One-on-one interview: Bossier City’s new police chief promises change
“We’re going to be unconventional, and I’m okay with that”
BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) — On the job less than two weeks now, Police Chief Christopher A. Estess is promising to change the culture and direction of policing in Bossier City.
Estess was appointed director of police operations July 2, 2021, and as substitute chief of police July 6, 2021. He was named provisional police chief sometime later before being announced as police chief April 26.
Now he’s given his first one-on-one interview as police chief to KSLA Chief Investigative Reporter Stacey Cameron.
It was 1988 when Estess put his badge and blue uniform on for the first time as a full-time member of the Bossier City Police Department.
Fast forward 24 years to last month and Estess has risen to the rank of sergeant before Mayor Tommy Chandler tapped him to serve as the city’s new police chief.
“To be treated fairly. To be treated with dignity. To be treated with respect and professionalism. To engage with those members, within our partners in the community. That’s what you’re going to get out of me. I’m not a Monday-through-Friday, 8-4 guy. I come out in the middle of the night to serve with the Bossier City Police Department and I’m hands-on.”
That’s what Estess promised members of the community after raising his right hand before before family members, the mayor and fellow officers in late April and taking the oath to become Bossier City’s 15th police chief.
During a career spanning 24 years, Estess spent time as a K-9 officer and SWAT team member and, at one point, headed up the Police Department’s Internal Affairs office.
Most recently, Estess was working as a patrol shift supervisor when Chandler tapped him to be the city’s top cop.
It’s his time as a patrol officer that Estess credits with shaping his vision of policing.
“You know, I have spent a significant time in the patrol division and, ultimately, they’re the backbone of the organization. And so, seeing things through their lens on a day-in, day-out basis is important.”
A devoted husband and father of three children, Estess credits his Christian faith as the inspiration that led him into a career of service in law enforcement.
“You know serving others is not a new concept. I mean it goes back to biblical times. And you know if Jesus can wash the feet of his disciples, then I’m no different as a leader.”
While Estess says his appointment as police chief is a great honor, he admits that taking the job right now comes with challenges.
“We work in a chaotic time for law enforcement officers. I mean there’s no way to sugarcoat that. These officers have it hard,” Estess said.
“Everybody will Monday morning quarterback their actions that they have to make in a split second. And sometimes those decisions have life-or-death consequences,” he continued. “And so, you know, I want to be an advocate for those people.”
But Estess also faces come internal challenges as well, such as moving past some of the departmental politics left over from the man he is replacing.
“I have no issues with former Chief Shane McWilliams,” Estess said. “This is not about Chief McWilliams; it’s not about Chief Estess.
“It’s about the citizens of Bossier City. And it’s about the officer who works next to you in a district,” the new police chief said. “At the end of the day, I don’t care whether you’re loyal to me. It’s bigger than me. What I care about is do your job and take care of one another.”
But spend even a little time with Estess and it’s clear that he’s not wasting time thinking about the past because he’s too busy planning the Police Department’s future.
An example of that future, Estess is rebuilding the department’s K-9 unit. “So we have three. And it’s my hope that, you know, if the funding exists, to be able to go and ask for three additional K-9s.”
Estess also is partnering his K-9 patrolmen with officers recently trained to pilot drones, giving Bossier City police the ability to hunt bad guys from the ground and air at the same time.
“So we have several people and several drones. So as one is getting ready to go down, we can put another one up in the air to be able to, you know. never lose that field of view that we have from the sky,” Estess explained.
Bossier City’s new police chief also is taking a high-tech approach to some old-school police equipment, fitting 30 patrol units with state-of-the-art stop-sticks, which are tools the police use to stop cars during a high-speed chase.
But it’s a piece of equipment BCPD didn’t give its officers, until now.
“The way law enforcement has always done things is not the way we’re going to conduct business,” Estess said. “We’re going to be unconventional, and I’m okay with that.”
He also is heading the Police Department’s effort to convert Fire Station 6, located near the casino district, into BCPD’s special operations headquarters, which will house units like K-9, SWAT, traffic investigations and street crimes.
While the public’s attention may be on him for now, Estess is adamant that his focus is on the department’s rank-and-file members and working with city leaders in the mayor’s office and on the City Council to get his officers a much-needed pay raise.
“You know, I could never pay our officers enough to do the job we ask them to do on a day-to-day basis,” Estess said. “But we have a mayor and a council that have been great to work with. And I feel they really support our police and understand the need, So I think we will find a way to get a raise done.”
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