Jeanne Sager | Democrat
THE FALLSBURG POLICE Department is now headed by 18-year veteran Simmie Williams.
It's 'Chief Williams' now in Fallsburg
By Jeanne Sager
SOUTH FALLSBURG He’s got a new desk and a new title, but the man smiling out from under the brim of his new chief’s hat is the same old Simmie.
He goes by Chief Williams now since the Town of Fallsburg Board made it official in late June.
When people call to voice a concern, he answers and the raised voices dip. “Chief Williams? Wait, is this Simmie?” they ask.
“They know they can come in here, and I’m going to listen,” Williams said. “They know we’re not going to scream and yell. They know we can get everything resolved.
Born here, raised here, Williams is a product of the local school system. His mom, Bertha, is the head of Head Start. With Simmie Sr., she brought up all five of her children in Fallsburg.
After high school and college, Simmie came back home and took a construction job with his father and the Teamsters. But a pick-up basketball game against the town cops would change that.
Then-Chief Brent Lawrence noticed Williams playing, told him if he ever wanted to join the force the door was always open.
Williams decided to take the test what could it hurt?
That was 18 years ago. In the nearly two decades since, he’s worked his way up the ladder.
“I was DARE officer, school resource officer, detective, detective sergeant, lieutenant,” Williams listed.
“The only job I didn’t do here was K-9,” he said with a laugh, flashing the easy smile that has made Simmie the kind of police officer who puts people at ease criminals and victims alike.
“Everyone knew me,” he continued. “It wasn’t Officer this, Officer that. It was Simmie, just Simmie.”
Earning the lieutenant rank in January, Williams became the second-in-command on the force. He maintained his role with the detectives, but he took over scheduling and other day-to-day tasks to assist the chief.
It smoothed the way for him to walk into the chief’s office in June when John Calvello retired.
“I’m not trying to come in and change 100 things because I can,” he explained. “I just want to leave my mark of improvement.”
With summer in full force, and the particular challenge of a population that triples for two months out of the year, there won’t be much time to make changes in the department right away. He’ll start by making promotions within the department someone to replace him as lieutenant, someone to replace the open sergeant’s slot.
He’s ordered two new cars too, and new computers.
“Now the boys have new toys to play with,” he said with a laugh. “My job is to keep the guys happy because when they’re happy, they’re doing their jobs well.”
In truth, the department needs the improvements to its equipment, Williams said. There are 18 officers and four civilian dispatchers, a number that has changed little despite the growth within the town.
“As the town grows and grows and grows, we have to get the department to grow with it,” he said.
The Fallsburg town police cover 100 square miles. An officer sitting in Mountaindale may well be called to respond to a complaint in Loch Sheldrake, and Williams said they have to contend with the same road conditions as anyone else.
Sometimes that means response time is a little longer than residents like, but the department’s mission is to serve as many people as they can to the best of their abilities.
Ironically, for Williams the summer population explosion makes life easier on the force.
With people everywhere, there are more people calling to report crime and more people out to prevent it.
“After they go, now we have to have eyes where we can’t possibly be,” he explained. “I can’t wait for the first snowstorm because it’s easier to see tracks in the snow!
“It’s tough for us to see every bungalow, every house, every garage, every shed,” he continued.
By spring, when people return to summer homes and bungalow colonies and begin reporting robberies, often the trail has gone cold and police have impossible cases on their hands. What’s more, the empty buildings become homes for squatters and troublemakers.
Summer has its challenges too, Williams admits, but he’s quick to point out that simply trying to understand the summer community has gone a long way in preventing problems.
The department puts together a card for each officer to carry of the heads of the different religious communities rabbis and the like who they can call when there is trouble in certain areas of the town. After a Hasidic man was hit on the side of the road by a hit and run driver, the department reached out to the communities to discuss roadside safety.
“I think if they were here year round, people would begin to understand each other, it would be easier,” Williams said with a sigh. “Instead, they’re here for two months and people start complaining, ‘They’re ruining my summer.’
“Don’t let them ruin your summer… you just have to try to understand everybody.”
Understanding is Williams’ strong point. It’s why people calm down when they hear him on the other end of the line.
In a small department, Williams isn’t afraid of the small-town approach to crime. If you know someone’s just lost his wife and he’s out drinking, a small town cop doesn’t hand out a ticket for drunk in public. He parks the man’s car and drives him home.
“You really get to understand people,” Williams reiterated. “Like when people call and say, ‘This is Joe.’ You know who Joe is. You know where Joe lives, and you know Joe’s problems.”
They know Simmie too. They know he married a local girl Jennifer and has two kids who he’s raising in the town where he grew up.
They know he was their DARE officer and the guy who used to play basketball at the school.
He might sit behind a big desk these days and wear a new hat, but he’s still Simmie.