Beyond the Badge: Policing in Osceola means wearing all kinds of hats
OSCEOLA, Ind. --- Small towns don’t always mean less resources, it’s just about wearing all kinds of hats.
This week on Beyond the Badge, we’re in the little town with a big heart—Osceola! Osceola is right on the county line of St. Joseph and Elkhart.
The department has two full-time officers, one part-time and one reserve. Michiana meets Town Marshal Thomas Hixon. He’s been on the department for four years, following in his father’s footsteps of becoming an officer.
“My father was a canine officer with Goshen Police Department,” Hixon said. “He was a police officer for 19 years. So, it's the passion that my dad had that I think to carries over to me and so I've kind of always had the want to be a police officer.”
For Thomas, following in his father’s footsteps is a huge deal.
“When I graduated, he was there to see me graduate. I'd like to think now since he's passed, he rides in the front seat with me when I work every day, so I feel like he's always with me. And he looks out for me at times when I'm out there... I hope, anyways. So, it's huge for me.
Thomas started out as a hospital police officer, which he says has given him a different perspective on situations, now working at Osceola PD.
“Whenever we get called out to calls, typically it's when people are at their worst. And so, it's, there's a really heightened situation. People are just really bothered with what's going on. And it's given me the ability, having worked at the hospital first, because it's a different type of policing there, to listen closer to people and spend more time listening sometimes than talking.”
Thomas said another thing about small departments it that they have to wear all the hats and they do it all, from being a first responder, to investigating situations and dealing with evidence.
“We have a lot of theft here and we also have a lot of drugs being that were kind of the in-between between the counties.”
Thomas said the real issue is speeding and the danger it poses to the community.
“When I can get out, I like to get out and do traffic in the town because traffic ends up being a real issue in town, with our train tracks it ends up being a problem. Some of our bigger stuff is the speeding and the stop signs. We have people that attempt to get down to the other traffic crossings before the gate arms are down so it causes people to speed down our residential streets, to run stop signs; we have issues with semi drivers that drive down residential streets because they don't want to cross back over and have to get possibly caught by the train again. So, traffic is huge here with the trains.”
When Thomas patrols traffic, he said sometimes he’ll be right out in the open because it’s not always about giving tickets, but rather reminding people to slow down.
“Yes, I give tickets, but I generally don't like to. I feel like educating is far a better way to go about things. So, I definitely when I pull people over try to educate them, remind them. So, I mean we're all drivers. We all get to that point. Sometimes we get kind of absent minded and complacent to, you know, where we're going and what we're doing and we don't realize what speed we're going...that we just didn't stop at that stop sign, things of that nature.”
With Osceola being a small town, Thomas said they’ve got a limited amount of manpower to try and do as much as they can.
“It's important to me to serve this community, this town as best I can and my officers in my department to do so. Because it's an oath that we took to protect the residents of the town, so it's important. So, I think that and along with having people understand this, that we can't always do what your big city does, but we're going to try and we're going to give you guys gave the town the best service that we can give them.”