NEWTON—After more than three decades of law enforcement experience both locally and abroad, U.S. military veteran James Gresham said his mission statement remains only to “protect and serve the citizens.”
He said Thursday the statement applied directly to the citizens of Newton after the town council appointed him as police chief on Tuesday. In April, he had been appointed interim chief for the town.
Newton Mayor Lehman Irby said he had hoped for Gresham’s approval for the position because of Gresham’s work ethic and willingness to serve in a town that couldn’t quite offer competitive pay and benefits for all of its positions.
Gresham said he accepted the job because of what he believed he could add to the town.
“I go out everyday and talk to the people of Newton, letting them know we’re here if they need us, and so far I’ve gotten a very good reception from the community,” Gresham said.
“The citizens here for the most part are good, church-going folk and they care about each other.”
Gresham said he began his law enforcement career in 1979 as a military police officer in Fort Hood, Texas. Since then, he said he has served as an officer in Clayhatchee and Daleville, where he recently retired after serving as an interim chief.
Gresham said the Newton Police Department has four full-time officers, some of which have military experience and training from larger departments like Dothan and Ozark police departments.
He said the department intends to hire more people soon. The schedule the department has now allows for the town to have 24-hour coverage, he said.
Gresham said his goals for the department are to create more uniformity in officers’ interaction with the community and in the department’s fleet and technology.
“I want to make sure the citizens are protected and respected by all officers and that they respond in a timely manner,” he said.
“I also want to upgrade our vehicles. We have replaced some with 2012 Dodge Cfhargers and still have five more of the older Crown Vic(torias) with high mileage. I also want to upgrade the police department with a little more modern technology. … We all have to grow to meet the demands of today’s society.”