The number 13 proved to be lucky for Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes. He was sworn in as the city’s 13th police chief on August 13, 1999. This week he celebrated 20 years as the chief of police. Clabes is the longest serving police chief in Midwest City’s history having served considerably longer than the next longest serving chief at eight years.
His career with the city began as a patrol officer in 1979 after graduating from the University of Oklahoma. Clabes was promoted three times before being named police chief in 1999.
His first experience with a critical incident was in January 1982 with the Star Elementary School explosion in the cafeteria. “Six grade school children and a teacher were killed. I had never seen a scene like that before because half of the cafeteria was perfect – the trays of food were still on the tables, the popcorn machine was still working – but on the other side the hot water tank had exploded and had devastated half of the cafeteria. That is where the fatalities were located.”
“The May 3, 1999 tornado blew through here causing devastation over several miles and resulting in three fatalities,” said Clabes.
Clabes said he has lost personnel but not in the line of duty and his greatest fear is having to deal with losing a member of his departmental family. “I pray every night for my personnel and for their safety.”
Chief Clabes cited technology as one of the major changes he has seen over his career. “We have evolved from in-car cameras to body cameras to mobile computer terminals to intelligence-led policing to records management systems. Everything is technology-driven. We are getting ready to implement electronic ticket writers that will further streamline operations and help make us a paperless police department, which is our goal.”
“The intelligence-led policing lets us get real-time crime statistics so we can deploy our manpower to our hot spots within the city where we have issues,” Clabes noted.
Clabes said his department’s relationship with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies has been a big benefit. “We’re received several grants from the Attorney General’s office, U.S. Attorney, and several grant foundations. The grants supply overtime monies to attack problems and give us monies for equipment, such as the tasers purchased with a grant. Tasers lower injuries to our police officers.”
The agency was accredited under his command and has been re-accredited several times.
Midwest City was the first agency in the state to have an embedded DHS worker. “We also realized we had an issue with recidivism in the jail related to substance abuse so we added an embedded mental health substance abuse clinician who screens all of our municipal prisoners,” said Clabes. “We also have a robust chaplain program and aftercare program. We have a homeless outreach program. All of those combined, I think, make a difference in the lives of the people we come in contact with.”
“We have traditional law enforcement but we have a lot of non-traditional law enforcement which is designed and geared to help the public we serve. I am most proud of that.”
“Our mission and vision statement have been tweaked several times throughout the years and we have a strategic plan to deliver good services though community-based policing. We realized putting people in jail over and over again and not helping them with their problems wasn’t working so Midwest City has been on the cutting edge of justice reform over the past several years,” Clabes said.
“We’ve done a lot of great things but they have not been done because of me, it’s because of the people I have worked with and the support of the public in Midwest City.”
City Manager Tim Lyon has known Clabes for 19 years. “He is a very dedicated police chief and has done an excellent job of implementing new programs to help us better serve our residents. His time with our city is a tremendous institutional knowledge as well as a history of our community that informs his decision-making every day. There’s no substitute for the kind of experience he has as a twenty-year chief who began on the streets and came through the ranks.”
Clabes said he has seen many changes in the city over the past twenty years. He described Midwest City as a little “big” city. “We are only 26 square miles but we deal with all of the same issues as a big city and that is why it is so important to get out into the community and meet the people that we serve. We are all about creating relationships and that makes our job easier because people are more willing to cooperate and assist us with issues.”
Violent crime was one of the major issues when Clabes first became chief. “We didn’t have a relationship with our community and I have worked to address that. We created the community action officers, we host the citizen police academy, we’ve added school resource officers and other programs that have enhanced our relationship with the community.”
The Chief said today his concern is mass shootings because of the prime targets with Tinker Air Force Base, Rose State College and the four school districts that serve Midwest City. “That is my biggest worry now.”
Clabes said the advice he would give residents who want to help make their city safer is to be involved. “Be involved with your neighborhood association, be involved with your neighbors, get to know your neighbors. Call 9-1-1 if you see something suspicious or unusual. That’s the important part, the involvement.”
“I have never had a day when I’ve not enjoyed coming to work, Clabes said. "It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve forty years here and to be the police chief for the past twenty years."