Blair, Hopper named to Taylor’s top police posts

Photo by Sue Suchyta Richard Hopper (left) was named Taylor deputy police chief and John Blair was named Taylor police chief Nov. 14.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Richard Hopper (left) was named Taylor deputy police chief and John Blair was named Taylor police chief Nov. 14.

 

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR – Mayor Rick Sollars surprised guests at the city’s Nov. 14 inaugural ceremony by naming acting Police Chief John Blair the city’s newest police chief and Richard Hopper the deputy chief.

Sollars, the keynote speaker at the inaugural, held at the Lakes of Taylor Golf and Banquet Center, 25505 Northline Road, with about 200 attendees, called Blair and Hopper to the podium to be sworn in by City Clerk Cindy Bower.

Sollars said after an extensive search he decided he already had the best candidates for the job in the department. Blair has been acting as chief since July.

Blair said he is a proponent of the 21st Century Policing model, which is designed to strengthen trust and cooperation while reducing crime.

“Being really in tune with your community, knowing their expectations,” Blair said. “I kind of think police departments nationwide and some of our communities are feuding now, and it is completely unnecessary.”

He said it is probably because of a lack of communication, and distrust.

“I think if we are better in tune with our community, I think that is going to go a long way,” Blair said. “As far as what we are going to be changing, we are really going to follow up on that 21st Century Policing model, using technology to stay ahead of our crime rates, attacking the opioid crisis – that’s a huge thing, these drugs are terrible, it’s kind of running our crime here in the city of Taylor –  those are some of the areas that we are going to concentrate on.”

Blair said he is going to try to get the training and equipment that his officers want. He said there is a big desire for newer and updated police cars.

Hopper said officers will welcome the stability of having a permanent chief.

“Now we have a firm direction to go, and people have an understanding of Chief Blair’s philosophies,” Hopper said. “We can start putting things in order instead of having it unknown.”

Blair said customer service is the top priority.

“The city of Taylor wants to be a customer service-oriented city,” Blair said. “Customer service isn’t just being friendly to people. It is being responsive to their needs.”

Blair said a peaceful environment is also important.

“They want harmony, they want trust,” Blair said. “I think gaining that respect from the citizens and giving them what they want with their police department, that customer service driven idea is what we are looking for. That is my top priority.”

Hopper said he wants residents to know that they are valued and the police will try to give them the best possible service.

“Sometimes we deal with people in bad situations, and we want to try and do what we can to resolve things peacefully and make everybody as happy as we can,” Hopper said.

Blair said the current mistrust of police makes it difficult for them to do their job.

“I think we need to establish that confidence on both sides,” Blair said. “I think that is a big road block for us.”

He said some of the issues have nothing to do with trust, though.

“The opioid problem is a killer for us,” Blair said. “Last year with our armed robberies, the ones that we caught, every single one of them – 100 percent – self-reported substance abuse dependency. It’s a problem.”

Blair said they can continue to put people in jail but if they are not solving the underlying problem they are not making progress.

“It is not always about putting handcuffs on people,” Blair said. “It is about resolving the conflict – what is underlying it. I think that is an important thing for us.”

He said what law enforcement has been doing in response to the opioid crisis is not working.

“The ‘Hope not Handcuffs’ is an idea,” Blair said. “Currently the city of Taylor is developing a program with ‘Families Against Narcotics.’

“We are allowing people to come into our station with no questions asked and say ‘I need help’ without fear of them being arrested in handcuffs. We can’t arrest out of a problem.”

He said he wants to get rid of the crime that is driven by the opioid crisis.

“What we can do is help them get into that (treatment) system,” Blair said. “We unfortunately have the two sides of it. We have the intake, where we are arresting people, and we have the aftermath.”

Blair said he hopes residents will be being vigilant and trust their instincts when it comes to reporting suspicious circumstances.

“Let our officers go out there and assess that situation,” Blair said. “We don’t want people taking things into their own hands at any point. But trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, go ahead and call us and let us come out. That way you are safe and we can determine what is actually happening.”

Hopper said tips can also be reported anonymously through the city website, cityoftaylor.com.

“We want to have the information,” Hopper said. “We understand that some people don’t want to tell us everything, with their name attached to it, but it is for us to know.”

Blair has been with the Taylor Police Department since 1991, working road patrol, Special Weapons and Tactics, as a field training officer, firearms instructor, in investigations, special operations and traffic division.

He served as a supervisor for road patrol, as a K-9 and special operations sergeant, as lieutenant of the Traffic Division, and as commander of the Patrol Division, firearm training unit, Traffic Division and special support services section.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and graduated from Northwestern University Police School of Staff and Command.

He was Taylor’s Officer of the Year in 1999 and 2008, and in 2008 was named the Police Officer Association of Michigan Officer of the Year.

Hopper, a former commander, is a 20-year Taylor Police Department veteran, having begun his career as a U.S. Army Military Police Officer for six years with the 1176 M.P. Company, and was deployed during Operation Joint Endeavor with NATO in 1996 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

With Taylor, he served as a public service and as a road patrol officer, as a detective and a special operations detective, a SWAT team operator, patrol sergeant, lieutenant and investigative commander.

Hopper has an associate’s degree from Schoolcraft College, a bachelor’s from Eastern Michigan University and is currently work on a master’s in Public Administration.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)