OXFORD — Public trust and confidence in law enforcement are important, and Oxford’s new Acting Police Chief John A. Jones’ vision is to continue to build both.
Jones, who joined the Oxford Police Division in 2002, has served as a detective, a field training officer, and a special response team member. He was promoted to sergeant in June 2008, and to lieutenant in May 2013. His career in public safety has seen him working in several different capacities.
“I actually began my career with the city as a volunteer/paid on call firefighter/EMT in August 1997,” Jones said. “I also worked as a part-time dispatcher from 1998 to 2002 with OPD. My first full-time job with the city was as a Code Enforcement Officer in the Planning and Zoning Department from 2000 to 2002.”
“My vision for the department is to continue to build public trust and confidence in our agency,” Jones explained recently. “The OPD has long had a community oriented policing philosophy and I plan to build and expand on that. One way I believe we have recently worked toward that goal is through our SRO program. Getting an officer back in our schools and partnering with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office was something I was very passionate about.
“As a lieutenant and then as acting chief, I worked to make sure this happened,” Jones said. “We started in February and I hope to continue and possibly expand this program.”
“Working with the community is obviously very important to me,” Jones said. “And to the success of any police department. Our officers are problem solvers and leaders in the community. We are fortunate not to have high violent crime rates and we work hard to keep it that way. Much of our time is spent on quality of life issues such as excessive noise, litter, disorderly conduct, and other issues that are a result of overconsumption of alcohol. I’ve directed officers to focus on these issues to improve the quality of life in the community and to promote safety to help mitigate the tragedies that often result from irresponsible drinking.”
The recent creation of the Police Community Relations and Review Commission is an opportunity for residents to learn more about the department and policing as well as to have an influence on interactions between police and residents, Jones explained. “Other community outreach programs include our Citizen Police Academy, monthly Coffee with a Cop meetings, Citizen Observer Patrol, and our ride along program to name a few.”
Jones received a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in public administration and sociology from Miami University in 1999 and a Master of Science in the Administration of Justice from the University of Louisville in 2011. He is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute in Louisville, Kentucky. He is married to wife, Betsy and they have three sons: Dalton 16, Charlie 11, and Wyatt 9.
He is also the current president of the Oxford Lions Club and is an active leader with Cub Scout Pack 937.
Oxford PD Updates
Lara Fening and Geoff Robinson were promoted to lieutenant during a March 1 Oxford City Council meeting.
“Our organization consists of a chief, two lieutenants, and six sergeants,” Jones pointed out. “I am really excited about the leadership the lieutenants and some new sergeants will bring to OPD.”
Fening has served with OPD since July 3, 1996. She served as a patrol officer, crime prevention specialist and field training officer prior to her promotion to the rank of sergeant on Sept. 3, 2013. According to city officials, she is the first femail lieutenant to serve the OPD.
Robinson has served with the Oxford Police Department since April 10, 2006. He served as a patrol officer and detective prior to being promoted to the rank of sergeant on Dec. 5, 2011. Since June of 2013, he has served as the detective sergeant, supervising the criminal investigations unit. He is also a member of Butler County Regional SWAT and Butler County Incident Management Team.
“Both Fening and Robinson have displayed dedication to the division and community and are expected to use their vast leadership skills to lead OPD in the future,” Jones said in a department memo.
“It is important to note that Lara was the first female to be promoted to the rank of sergeant and now has been the first female to be promoted to lieutenant,” Jones explained. “A promotion to the rank of lieutenant in and of itself is a rare event at OPD; only seven men have ever been promoted to that rank in our history. Policing remains a predominately male profession however it is becoming much more common to have women in leadership roles at law enforcement agencies. It is important to acknowledge and recognize this event in OPD history since it is a first, but we know that it won’t be the last. Women in law enforcement continue to succeed and overcome obstacles that present themselves in this profession.”
This has been a period of immense change at OPD, according to Jones. “We have had several retirements and promotions that have changed the leadership at OPD. We also have been transitioning to a different dispatch center. Due to new state laws, Butler County needed to reduce from five to four Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) by Jan. 1, 2016. Oxford’s status as a PSAP had to change and we decided the best course of action was to contract with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office to handle dispatching for fire, EMS, and police.
“This has been a tremendous adjustment for our officers and community as we have always had the benefit of having our own 911 call taker and our own familiar voice on the radio,” Jones said. “Our dispatchers possess a wealth of institutional knowledge along with great understanding of our community. Managing this change from our own small dispatch operation to a large regional center has been challenging, but our staff remains committed to making sure service levels improve for our community.”
Meeting the current challenges facing law enforcement is a task the OPD is ready to take on.
“We are in the middle of a very challenging time for law enforcement across the nation,” Jones said. “Police leaders must be able to effect change within their organizations and meet public demands by increasing transparency and accountability, promoting better police-community relations, and gaining the confidence and trust of all the communities we serve.
“These efforts must be made at a time when officers are being ambushed and killed for no reason other than wearing their uniform, at a time where some youth are no longer accountable to their parents, at a time where it is common to hear about mass shootings on the news, and at a time where every citizen carries a smartphone that is ready to record any misstep of officers and then spread that instantly on social media to the world,” he continued. “Commentators can then safely scrutinize the police from the safety of their keyboard in their home and hack into FOP servers to threaten innocent officers. While this can be discouraging, I think it emphasizes why it is so important to have capable leaders and excellent officers. It is a new age with many challenges, but I believe we here at OPD are prepared to and are currently meeting these head on.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.