CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - He spent 12 years as the public face of one of the Heartland’s biggest police and fire departments.
Now, James McMillen takes over as director of Sikeston’s Department of Public Safety.
Kathy Sweeney with Heartland News sat down to talk to the new director.
After 21 years with the department, I asked McMillen what it’s like to walk into the chief’s office now, knowing he’s the one in charge.
“Well I think the first time I did, it was quite intimidating, honestly. You realize the challenges of this office and you want to do a good job for the officers that work here,” he said.
I’ve interviewed McMillen countless times, but this marks our first in his new role as Chief. McMillen worked closely with community members as Public Information Officer. He sees that experience as a real asset.
“I think it helps me because I have those contacts that I can reach out to in the community and talk to people and get their input about the department. It makes them feel a little bit more free to come up and talk to us if they have a complaint or if they have an issue they want to address," he said.
McMillen spent much of his time in Sikeston working under the leadership of Drew Juden, who kept the department in the public spotlight, and worked openly with other departments.
As DPS Chief, McMillen says one of his biggest challenges is getting that reputation back.
“And I just know the importance of that," he added. "And so, we’re going to be fairly aggressive with working with the media contacts whether it’s radio, print, television. And I think you’re going to see that we are out in the public more. And not only that, but we want to use that to partner with the community.”
And, he says, that partnership is needed to combat the drugs and violence continuing to plague his city.
“There’s a big concern about community members not coming forth with information that they know about crimes, about things that they’ve seen and not reported to police. And I think you see these criminals that are empowered, emboldened by that. And more violence comes from it," he said.
City leaders named McMillen to the top spot just two weeks after the abrupt removal of Chief Mike Williams. He says his 79 officers are on a good path right now.
“I understand that change always brings some sort of level of drama. And we’re going to push through that. I think the best thing that we can do for that is get busy working," he said.
Did you ever think you’d be sitting in that chair? I asked.
“You know, there was a time I said I’d never do that, you know what I mean. But, as you grow I think you learn more. And then you feel like you have something to offer the department. And that’s where I’m at now. And I intend to give it my best," he said.
McMillen spent his first week on the job getting his command staff in place. He tells me he plans to get out in the next several weeks to meet with other local police chiefs to start rebuilding those relationships.