New chief takes over in Willard

Zoe Greszler • Jun 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM

WILLARD — Newly retired Willard Police Chief Mark Holden has had what many would consider a successful career, having been in law enforcement for more than 20 years.

Holden started in 1994, the same year as the new chief, Shannon Chaffins. The two worked side-by-side for several years and Chaffins said he enjoyed that opportunity.

Chaffins was appointed chief recently after a short time as interim. Holden, who declined to comment, retired June 2.

“I was hired in May of ‘94. Then he (Holden) was hired in August of ‘94,” Chaffins said. “We (were) hired in together. We worked a lot of second and third shifts together. There were a lot of long shifts together.”

Holden also filled in as a reserve officer for the Plymouth Police Department for about a year. He served as chief for New London from August 2003 through mid-March of 2009. Holden returned to Willard to serve as assistant chief under Joe Daniel. Former city manager Brian Humphress appointed Holden as chief in January 2012. 

Chaffins said Holden has made the city a “safer, more enjoyable place.”

“You know the types of crime we deal with changes over the years,” he said.

When he was first hired in in 1994, Chaffins said police hardly saw heroin usage, but now it has become part of an epidemic.

“We used to go to bar fights all the time and you don’t really see that anymore. It’s about adapting to the needs. ... This is a better place because of (Holden’s leadership).”

Chaffins worked under Holden as assistant chief and then as interim chief. Chaffins was the interim from May 15 through June 2 so he could learn the ropes of his new role.

“For me it’s definitely a learning experience,” he said. “There were a lot of things I didn’t really understand, but almost daily he texts or calls me and asks if there’s any questions, which I really appreciate.”

As he starts his new job, Chaffins said he hopes to emulate a few of Holden’s qualities.

“He was more of a do-er and he liked to be hands on and answer every emergency call he could,” Chaffins said. 

“I’d be sitting at my desk and hear an emergency call come in and before I could get out of my chair, he’d be in his car on his way. He wanted to be part of it and tried to get to all the calls — even minor things. If it was a new task he would do it first and make sure he knew how to do it first. Then, if you were lucky, he’d let you do it. He wanted to be involved. He was really good guy to work for.

“It didn’t bother him if someone called off sick — he’d fill in,” he said. “He would (assist) every now and again, so he could work with the other guys. Hopefully I can do that too and get the opportunity to work with some of the other guys.”

Chaffins said he doesn’t plan any major changes right now, but said he has stepped up the foot patrols, especially in the parks and having more of a presence at the city’s Festival in the Park events.  

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