“It’s a really positive role to play within the police department, getting out and talking to neighborhood groups, talking to schools. There’s this huge variety of roles that we play in just making sure businesses, neighborhood groups, and individuals have a point of contact when they need something, but it doesn’t necessitate calling 911 or even the nonemergency number.”
— Sgt. Michael Fisher
For three years, Sgt. Michael Fisher has been the Community Affairs officer for the East Precinct, the point man between East Nashville residents and the Metro Police Department. Day in and day out, he attends neighborhood watch association meetings and citizens group gatherings of every type. When one such group might complain about drugs in the neighborhood, Fisher hears the complaint and takes that concern to the narcotics squad; same with auto theft, gang activity, door-to-door scam artists preying on the elderly, and other ills — each issue being ferried by him to the appropriate authorities within the department. In a society where there is all too often a disconnect between police and the public, Fisher has the job of swimming against that tide.
“It’s been a really good position for me both professionally and at home,” Fisher says. It’s a 9-to-5, Monday through Friday job, and with two small children, it’s a dream assignment after years in other departments, pulling all sorts of shifts around the clock.
A youngish, affable fellow, Fisher grew up in Smyrna and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in German. He got a job in a small town fire department and found it, frankly, rather boring (not a lot of fires in a small town); so when he heard that Metro Police was hiring — and saw how much better it paid — he applied and was accepted. Over the next few years, he worked auto theft, undercover, and narcotics, until the opening in Community Affairs came along.
The job is a whirlwind of action. “If you look at a map of East Precinct, almost every street is covered by some sort of neighborhood association,” he says. “You’ve got Cleveland Park, McFerrin Park, Highland Heights, and a whole list of them. All of those neighborhood associations meet quarterly, if not monthly, so we attend all of their meetings and make sure that we’re actively communicating with those neighborhood groups and that they’re getting answers they need. And it can be something as little as people speeding in the neighborhood.
“It’s a lot of communication — a lot of juggling concerns and making sure the right people within our department know what the problems and concerns in our community are. It’s busy — a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls, a lot of getting out and talking to folks, and a lot of social networking.”
Outreach to schools is vital. “It’s important for us to have as much positive interaction as possible with kids in the neighborhoods,” Fisher says. “You’ve got a lot of children who only ever see the police in a negative situation, so we seize those opportunities to talk to them.”
In the past, the Community Affairs sergeant flew solo, juggling all the functions and responsibility; but now, thankfully, Fisher shares his office with Crime Prevention Officer Whitney Arnold. “She does a lot of the work with social media, she’s gotten plugged in with not just Facebook, but also the online bulletin board NextDoor,” he says. “She’s gotten really active with that community and makes sure the neighborhoods registered there are getting information. She’ll publish crime reports for them, and help me out with the precinct’s Facebook page. Monitoring and participating in social media is practically a full-time job in itself. So she keeps that running.”
On the weekends, Fisher enjoys the great outdoors, bicycling a lot with his kids and enjoying a respite from the nonstop activity when he’s on the job. There are upwards of two dozen neighborhood meetings every month, not to mention functions like ribbon-cuttings and other opportunities to press the flesh that come along. Sgt. Fisher’s presence helps raise the police department’s presence in the community while forging relationships.