FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - There is nothing pretentious about Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler. He drives an older cruiser because he believes that his officers deserve the best resources he has to give. While he wasn't a fan of all the movie magic WMBF News produced for our interview with him, he was gracious enough to open up and share his vision in his new role.
"I'm a true Florentine, even though I came from Pennsylvania originally," Chief Heidler says. With 30 years at the Florence Police department, there's little he hasn't seen.
"I worked myself through the ranks from basic police officer, through uniformed patrol division as a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, Captain over the patrol division and eventually the Deputy Chief under Chief Shells," Chief Heidler says about his career - a career that has, without a doubt, earned him respect from his colleagues.
"Change is a good thing," he adds. "Too much change at once can cause chaos and be a problem. So I'm being very methodical in trying to accomplish for the goals we've set for this agency."
With a business management degree from Coker College and four years in the Army, Heidler sees law enforcement differently.
"I see the agency as a type of business, and we're trying to operate the agency like a business," Heidler explains. "We see our officers as the product and we're trying to produce the best product for the citizens." He understands this requires an investment on his part.
"We are becoming a little more technologically-advanced and focusing right now on a lot of training," Heidler says. "Change can be as much as them spending a short period of time in another department and breaking up the monotony that they do on the streets so we keep them fresh and keep their eyes ready and open seeing what's going on out on the streets."
His other goal is continuing the legacy of former Police Chief Anson Shells, who helped beef up neighborhood watch groups from nine to 36 active groups during his time.
"The eyes and ears of law enforcement are our neighborhood associations," Heidler says. "Those are the people that know what's going on more so than the officers working those areas."
With a major financial investment taking place in the city, he says creating a better place to live will help deter crime specifically in the Northwest, North and East sections of the city, adding, "I think you'll see a huge level of crime reduction."
As for his long-term goals:
"We've had to go outside this agency previously to find police chiefs, and I really think that my greatest goal is to make sure that we are building strong leaders in this agency, so strong that when I leave this agency that the city manager will have a difficult time determining who the next leader will be, because we will have so many right here," Heidler says.
"If you could give one lesson to the young version of you on the first day on the force, what would you tell yourself?" we asked Chief Heidler. He responded: "That would be look at your supervision with a different light. You know, a lot of times the older guys are smarter than you think."
Heidler's a big advocate of mentoring, so as much as possible, he's partnering experienced commanders with newer, less experienced officers in the field. It's an old-school tactic that's gone out the window with budget cuts over the years, but he says it's just one more piece of the formula to create top-notch officers to keep your family safe.