For Joe Chase, his new job is the natural next step in a long, successful law enforcement career.
Chase, a Salem native who joined the police force 22 years ago, was formally announced Wednesday as the next Salem police chief. He’ll take the reins from retiring chief Keith Steelman Feb. 15.
Steelman says Chase is the right man for the job. “He’s done an excellent job as a leader in the department in his position as sergeant and he will do excellent in his position as chief of police leading this department because he grew up in it, this is where he’s at and he’ll do fine,” Steelman said.
Five applications were received with two selected as finalists for interviews by a panel comprised of local law enforcement from outside the city along with city officials. Mayor Brad Nash appointed Chase during a Jan. 6 closed session of the board of aldermen and the appointment was approved unanimously. Steelman announced his impending retirement last fall.
In a prepared statement, Nash said, “I am pleased that the selection process has successfully concluded with the appointment of Joe as Salem’s next police chief. I have every confidence he will distinguish himself early on as a visionary and effective community leader. His experience and management abilities are an excellent fit for the department at this point in its history. He will be a valued addition to our management team.”
Chase has been with the department since 1997 and since 2011 at the rank of sergeant. He has over 22 years of law enforcement experience and has worked with the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshal’s Service and various state and local law enforcement agencies. He has certifications in firearms training, as a K-9 handler, field training officer and academy instructor.
“I look forward to the challenge of being chief,” Chase said. “I’ve been here a long time and I’ve got a big heart for the community. I want to make sure it’s as close to the place I grew up in as it can. If it stays a little bit behind the times, that’s okay sometimes.”
He wants Salem to be as safe as it can be. “We’re kind of in a bubble in a sense,” he said. “The bad things that affect other places don’t always reach here. We don’t have the prevalence of crime that even Rolla has just simply by volume.”
One of his primary focuses will be looking into for more training for his 12 officers, taking a career development approach to provide advanced schooling in the areas they specialized in.
“We’re going to try to pursue that to make the guys the best they can be so that way the public, the community is getting the best product that we as a police department can put out there. I want smart officers and officers that are willing to get in there and come up with creative ways of solving problems,” Chase said.
But don’t expect any drastic changes in the police department. “Chief Steelman has laid such a good foundation, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel,” Chase said. “As far as the community, a lot of the stances the department holds will pretty much remain the same. We’re going to remain as proactive as we can on narcotics enforcement.”
One place Chase is planning for a greater police presence will be at schools and at school-related functions. In addition to increasing public safety and security against normal threats, he wants to guard against the shootings that have become all too common in our society.
“In this day and age, these mass casualty incidents, it seems like every week there’s one someplace else. We’re going to try to be proactive in that regard and try to get out ahead of it a little bit where we can,” he said.
With Steelman and Major Marty Farrar due to retire the same day, Feb. 14, Chase is in the process of appointing a replacement for Farrar, who is second in command, acts as liaison to the prosecutor’s office, oversees equipment and vehicle maintenance and is the primary supervisor for sergeants.
Chase said people don’t realize how much is involved in being police chief. “I have a sense of admiration for everything Chief Steelman does because he literally is a working chief,” he said. “He patrols, he does the reading program for the school, he meets with the crisis intervention team, then there’s the staff meetings and daily stuff with the aldermen, city administrator and mayor,” along with dealing with animal control, ordinance enforcement and other concerns and problems.
Chase grew up in the Salem area. His parents are Virginia and Lyal Chase. He lives in Salem with his children and fiancée Charity.