Treasuring the small town difference: West Virginia Police Chief Steven Reckart
Steven Reckart has served as a law enforcement officer for over 30 years in West Virginia. His career began in college, when he worked in a police communication center. That led to his long tenure as a state trooper.
Today, he serves as chief of police for Moorefield, a small town with a population of about 2,500.
Q: What has motivated you to stay in law enforcement over the years?
A: I first came into law enforcement out of necessity—I needed a job in college. But I stayed because it’s something I enjoyed, and have ever since. It’s nice to have a job where every day is different and interesting. I enjoy working closely with the other officers. There is a special relationship between officers that is not the same as you find in other professions.
Q: Describe your typical day.
A: I still do police work, as well as paperwork. We have a lot of walk-in clientele that I help throughout the day, whether they need assistance installing car seats or need to dispose their unused prescription drugs. I also attend drug court and help with the treatment program, which currently has 22 people enrolled. We have weekly meetings, and participants are monitored by a team. I do a little bit of everything. The most important thing for me is to be accessible to the community, and we have created a climate where we are always available to help.
Q: What are the benefits of working in law enforcement in a small town?
A: The people. You get to know the people and develop relationships with the community. They respect you, and you respect them back.
Because we have a low crime rate, we are able to provide a lot of positive service, which is called community policing. We do morning and evening school patrols, visit children in schools and childcare centers and try to be involved whenever we can to benefit the community.
Q: What are the challenges for police in a small town?
A: Watching the influence the big cities have on smaller towns. Also, when you’re in a big city you don’t know the people you are arresting. In a small town you know them personally, as well as their families.
Q: How do you overcome this challenge?
A: It’s a learned trait. You try to treat people as fairly as you can. As long as you know that you are really doing what is best for the community, that you are doing what you are supposed to do, then you can sleep at night knowing you did your best. You try to be fair and honest and if you do that, the issue works through itself.
Q: How have the economic times affected your department and community at large?
A: Unfortunately, in hard economic times police work picks up because more crimes usually occur. However, we have a strong relationship with our community, and the people in general have maintained a good attitude and rapport with us. We have not seen a lot of the issues that big cities are seeing. We did have some factories close down, but they are starting to return now. Our little town isn’t as dismal as some.
Q: Are you in favor of or opposed to the national push for the legalization of marijuana?
A: I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana because I have found that any time an individual uses a substance that affects their judgment it is generally a bad thing with bad results. Drugs, all kinds, are really the root of all our community’s issues—whether the results are break-ins, domestic disturbances or drunk driving.
Q: How has police work changed since you began your career 30 years ago?
A: Technology has made a huge impact on our officers’ ability to communicate with one another, which has improved our ability to serve the community. Another interesting dynamic in Moorefield is our diverse population due to a chicken factory, Pilgrim’s Pride, which employs over 17 different nationalities with different languages and customs. We sometimes need interpreters to help us assist these citizens, as well as to help the locals deal with the differences.
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