make our own way.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I always try to be honest with employees. I strive hard to share my vision of where we are trying to go and to include them in our quest to get there. Though I have little control over the salary issues, I do work to insure they have an opportunity to grow. I have especially worked to increase training, promote new assignments and exposure to cutting-edge technology — things which hopefully make their work more efficient and exciting. Officers from this era generally are very computer savvy and have little difficulty utilizing the technology of today.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to go into law enforcement?

A. As I was growing up, my mom was an extremely strong lady of faith and she made sure we tried to do the right thing. I’m telling you, she made sure we did the right thing. That stuck to me to this day. When I got into law enforcement I wanted to serve people. That might sound hokey, but I felt that opposed to trying to be a minister, I would use this as my ministry. That’s the way I’ve looked at it for almost 33 years. It allows me to both interact with folks, tell my story and perhaps give some young kids some idea that if they do the right things and live the right way they could be successful. I think that was something that came from my mom.

I remember her reading the Bible to us. We had a large family and we would all sit around the fireplace or the kitchen table and we each would have to read Bible verses. She made sure we knew the Bible and the people of the Bible and what it was about. When I got in this job I just always wanted to do the right thing.

Now I have a combined 32 years in law enforcement and I’ve worked in almost every position in the sworn ranks. If I have not actually been in the role, I have supervised or directed every function. Of all those years, 24 have been in supervisory or command level position.

The position of Chief at the APD was one of several I considered, along with retirement, when I was at the Tallahassee Police Department, but the good Lord directed me to Albany. I am strong in my faith and I quickly adhered to the Lord’s directions.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. My mom and dad. Though they had less than a high school education, they always encouraged us to work hard, attend school and to do well in school. They encouraged all their kids to seek higher education degrees and many of us did. There were many others that I sought guidance from over the years, but no one impressed me more than my mother and father. They had a work ethic that drives me to this day.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology — examples email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. — what would you most like to see go away?

A. I would like to see the total reliance on email communications reduced or removed. Nowadays people tend not to talk in person or face to face. Our communications have become so impersonal. We lose some connectivity to people by this method alone. It may be quick but it lessens the ability to connect. The tools should be an aid to efficiency, not a way to hide or be mean-spirited or uncaring.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. The computer or iPad. These tools allow you to do research and gather needed information to help you better perform you job. But you have to control the objects and not let them control your total existence.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Traveling or spending time with family and true friends. I especially like spending time with my wife of 37 years, my kids and my grandkids.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last book I read was “Challenging the Law Enforcement Organization: Proactive Leadership Strategies.” I read a lot newspapers and trade journals regarding law enforcement. I read the Bible daily, or verses of the Bible on my iPad.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I’m usually up and going by 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. This depends on the activity that’s occurred in the city. Most days I go to bed at 11:30 p.m.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. During the course of my career I’ve met a number of prominent people — presidents, governors, princes and national figures. The person I would most like to meet is probably our current president, Barrack Obama.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. Fishing, hunting, traveling and spoiling my grandkids.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Helping people and trying to make this community one of the safest places to be. This takes all of the community and its people to get it accomplished. There is still much to do, but we are making progress.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Recognizing that I can only affect a small piece of the criminal justice system. Oftentimes, people think police can solve all the ills of society, but we have to rely on all the other pieces to work in concert with what we do. I am especially concerned about the deterioration of the family unit and the lack of some parental involvement in raising children today.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. Probably politics.

Q. Finish this thought: “On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …”

A. Relaxing for a while, then getting engaged with my family and perhaps doing something to help kids.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I like most music, particularly gospel, jazz and clean rhythm and blues.