The Scottsville Police Department is back at full strength with the hire of two new officers. The department was understaffed for part of 2018, with only Chief Jeff Vohwinkel patrolling the streets of Scottsville, after the previous Chief and officers either retired or accepted jobs elsewhere.
With the recruitment of fulltime officers Allen Barnette, who was hired in October, and Tony Taylor, hired in December, the department is fully staffed with two fulltime and two part time employees.
“We are committed to keeping Scottsville and its residents safe,” Vohwinkel said. “And we are in a great position to do that again.”
After the turnover in 2018, Vohwinkel, who at the time was part-time, was solely in charge of the department.
“That was pretty challenging from a time-management perspective,” Vohwinkel said, “I can’t be in two places at the same time and in Scottsville we’re not on duty 24/7. So I had to be very careful with how I divided up my time. Because above all, I want to invest in community policing and relationship building within the community.”
Making sure police were visible during that time, Vohwinkel strategically parked a few police cars around town from time to time, even though there were no officers.
“Just as long as you are visible, it will have a positive effect. People will self-correct when they see a police car.”
Now, with Taylor and Barnette on board, the Scottsville police department will again focus on community policing and relationship building on a daily basis.
“We wouldn’t be able to effectively do our jobs if it weren’t for the involvement of the community,” Vohwinkel said.
Officer Tony Taylor, who was hired December 5, agrees. The 30-plus year law enforcement veteran knows all too well the importance of involving the community in keeping that community safe.
Taylor earned his stripes working in a large metropolitan police department, where he had roughly 1800 colleagues.
“In the early nineties I was actually part of a pilot-project around good community policing,” Taylor said. “And it is very important. By fostering good relationships with business owners and residents, you learn what they are seeing and noticing. It helps police officers identify potential issues and trends. If we’re noticing a trend of break-ins, we make sure that’s more widely known and help people with prevention. At the same time, it helps us investigate. Involvement from the community is very important.”
And for Taylor it doesn’t matter if that happens in a big metropolitan area, or a small town like Scottsville.
“The work is still the same, except on a smaller scale. But by being involved in the community, you will reap the benefits of that in the end. And when that happens, everybody wins.”
Taylor calls himself a problem-solver, a good communicator and a people-person.
“Most law-abiding citizens will only interact with an officer during a traffic stop. And yes, we do enforce the speed limit. People flock to Scottsville from all over the state to enjoy what the town has to offer, and the speed limits are posted for a reason. Safety is important, especially when there is high volume of pedestrians involved.”
Taylor emphasizes however, that enforcing speed limits is just a small part of what he and his colleague Barnette do on a daily basis.
“Behind the scenes we work with the community to ensure Scottsville is a safe place. Not everyone will notice that, but it is happening. And it’s called community policing. Most of what we do is self-initiated.”
Taylor says he feels at home in Scottsville and is getting to know the community and its members better every day.
“It’s a pleasant place to work and I’m committed to keeping it safe. Looking at my career, I’m exactly where I want to be.”
Officer Allen Barnette, who was hired in October, was not a stranger to the town of Scottsville as a Charlottesville native. Before taking the job, Barnette spent over a decade at the Charlottesville Police Department before spending the last two and a half years at the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m excited to be part of the Scottsville Police Department,” he said. “I’ve noticed that people here are starting to recognize me. And the folks I encounter every day are down-to-Earth, cordial, respectful and helpful.”
Also, the new job brings Barnette, who resides in North Garden, closer to his family.
Barnette describes himself as a proactive police officer and agrees with his colleagues that a helpful community helps solve crimes. To make that happen, one thing is of vital importance, Barnette said.
“That’s to build trust. And that trust is a two-way street. If the community doesn’t trust you, they won’t help you. In my 14 years on the job I’ve learned that an officer’s biggest asset is his mouth,” Barnette said. “You’ve got to be able to earn respect from the people you serve.”
Barnette does that, he said, by approaching his job with honesty.
“I treat people fairly when I have encounters with them, whatever the circumstances,” he said. “In the end, I want to make a difference. When I’m the officer on duty for the day, people in Scottsville should know I’m there to help them, not to hurt them.”