New chief enjoying Crestwood

Jonathan+Williams

Jonathan Williams

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Crestwood welcomed a new police chief to its department earlier this year after hiring Jonathan Williams, a former lieutenant with the Webster Groves Police Department.

Williams is taking the helm from retiring Chief of Police Ron Compton.

The new chief, whose first day with the department was in January, was unanimously appointed to the position of police chief by the Board of Aldermen at the end of last year, and was hired with a starting salary of $97,500.

“I was really looking for a professional police department that I can be proud to be chief of. I was familiar with Crestwood, having grown up next to it. I spent many Friday and Saturday nights at the Crestwood mall,” Williams said of his decision to apply in Crestwood. “I knew the history here was kind of to hire from inside, but I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity. It is everything I’ve been looking for in a police department. A great community. A great set of officers.”

Williams succeeds former Chief Compton, who retired last October after more than 30 years with the city. And although the new chief has never worked in Crestwood, he has worked in law enforcement for nearly 20 years, beginning his career with Webster Groves in 2000.

But Williams, who grew up in Webster Groves, wasn’t always sure that he wanted to pursue a career in policing. He graduated in 1999 from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana with an undergraduate degree in communications and a minor in psychology. After an internship at KMOX radio in the winter of 1999, Williams realized that working in the media industry wasn’t for him. He thought about pursuing a law degree since he had been accepted into law school and his father was an attorney, but ultimately Williams decided to follow in the steps of an uncle who was in law enforcement.

“I already had an interest in law enforcement and I was always drawn to it as a kid because I couldn’t sit still,” said the chief. “My uncle was someone I looked up to.”

In 2000, Williams was hired by the Webster Groves Police Department and attended the police academy from January 2001 until graduation in June. He rose through the ranks, serving as patrol officer, detective, sergeant and lieutenant, and was named Officer of the Year in 2002. From 2007 to 2011, he completed an assignment with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and was federally deputized.

After that assignment, he returned to Webster and helped train a series of new hires, a mentorship he found rewarding: “I loved getting to teach officers — it brought new excitement to the job.”

Williams retired from Webster Groves Jan. 8 this year, exactly 20 years to the day from when he started the police academy. Mayor Gerry Welch proclaimed Jan. 8 “Jonathan Williams Day” in appreciation for his time in the city. At the Jan. 5 City Council meeting, Welch said, “We’re glad that you’re not leaving the profession. … We’re glad that you’re going to be so close by, the collaborations in the police department are always welcomed.”

It was always Williams’ dream to lead a department, modeling himself after Webster Chief Dale Curtis, who first hired him as a 22-year-old with no experience and is still there today. To prepare, Williams earned a graduate degree from Webster University in management and leadership and last year completed the Command College through the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation.

Since his wife, Jaime, and their two children were well-established in the St. Louis area, Williams knew he wanted to find a department he could lead close to home. It was Curtis that steered him to Crestwood.

“He knew my aspirations, and he said, ‘Hey, do you know that Crestwood’s hiring? … I think you should go for it,’” Williams said. “So I kind of just took a shot in the dark. I didn’t expect it.”

As Williams took over in January, one of the first things he did was conduct a survey of the 26 commissioned officers to gauge their likes and dislikes. All 26 said they liked the officers and the community.

“That means you have a great foundation: You can do anything with that,” said Willams. “The rest of the dislikes are all time, effort and money, that’s all it is to change those things. But the two likes you can’t change are the officers and the community. … I’ve just been reaffirmed that I’ve made the right decision.”

Williams’ goals for the department start with more modernization, use of bodycams and new technology to monitor traffic.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of being able to modernize the police department. We’re getting body cameras. … We’re increasing some of our technology and some of our software,” said Williams. “We might not get to 2021 (technology), but at least get us to 2015. … You know, just moving us forward.”

In March, the department completed its final assessment for accreditation from the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation. It marks the culmination of four years of work to get policies and procedures in line with the criteria.

“We’re following the best practices in law enforcement. I think it’s important that the community knows we take that seriously,” Williams said. “Our policies and procedures are constantly being evaluated and reworked to keep us up to date with what the community expects of us.”

Williams also wants to increase community outreach and “seeing officers in a different light” with patrol ride-along programs, more social media, town halls and reading at schools or playing kickball tournaments with children.

“They see us in our uniforms driving by in our patrol cars, but you know, we’re people just like anybody else,” said Williams. “This is just our jobs, it’s not who we really are as a person.”

Williams was admittedly nervous switching cities after 20 years, but he said every day the department and Crestwood community reinforce a “fantastic” decision.

“This is the best move I have ever made in my career and I have had a blessed career,” Williams said. “Everybody made it very welcoming. … Not just the police department but the entire city staff is phenomenal here.”