Chief Kevin Carter: Building a better West Point through police engagement
Published 8:30 am Saturday, February 25, 2023
After more than 10 years with the department, Captain Kevin Carter was officially named the chief of police of the West Point Police Department. Though it may have had a few twists and turns, Carter’s path seems to have led exactly where he belongs.
“Sitting here before you today as the chief of police, I can connect some dots in the past that led me to where I am today,” Carter said.
Carter, from LaGrange, became a police officer in 2006. Almost as soon as he had started in his career though, Carter was beginning to have second thoughts.
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“I realized that law enforcement just wasn’t for me so I got out,” he said.
He did everything from building tractors for Caterpillar to working security. But no matter what he did, he was always thinking about law enforcement, wondering what could have been if he had stuck with law enforcement.
“I just had that big question mark. Like, if I had stuck with it, where could I have been by now?” he said.
Soon, he decided to reapply to departments around the area and try the profession again. Soon, he hit gold and got a call back from West Point. At that time, Carter hadn’t thought of West Point. But when he did, everything seemed to start falling into place.
“I started here in 2011. In 2014, I assessed for sergeant,” he said.
In this time, he gained a wealth of experience. In a small community and police department like West Point, Carter said each officer got more exposure more quickly.
“In West Point, we’re a small agency, and so we get the benefit of being exposed to a whole lot more than, say, if you were the bigger city, and you’re a patrol officer. Well, all you do is patrol. Your traffic officer — all you do is work wrecks and write tickets, or investigate stuff,” Carter said. “But in West Point, you’re all of those things clumped into one so the experience came quite quickly.”
In March 2015, Carter was promoted to sergeant, and in December of that year, he was appointed to captain. Until last week, that was the role he held at the department. Though his new position comes with fresh responsibilities, Carter is rising to meet the challenge.
“I never set out to be a chief of police,” Carter said. “And I still have reservations, but I feel like I’m here today in this position for a bigger purpose and reason, and I’m going to give it 110%. I mean, there’s no other way to do it at this point.”
Though there have already been some bumps in the road, Carter has his mind on looking ahead. After the incident with the suspended WP police officers in August, he said the hiring process is the first place where he has made improvements.
“We have to get good quality police officers,” he said.
To help facilitate a well-staffed police department, Carter has restructured his hiring process. With some officers retiring or moving away, he also plans to work on the command structure of the department.
“There’s going to be a couple of additional processes added just to kind of filter out the people who shouldn’t be here. That’s the first step,” Carter said. “Then my second goal is going to be trying to get a command structure.”
Ultimately, the new police chief’s main goal is to get engaged with the community again. Last year, the police department played a large role in helping to organize West Point’s first annual fall festival. The event was a huge success, with many people attending and some wishing it could continue later.
“We all work together for a common goal for the community,” Carter said. “And I think I can speak for at least three department heads when I say that we’ve gotten away from that, but we’re getting better. And that’s one of not just my goals, but that’s one of all of our goals that we’re going to try to do from the city manager all the way down.”
As for the police department, Carter hopes to start doing a Coffee with the Police Department event again. In the future, he also plans to restart the Adopt a Neighborhood program, in which each officer is assigned a neighborhood to get familiar with. Rather than patrolling or taking reports, the officer’s goal will be to get to know the people in that neighborhood. He said his goal is that everyone in the community will know his officers by name.
“I know that we can do better, “ Carter said. “I see it. Like, I have a vision, and I know we can get there. And I just want to see it happen.”
The vision of West Point that Carter sees is one where the police officers earn the trust and respect of the community
“It’s how I always envisioned West Point, but at the time I was just one person,” Carter said. “And then when I became a sergeant, I was just one shift, and I made the difference where I could. But now I’m the chief and the influence is department-wide. So my motivation is to bridge the gap between us and the community.”