I recently sat down with Akron's new Chief of Police, Brian Harding, to ask him some questions that can help Ward 8 get to know our "top cop." 

How long have you been in law enforcement?

Chief Harding: 28 years. Started in 1995, took the civil service test right out of college at the University of Akron. 

How long have you been in Akron? 

Chief Harding: I grew up in a small town south of Akron, Bolivar, came to the University of Akron for college and stayed. Worked my way through college at the old drive-thru liquor store in Wallhaven, and then at the Swenson's there, as well as the old Friendly's. 

What are your favorite aspects of being a police officer? 

Chief Harding: The ability to help people. I know that sounds cheesy, but let me explain. The job of a police officer is different every day. You get a chance to help people in their worst moments. You're able to bring a sense of calm to whatever they are going through. I still get to do that as chief, but in a different way. I can help our officers, and our community, solve bigger problems. I look forward to doing that. That's what motivates me. 

What do you want Ward 8 residents to know about you? 

Chief Harding: I genuinely want to connect with residents. I'm very passionate about my family and my faith. Both ground me. I'm a coach at heart. I coached all my kids in sports, and I used to tell my teams you can control two things: attitude and effort. That's still my motto today. 

What do you want Ward 8 residents to know about the Akron Police Department?

Chief Harding: We are blessed with a great team. Our officers really care about making a difference, about serving people. One of the highlights for me as chief is hiring new officers, asking them why they want to serve the city of Akron? They all have a call to service. Our officers are trying really hard. There's work to be done, and we know there's work to be done, and we ask the community to engage with us in conversation. We welcome those little moments when people stop to talk with us. We are open and want to be transparent in what we are doing. We appreciate feedback. 

How can Ward 8 residents support you as chief?

Chief Harding: We are recruiting right now. If you know of anyone who might want to become an Akron police officer, please encourage them to apply. Spread the word. I'm looking for strong customer service skills, empathy, and a heart for service. We need diversity in the department and those with lived experience in Akron. Ward 8 residents should connect with us on social media (Facebook | Instagram). We are reopening the Citizens Academy to engage more residents in learning about our work. Please engage with us when you see officers out and about. We want to create more little moments like those to connect. 

What are your top "to-do" items for your first few years as chief?

Chief Harding: Community engagement and relationship building are number one. In the past we've designated a small team within the department for this purpose, but the downside to that is this small unit become the only folks the community really gets to know. We've started opening up community engagement efforts across the department. Beginning with new recruits in the police academy. Staffing continues to be a concern. We need to keep hiring. We have one of the best training academies in the state of Ohio, but training is often one of the first things that gets cut when staffing is low. We want to continue to prioritize training and keep our officers highly trained. We also need to retain the officers we have. This is a stressful job. Supporting our current officers internally and externally in important. Finally, crime prevention. Specifically violent crime prevention. Our numbers are down, which is great, but we need to keep on it. Policing is only one part of what it takes to reduce violent crime. There are other initiatives coming out of the mayor's office that will help. Everyone wants to feel safe in their neighborhood and live in a safe community.