Bartlett residents who use social media to find out what’s happening around town have probably run across postings by Bartlett Police Lt. Todd Halford.
Sometimes he publishes pictures of officers getting ready for range day or demonstrating the speed and strength of the K-9 officers. Other times, he posts serious warnings about crime trends or criminals being sought, or solemn reminders like the memorial service for a slain fellow officer.
If you’ve read about the Bartlett Police Department on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or NextDoor.com, Halford has probably been responsible. He jokes about being “the Facebook guy” or as he jokes, “Lt. Tweet.”
But his social media management is just part of his role. Halford also supervises the public information and education division of the department, with personnel who reach out to neighborhoods, schools, training opportunities and more.
With his daily engagement with citizens and community groups, Halford was an obvious choice for this year’s Bartlett Express voters, who chose him for the honor of 2015 Man of the Year.
“I did research and found out that the mayor has been awarded the honor three times,” he said. “Since this is my first I guess I need to step up my game.”
His division tries to show locals how approachable and accessible the police department is, and the social media campaign has really helped that be successful, he said. It’s so successful that citizens often send a Bartlett question his way when it’s not even about the police department.
He takes pride in being part of a city of just under 60,000 people that has a small-town feeling. City leaders and department heads are approachable because they care about the community and have a vested interest in it, he said.
“Bartlett residents are different than anybody else,” he said. “We’re a community.”
He is also proud of what the police department contributes to that sense of community. “I’m in my 18th year, and I can’t picture myself working anywhere else.”
Halford worked part time at McDonald’s on Stage Road during his teen years at Bolton High and ended up managing the restaurant. Late-working police officers stopped by often, and he made friends. One of them eventually told him, “You ought to come out and test for us. I think you’d make a pretty good officer.”
He passed the test and joined the force in 1998. Halford then spent about nine years in the patrol division, which he called the “backbone of the department,” handling traffic incidents, answering citizens’ calls for service, being a visible presence in neighborhoods and stopping to chat with people out walking or taking care of their yards.
As he reminisced about his own years on patrol, he praised his fellow officers now in that role.
“Our officers out here care about the community, and it shows,” he said.
In 2007, he made detective and worked in narcotics, general investigations, and cases both minor and major. He attained the rank of lieutenant on Jan. 1, 2012, and has been supervising the public information and education (PIE) division ever since.
That division is where many citizens get positive one-on-one impressions of what police officers contribute to the community, including:
- The Neighborhood Watch Program, which has 73 active groups in the city.
- Five school resource officers and the D.A.R.E. Program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).
- 28 school crossing guards.
- Safety Education Program for students in grades K-4.
- Citizens Police Academy, a free 10-week course that lets community members get a condensed version of actual police training to understand law enforcement from a hands-on perspective.
- Youth Citizens Police Academy, a free one-week summer program that lets area teens get an inside look at law enforcement, whether just out of curiosity or a possible career path. “This is a real-life look at what we do,” Halford said. “It’s not like television.”
- Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), which lets community volunteers pitch in to help on departmental tasks so the regular staff can be freed up for other work.
In addition to managing the police department’s social media accounts (including a Facebook page that has more than 21,000 followers), he teaches departmental classes on responsible social media use, instructor development, narcotics, DUI investigations and more. To earn certification for this role, he took and passed a tough instructor development class taught by the FBI.
He’s comfortable speaking to a group, whether it is officers or citizens.
He reminisced about a 2014 Christmas season visit to the Robinwood Retirement Community in Bartlett that drew about 100 elderly residents to learn about senior safety.
Last week, he spoke to the Paul Mitchell school on other safety topics. He regularly talks with the city’s many neighborhood watch groups and says they provide invaluable information to his department.
“I think my favorite thing to do is, I like talking to groups,” Halford said.
He and his wife, Rachel, are Bartlett residents, and Halford has a 19-year-old son, Hunter. When he’s not working or spending time with his family, Halford said he enjoys golfing and playing on multiple softball teams.
He said citizens who wish to reach him can call the police department or email him at email@example.com.