Police & Fire

| 2015 Q3 | story by BOB LUDER   | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |

Eudora Police Chief and Eudora Fire Chief

Eudora Police Chief Bill Edwards says there are two key parameters he wants each and every officer under his command to strive for each day.

First, when an officer leaves a contact made with a citizen, that officer needs to ask himself, “Did I make the situation better for the next officer who has to deal with that citizen?” Second, since police officers often find themselves in situations where they interact with people on edge, he says it’s important officers pull those people back from the edge and not do anything to push them over it.

“I think if we practice that, it’s hard to go wrong,” Edwards says. “I think it’s that type of community work that makes a difference.”

While there are challenges to consistently accomplishing such goals in a small community with limited resources, Edwards, who’s been chief in Eudora for nearly three years, following a distinguished 33-year career in Kansas City, Kan., says his department comes through time and again by being dedicated, having a strong work ethic and working together.

The same can be said of the similarly sized police department Chief Greg Neis oversees in Baldwin City.

“I wouldn’t say we really have challenges,” says Neis, who’s been on the job since January 2010. “We have a good bunch of people who get the job done and do it right. And, the city has been pretty good to us.”

Edwards can say the same of the city of Eudora, population of about 6,400 just six miles east of Lawrence, off of K-10 highway. On July 1, he added the city’s first full-time detective to his ranks, giving him a total of 11 uniformed officers. Creating that detective’s position helps alleviate a lot of the follow-up work on cases by Edwards’ officers, already putting in 12-hour shifts day and night.

“It also allows us to have a better picture of the cases we’re working,” Edwards says. “The detective can make contacts, do more interagency work.”

Last year, Eudora police officers answered more than 10,000 calls. Edwards says many of those were domestic violence or drug- and alcohol-related calls, which appear to be on the rise every year. Much of the work the city’s police force does involves community relations – running countless patrols letting the city’s citizens know the police are there to do what their motto says: “To Protect and To Serve.”

In addition to three-plus decades in Kansas City, Kan., Edwards served as chief of police in Park City, Kan., a small town just north of Wichita, for six years. He says what makes Eudora unique is the quality of his staff, which includes two sergeants working with eight field officers and a detective.

“One of the things that makes me proud is how well these officers get along with each other,” he says. “Being able to provide direct service to the community is what the people here want, and there’s a level of trust that’s been built between our department and the community.”

Neis can certainly say the same about his department in Baldwin City, which includes nine full-time and three part-time officers. Like Eudora, the officers divide up 12-hour shifts, ensuring that at least two officers are on duty at any one time.


Baldwin City Fire Chief and Baldwin City Police Chief

With a population of 4,500, Baldwin City is a bit smaller than its neighbor to the north, but there’s also Baker University, which brings in 950 resident college students each autumn. Neis says that, thus far in 2015, his department has responded to a total of 2,118 calls.

“We just make sure people are safe,” he says. “We’re always busy in the fall during the Maple Leaf Festival. Everyone works. There are no vacations. And, we work all weekend.”

Neis explains Baldwin City could use a new police station, and there have been discussions about this topic in recent city council meetings. His department has six marked, fully equipped patrol cruisers. There also is a car for the school resource officer at Baldwin City High School, and the chief has a car, the oldest in the fleet, he continues. Eudora, which recently built a new police and fire station, has 11 cars in its fleet.

If the police forces in Eudora and Baldwin City are dedicated, the fire departments of these two small towns take it a step further. In fact, both towns have teams of volunteer firefighters, all of which are constantly on call for both fire and emergency medical service (EMS) calls. They work all hours, day and night, for little to no compensation.

Eudora Fire Chief Ken Keiter has one part-time deputy chief, one part-time driver for the truck and maintains a staff of 35 volunteers who rotate shifts among eight people.

“Most are looking to get a foot in the door in fire service,” Keiter says. “We give them the chance to train and get their certifications.”

In fact, a Eudora Fire Academy was created, where aspiring firefighters/emergency medical technicians (EMTs) can train from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays for eight weeks.

“One of the issues with a volunteer agency is you never know how many volunteers are going to be able to go on a call,” Keiter says. “All of them have full-time jobs elsewhere. But, it’s amazing to me the dedication the volunteers have.”

Allen Craig, chief of the fire department in Baldwin City the last 25 years, sees the same dedication within his volunteer force, which has included his sons and even a grandson. He has 19 firefighters on call at all times, he says, but it’s day-to-day, hour-to-hour as far as how many of those volunteers are available at the times needed.

“I don’t worry about it,” Craig says. “We always seem to have enough to get the job done.”

He explains his department added medical service in 2009, and many of his volunteer firefighters become certified EMTs after they join the ranks. The number of calls for fire or medical emergencies has risen each year, from 115 in 2008 to 513 in 2014, he says. Through mid-August this year, there had been 307 calls.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Craig says. “Training is often hard to get. If you have a family and full-time job, it’s difficult.”

Despite the difficulties, Craig shares with Edwards, Keiter and Neis a great pride in his department and the men and women who serve their towns.

“I’ve got a bunch of dedicated people working for me,” he says. “It’s a good group of men and women.”

Both Craig and Keiter stress they are always on the lookout for more volunteer firefighters and EMTs, and say anyone interested is encouraged to call or stop by the local fire department to apply.

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