Dade City has a new police chief, but he has a familiar face.
James Walters — who has been the acting chief for more than six months — became the department’s official leader at the Aug. 28 Dade City Commission meeting.
Walters is replacing former chief Ray Velboom, who retired after a decade of service.
The occasion drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 community and business leaders, government officials, and representatives from other local law enforcement agencies.
Friends and family members traveled from as far away as California, Wisconsin and Virginia to share in a moment marking what Walters’ described as the pinnacle of his career.
As he addressed the crowd, Walter said being named the city’s police chief is both humbling and an honor.
“I am so proud of all the members of the Dade City Police Department, my brothers and sisters in law enforcement, and the amazing work that they do in this community every day,” said Walters, who has been with the department since 1995. “We have a great team.”
Walter also used the public platform to outline several of his priorities for the department going forward. Those include:
- Seeking department accreditation through the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation
- Redeveloping its strategic plan “to identify the needs of our department and our community” for the next five years
- Maintaining and ensuring safety in local schools
- Creating a plan of professional development and succession for police department personnel to “ensure stability, viability, and professional preparation in training” and “instill a tradition of continued and guaranteed success for generations”
- Upholding the fundamental values that serve the agency’s mission and vision—respect, integrity, professionalism and service
“There’s a lot of challenges ahead,” Walters said. “We have a tremendous amount of growth on our doorstep and so we’re going to have to be ahead of the curve.
“As far as I’m concerned, law enforcement is no different than any other infrastructure—it’s no different than a water line or a road or what have you. We have to be prepared for the growth that’s coming, and we have to have systems in place and be ready to deal with the increase; we could easily double in population in the next decade,” the chief said.
In 23 years of policing, Walters has worked on patrol and criminal investigations, as well as handling administrative duties. Most recently, he served as administrative sergeant, a role he held since 2003.
Walters is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in criminology and a master of science in criminal justice administration from Saint Leo University.
He also holds a certified instructor ranking, in both general and high liability areas, from the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. Additionally, he holds a number of certifications in firearms, investigations, field training, crisis intervention, line supervision, middle management, police internal affairs and so on.
He has also served as an adjunct instructor at Pasco-Hernando State College and at Saint Leo University.
During his time at the department, Walters has received numerous decorations and awards, including a unit citation, community service award, education ribbons, hazardous incident team, chief’s award, and employee of the month.
Besides his work for the police department, he also has served the Dade City Police Retirement Board, YMCA Advisory Board and PHSC Law Enforcement Academy Advisory Board.
The police department currently has 44 employees, including 33 sworn officers.
In his new role, his starting salary is $69,143.
The city’s website outlines the chief’s responsibilities. They include managing the department’s day-to-day operations and preparing the department’s annual budget. The chief also must attend weekly staff meetings, bimonthly city commission meetings, and events throughout the year.
The chief also functions as the department’s official liaison with various community groups, media outlets and law enforcement entities.
City Manager Billy Poe said Walters’ experience, knowledge and law enforcement connections made him an ideal candidate for the post.
Poe also mentioned Walters’ philosophy on community-oriented policing and increased community involvement as another reason he was selected.
Said Poe: “I think Chief Walters understands our direction that we want to go as a city and as a police department, and I think he has a firm grasp on it to take us to the next step.”
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez offered her approval of Walters, saying he’s “shown nothing but the most outpouring of love and affection and safety for everyone.”
The mayor also said she’s “so proud and privileged” to have Walters as chief, noting his “outstanding staff and amazing leadership.”
Walters’ appointment coincides with the promotions of Lieutenants Bill Rowe and Brian Uppercue to oversee the department’s operations and administration divisions, respectively.
“I think all three are great individuals,” Poe said, noting they have different strengths that work well together.
Published September 5, 2018