Retired Tacoma cop to be interim Milton chief

Staff writerDecember 27, 2013 

Retired Tacoma Police Capt. Mark Langford will be the interim police chief of Milton, following the retirement of Milton Police Chief Bill Rhoads at the end of this year.

Langford retired from the Tacoma Police Department earlier this year after 32 years on the force, accepting a retirement incentive from the city as it grappled with budget issues.

Langford is the second veteran command-level officer from Tacoma who recently accepted a job leading a suburban city police department elsewhere in Pierce County. Bob Sheehan retired as assistant chief of operations from the Tacoma Police Department last year after 30 years with the department. He’s now the chief in DuPont.

Rhoads arrived in Milton seven years ago from the sheriff’s office in Cumberland County, Maine, where he had worked for nearly 30 years. Milton had been without a police chief for three years following the firing of the city’s former chief and subsequent legal appeals.

When Rhoads arrived, Milton’s police force was also recovering from budget-related staffing cuts. Rhoads was asked to fill the leadership gap.

“There was a learning curve,” Rhoads recalled of his arrival in Milton. “It was a good challenge, but core services were in OK shape.”

At the time, there were nine officers on the police force, and the city was spending a lot in overtime pay, he said.

Rhoads helped build the department up to its current strength, which includes 12 sworn police officers, a code enforcement officer and a clerk. He also managed to squeeze in some street-level police work of his own.

He once had to tackle a woman suspect after she punched another officer in the face and tried to grab his gun.

“We finally got some cuffs on her,” Rhoads said.

Milton Mayor Debra Perry said Rhoads is a popular figure in the city of roughly 7,000.

“Bill is truly loved in this community, and for good reason,” Perry said.

She said that when problems or complications arise, he doesn’t pass the buck: “He takes care of it himself.”

Perry also praised Rhoads’ fiscal management skills.

“He finds a way to get things done,” she said. “He will go out there and chase that dime.”

Milton’s 2014 budget estimated that the police department would spend just under $2 million, including nearly $97,000 for the chief’s salary. That’s about what Rhoads earned in his final year as chief.

Perry said Langford started in his interim position in mid-December so that he could work with Rhoads during a transition period. She said the city will launch a search for a permanent chief through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

She said she wants the search process to proceed deliberately.

“I am not in a hurry at all,” Perry said. “I want to make sure we make the absolute right decision.”

Rhoads and his wife plan to retire in Arizona, but also plan to play the part of snowbirds and spend time in the Northwest during good weather.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com @DebbieCafazzo

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