Over his 28 years at the Westminster Police Department, Bill Collins has thought deeply about how he wants to be remembered when he leaves.
“Chasing down criminals and putting them in jail is an extremely important part of being a police officer, but to me it is not the most important,” said Collins, who became WPD’s new deputy chief on June 24.
“To me, it’s about people,” Collins said. “Treating people with kindness and respect. Letting the people I work with every day know they are valued and appreciated. I work with some really great people.
“When my time comes to leave this agency, I hope that I will have had a positive impact in the lives of the people I worked with and the people I came in contact with over my career.”
That sentiment became crystal clear to Collins after a near-death experience – or more accurately, a return from death – he had in January 2013.
Then 44, the health- and fitness-conscious Collins collapsed while at his son’s jiu jitsu tournament. It took about eight minutes to revive Collins. He would suffer through several hours of seizures and then be placed under a medically induced coma before waking up six days later. Miraculously, he was left with no permanent effects from the experience — other than, that is, a very strong sense of faith, family and the value of people.
“You put God first,” Collins said, “and everything falls into place.”
Along with his faith, Collins – who has been with WPD since he was 18 (“I started right out of high school as an intern”) – really tries to focus his energy on those around him.
“You need to realize that it’s not about you … it’s about other people,” he said. “It’s about the relationships that you have in and out of the police department. It’s about the human side of leadership — the type of leadership that cares about employees and their happiness.”
In his expanded role as deputy chief, Collins plans to continue this important purpose with all employees of the department – police officers and civilian staff. He wants them to know they are all valued and appreciated. He wants them not to forget why police officers do what they do, what they believe in and to keep that purpose alive.
“I am hoping at a higher rank at the police department, I can have even more of a positive impact on people,” Collins said.
With law enforcement undergoing a period of increased stress and negative attention, Collins wants to be an example of the human side of leadership for the men and women of the Westminster Police Department — the side of leadership that inspires people to believe in what they do and why they do it, and to bring back that sense of purpose to the job.
“I like to laugh and make people laugh,” Collins said. “We can still do that, you know. Levity is a good thing, especially with the stresses associated with being a police officer and other jobs within the police department. Maybe I can help create a more relaxing atmosphere.”
Over Collins’ time at the WPD, he’s worked as a field training officer, in community-oriented policing, as a gang detective, a patrol sergeant and lieutenant, detective lieutenant, traffic lieutenant and lieutenant in charge of special operations. He’s been a commander for 12 years and a supervisor for 17.
“I will always remember where I came from – in my heart, I’m still a street cop,” he said.
Collins said he sees how hard it is for police officers nowadays, which makes it that much more important to let them know their hard work is appreciated.
“It’s tough for us (police officers) to watch the news and watch the criticisms,” he said.
Collins said police officers always need to remember why they chose the profession in the first place.
“I was always intrigued and attracted toward a profession that would be helping people that couldn’t really help themselves,” Collins said. “That’s why a lot of us do this.”