TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Running a police department with nearly 300 officers, and even more support staff, is not an easy job.
“’You need to tell them you want to be the Chief of Police!’ And I was like, ‘yeah, right,’” Bill Cochran recalled before he went into his interview for Police Chief.
Cochran never thought he would be the Chief of the Topeka Police Department. He never even thought he would be a police officer. He attended Washburn University more than 30 years ago in a different career path.
“I was actually majoring in business. A lot of us that start out in college, our grades aren’t always the best. So I was asking around, brothers and stuff like that, I need a class and get my GPA up a little bit,” he reminisced.
That led him to a criminal justice class. The required police ride along changed everything.
“I did my ride along on Halloween night. Which happened to be a Friday night, and I did it on 3rd shift. I was in the guard and all that other stuff. I was infantry, so (I) did a lot of those types of things, so when that night was over…I was like, I gotta do that,” Cochran smiled.
That night launched a career that started as a rookie patrolling the streets, working his way up the ranks, and now serving as the Chief.
“It was never an ambition or a goal, but it’s not something I regret. It’s been a great opportunity,” he said.
Serving as long as he has, he’s seen the industry change. Moving from, as he puts it, driving fast and catching bad guys, to a force that is in tune with their community.
“They’re much more connected. When you talk about law enforcement officers that are killed in the line of duty, it used to take weeks for that news to travel around. Now it’s boom. It keeps things real and keeps it real quicker. I think young people enter this career field now with a different mentality. I think they do get it’s not just about them. That it’s much more encompassing,” Cochran explained.
Police work is a calling for Cochran. He says officers have to feel that calling to put on the uniform every day.
“Bad people do bad things and somebody has to be that buffer between the community and the bad element. I think that’s why people step up to do this job. And I think the other thing is, a good question is, if not us, if not me, who?,” he asked.
While they serve as a buffer for others, he says his buffer over these 33 years has been his wife and family. His support when he needs it most.
“She’s been along for this ride the whole time. Unfortunately she gets to hear a lot of things, but she’s always there,” he said while holding back tears.
Chief Cochran has three daughters. Two have gone through the TPD explorers program. His youngest just graduated from the academy and is following in her father’s footsteps as an officer.