Palmyra officers credit visibility, professionalism for ranking in the top ten of Missouri’s safest cities

The Flower City has been ranked the seventh safest city for 2018, and members of the Palmyra Police Department know that it takes a tight-knit community and a strong level of trust to make that happen.

Police Chief Eddie Bogue said that Palmyra's crime data has been at a steady level for the past several years, so he was surprised that Palmyra hadn't received a similar distinction before. He and Officer Justin Tyler agreed that professionalism, continuing education and forging a strong bond with community members all played a key role in Palmyra's Safe City ranking by Safewise, a home security system comparison company. And Bogue said that many community's police departments do not release Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data to the FBI data center, which are “considered the seven deadly sins” — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, automotive theft and arson.

Bogue pointed out that the UCR data is required for the police department to receive federal grants, and it was used in Safewise's data for Palmyra: 0.31 crimes per 1,000 people and 15.04 property crimes per 1,000 people.

Bogue said one reason Palmyra isn't attractive to criminals is that he has always practiced a proactive approach to policing — by being visible throughout the community and stopping vehicles if motorists aren't following the law.

“If you're stopping cars and you've got the lights going — even if you're warning people instead of citing people — I think bad guys actually take notice of that,” he said.

On the other hand, Bogue said criminals gravitate toward towns with a minimal police presence, and he stressed that the condition of a police department and available equipment plays a role, too.

It's all a part of the public as seeing police officers as more than just being enforcers and developing relationships with civic organizations. Eddie Bogue, Palmyra Police Chief

“I think it's a play on the psychological effect,” Tyler said.

Tyler pointed out that a serious offense applied to everyone — he said he wouldn't hesitate to arrest a city official on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the same as he would for anybody else who was suspected of drinking and driving.

The effects continue with a professional appearance through a Class A uniform. Bogue pointed up to an early photograph of Palmyra police officers, clad in wool coats and matching hats during 4th of July festivities. He said they were undoubtedly hot, but their professionalism showed that they were police officers and would work to keep the community safe. That's a key reason Bogue and fellow personnel stick with the Class A uniforms when some police departments have been switching to more informal uniforms.

“To me, that also makes an impact on how you keep your city safe,” he said. “You have nice looking equipment, cars and a professional appearance.”

Bogue stressed that an officer's presence starts out the interaction every time, and he said an officer's tone and way of speaking “can change the whole dynamic of a situation.”

Palmyra police officers strive to appear in a respectable uniform and speak to each person with intelligence.

New technology like vehicle and body cameras have helped Palmyra Police Department personnel in various ways, but Bogue and Tyler agreed that nothing beats engagement with members of the community. Tyler stops by the Little All Stars Day Care during his daily patrol, and he said the kids love when he greets them and turns on his patrol car's lights.

“It's all a part of the public as seeing police officers as more than just being enforcers and developing relationships with civic organizations,” Bogue said. “That's showing that you're a police officer and you're also a part of the community.”

Close ties within the community help to both deter and help solve crimes, Bogue said, because neighbors often know their police officers on a personal level. Bogue credited a “multitude of things” for Palmyra's Safewise rating. And he wished to extend his thanks to his staff, noting they take very little sick leave.

“It takes a team effort, and I complement my staff for the job that they do,” he said. “I think they do a really good job, and I think being able to have not a lot of turnover and have a consistent group of guys who work here has really helped.”

A lunchtime patrol in Palmyra

Officer Tyler started up his Ford Interceptor, testing the radar equipment before heading out of the police station parking lot. He said that it's important for him be genuinely sincere with everyone he encountered — to be “trusting and trustworthy” as he performed his duties. And whether he's waving at a neighbor or visiting the children at one of the town's schools, many people in town know Tyler on a first-name basis.

Tyler said that he and others officers and staff members strive to build that relationship each day.

“It all comes down to trust,” he said.

Bogue and Assistant Chief Ron Peer's encouragement for everyone to continue their educations throughout their careers inspired Tyler, who is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor with Gracie Barra in Hannibal. He remembered thoroughly enjoying assembling his own sniper rifle during FBI Sniper School and receiving his certification for handling an active meth lab.

And although Tyler gave a couple warnings for minor speeding infractions during the brief drive on Tuesday, he recalled how he and his partner at the time performed a vehicle stop that led to a federal case about two years ago.

When Tyler approached the vehicle under suspicion of fraud based on its license plates, he could smell the odor of marijuana coming from inside. He said that he talked with each person — making sure to understand what they each had to say — while keeping the laws in mind.

As the case moved on, the officers found out that the subjects were all under federal indictments, and they soon worked with the FBI to uncover a fraud ring encompassing numerous Missouri communities that included more than $100,000 worth of stolen prescription drugs.

Tyler said that he and fellow members of the department do exercise bias in any way, and he is pleased to treat others with respect and to receive the same response. And each day, he looks to a higher power.

“I just want to experience as much as God wants me to do,” he said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com