Q&A: Policing in the City of Lights

Chief of Police Nikeo Collins

Our Q&A Column is a way for us to highlight the interesting people within our community.

This week we talked with the Chief of Police for the City of Natchitoches Police Department, Nikeo Collins.

Why Were You Interested In Your Current Role in the Beginning?
I became interested in serving as the Chief of Police for the City of Natchitoches over 20 years ago.  I was interested in improving our agency’s ability to provide services to the citizens of Natchitoches while increasing opportunities for employees to develop their skills and advance in their positions.  

What Are The Roles Of Your Position?
The role of my position is being responsible for the organization and management of the Natchitoches Police Department’s operations and personnel.   

My role includes planning and directing operations to provide law enforcement services for the community and providing for all support functions for these operations, including overseeing financial management, providing for the production and maintenance of records, providing for department training, and performing public relations duties.
  
What Major Challenges Have You Faced So Far In Office?
Some major challenges that I have experienced so far in office include trying to find ways to combat a rise in gun related violent crimes while simultaneously attempting to increase employee pay, reduce turnover, provide updated lifesaving equipment to officers, improve training and opportunities for employees, improving community engagement, and transforming the operations of the agency to be in compliance with new reform initiatives geared at increasing trust and cooperation with the citizens we serve.  

We have had difficulty hiring and keeping new employees and have lost the ability to train and hire new Reserve officers due to a law that was passed in 2018 that went into effect January 1, 2022.  

Reserve officers are now required to complete the same 17 weeks of training in a POST academy to work as volunteers.   

These Reserve officers are often used to help staff events (i.e. Festivals, Football Games, Parades, etc.) that would typically have to be staffed by full time officers working in an overtime capacity.  

The Reserve Officer program would often provide a person who was interested in being in law enforcement the ability to participate in a reserve training academy resulting in 180 hours of training and then the opportunity to advance through levels of experience.  

This would afford the prospective officer with the knowledge and training that would be needed to serve in the capacity of a full time officer.  

The Natchitoches Police Department has had the ability to hire new officers from its Reserve Unit for years.  

What Kind of Strategies And Mindset Is Required For This Role?
This role requires the use of strategies that seek opportunities to enhance operational efficiencies by identifying internal issues and external influences that impede the sustainability of the organization.  

It requires using the concept of developing employees to be geared toward providing services to the public with a high level of performance.  This role requires the concept of working with others including others to accomplish shared goals.  

How Do You Stay Motivated In Your Work?
In today’s social climate a high level of expectations is placed on members working in the field of law enforcement. I am motivated each and every time I hear someone say thank you or that they appreciate the job that one of our employees did that helped them. 

Describe A Time When You Failed In This Role And The Lesson You Learned?
Although the term failure seems like a harsh term I have experienced teachable moments in my current role.  

I learned a long time ago that one should always make sure to make time for people who need to speak with you.  

Also in making time for someone it is always important to engage in active listening and provide them with your undivided attention.  

This is something I work on each and every day because it is important to listen in order to truly understand.  

Tell me something fun that not many people may know about you.
That I am an undercover comedian.  I like making people laugh and being silly although most people expect me to be serious all the time.

If You Could Time Travel, When Would You Go?
I would time travel to the time in existence when everyone was in harmony with each other and there was no ill will against anyone.  That would definitely be a great place to be indeed.

What’s Your Best Natchitoches Memory?
When I was around 8 years old my parents took us to visit my uncle and aunt in New Orleans.  We lived in Elk City, Oklahoma at the time.  

I-49 did not exist back then so my dad would use Hwy 71 and the trip seemed to take an eternity.  I would always dread the trip because my dad was the type that did not like to stop until the needle was on empty. As a result I learned to take long naps during the refueling.  

Being from Oklahoma I was fascinated visiting relatives in New Orleans so I was quite saddened upon heading back to Oklahoma.  

On our way back I once again began my hibernation cycle only to be awakened by my dad prematurely.  He did not have to refuel so I found it strange that he was waking me up.  

My dad told me to sit up and take a look around.  As I raised myself up so that I could see out of the windows I was amazed to see Christmas lights hanging everywhere.  My dad had decided to take a detour from Hwy 71 and drove down on the riverbank to let us see the lights.  

For an 8 year old from Oklahoma that was used to seeing a few lights draped across a street light you can imagine how astonished I was to get to see this for the first time.  It was magical to me.  We left and continued back to Oklahoma.  I never forgot the lights and little did I know I would return to Natchitoches ten years later to attend NSU.  I never forget that reaction and keep it in my mind every time I have the opportunity to meet new visitors to our great city.  

What Is The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Received?
I was told by a retired administrator the paraphrase to Mark Twain’s quote “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.”  

This is a true statement because the demands on law enforcement have changed and we are expected to provide more services with less resources and staff.  This creates a need to come up with more efficient methods and provide the public with a transparent explanation of the true hurdles that our community faces in changing times.

What Accomplishment Are You Most Proud Of?
I am proud of being a participant in the transformation of the Natchitoches Police Department which has brought it from being a department that once completed handwritten reports and had only two 25 Mhz computers to a modernized police department capable of providing services using technology such as body cameras (before they were required), mobile field reporting, computer-aided dispatching, integration of 911 services with our CAD system, records management, GIS mapping, Automated Vehicle Location, LPRs, and mobile access to driver and registration information.  

Another accomplishment is the renewal of our Field Training Officer Program and the enhancement of the program through the use of technology making it easier for administrators and staff members to see how employees are progressing in their positions.  The implementation of a new policy and training management product is the preliminary step in moving our department towards accreditation and ensures a more efficient method of ensuring all employees are kept current on any changes in policies or procedures.  

The participation and continuation of several multi-agency divisions such as the Violent Crimes Apprehension Team, Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force, and Natchitoches SWAT.  The development of personnel who are learning to apply for grant funding to address needs of our department and to serve communities.