After just two weeks on the job, White Hall Police Chief Greg Shapiro is already making plans to improve community relations and communication within the Police Department.

Shapiro’s first day as White Hall police chief was April 5. Sitting behind his desk at the police station on a recent day, he recalled the events that lead to him becoming chief. He said the first time he got a taste of law enforcement, he loved it.

Shapiro became a police officer in 1994, although a career in law enforcement was not what he expected when he attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock after graduating from Pine Bluff High School.

He said it was as an undecided college student that he discovered his love for the law after taking an intro to criminal justice class. He later majored in criminal justice, and it was after an internship at the Little Rock Police Department that he knew he wanted to become a police officer. He returned to Pine Bluff after graduation and later became a police officer with Pine Bluff Police Department.

“I had a great time,” he said. “You’re out in a vehicle, and it can be exciting … there’s adrenaline, and you get to help people ... it's rewarding. You have some of those good high-five moments when you catch a bad guy, or you get people's stolen property back. The rewards are great on good days.”

Shapiro was a Pine Bluff officer for 19 years, leaving in 2012 as a captain to pursue a teaching career at Southeast Arkansas College. He said that although he enjoys being a criminal justice instructor, law enforcement is his passion.

“I missed it,” Shapiro said of being a cop. “I think if you’re patient and an opportunity presents itself at the right time, you need to be prepared to seize it and take it. That’s what I did.”

In a previous interview with Pine Bluff Commercial, Shapiro said he wanted to give White Hall officers the technology and tools they need to work smarter. In keeping with that goal, he said the first step is establishing effective communication.

On his first full day as chief, Shapiro created the domain wharpd.org for the department. In addition, he began Microsoft 365 email accounts for every full-time police employee in order to make it easier to exchange information within the department.

“The communication that’s involved in a law enforcement agency through three shifts of people goes full cycle, and I just needed an effective means of communication,” Shapiro said.

He said he plans to also develop an interactive website that helps with community relations. The website will act as a resource center with information on local shelters and other social services like the food pantry. Users will be able to visit the site to learn how to file documents such as an order of protection and be able to leave tips and acknowledge officers.

Another one of his goals is to provide a teen driver’s training course during the summer. He said the school resource officers will teach a one-day course on the rules of the road, safety and driver licenses exam preparation.

“That’s one of my first goals, because I’ve had two teenage boys and there was no opportunity for them to take a course here,” Shapiro said. “It wouldn’t be a full driver’s education course, it would be something on a one-day basis, something quick.”

He said creating a website and the teen driving course is on his “quick to-do list.” In-house goals include digitizing old paper files to make room within the station.

Being well aware of the limitations of the department’s budget, Shapiro said he is always thinking of ways to make an impact with even the smallest things. Every police officer now carries a resource pocket card that lists information for organizations like Salvation Army or need-to-know things like where to file an order of protection.

Another idea Shapiro said he wants to implement is a program for seniors that allows them to submit a form when they’ll be away from home for an extended period. That way, officers will receive an alert to go by and check the property while they are away.

“I’ve got some in-house things to do equipment-wise and policy-wise,” he said. “I’ve got some short-term goals and some long-term goals and, of course, anything that involves equipment involves money. It’s 2019, so anything top of the line is going to cost money … we might explore some grants where we can, but we’re aiming high.”