'I believe in Canton.' Police Chief John Gabbard reflects on a year in charge

John Gabbard
Special to the Canton Repository
John Gabbard is sworn in as the new police chief for the City of Canton during a ceremony in April 2022 at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.

On April 18, I will celebrate my first anniversary as the chief of the Canton Police Department .

Reflecting on the challenges and successes, I recognize the great joys and disappointments familiar to police officers of any rank. Because I worked closely with previous chiefs, I knew what I would inherit, but this community and the great officers that serve it are worth the hard work.

My first year was marked by realignment, with a focus on strategies I believed would best serve the city of Canton. Many factors contribute to crime rates, but I am certain our efforts were fundamental in the reduction of violent crime in 2022.

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Notwithstanding the importance of statistics, I am reluctant to celebrate reductions in crime reports because, for victims, the crime rate is always 100%. I will, however, celebrate our progress and allow these results to inform our continuous efforts.

Canton Police Chief John Gabbard

While I am proud of what our officers have accomplished, the focus of this essay is not our statistical success, but our most important resurgence: community engagement.

I believe in Canton, and I expressed that belief with a series of community events designed to bring Canton’s safety forces and families together.

Our “We Believe in Canton” events were the highlight of my first year. They grew into incredible partnerships with multiple agencies outreaching our citizens, illustrating to our children by example that we are all invested in their safety and their futures, and that we share a belief in their potential.

Although “We Believe” became our flagship event in 2022, we also reinstituted Coffee with a Cop and created a new favorite: Cookies with Cops . Our officers engaged with hundreds of children through these events, building a foundation for our most critical relationships.

I am convinced that this type of engagement, more than any words I could offer as a leader or any benefit I could secure as a manager, motivates our dedicated officers to exceptional community service.

As the chief, I will continue to build these relationships and develop new ones through innovative programs, such as neighborhood foot patrols.

For years, Canton has had two officers dedicated to walking beats downtown. In June, I added foot patrols in several neighborhoods. Between June and November, over 600 hours of foot patrols were added outside of the downtown area.

Officers were assigned to areas identified through crime analysis to increase presence and communicate more closely with residents. This is a strategy that I will expand in 2023, and I would like to extend an invitation to citizens willing to introduce officers to the areas where they live.

Citizens may schedule a visit with officers walking in their neighborhood to sit together and talk. I would also like to pair officers with residents to walk together and discuss issues that affect neighborhoods. Similar to our ride-along program, walk-alongs will give citizens insight to the work officers perform and provide officers with valuable information about the concerns in specific neighborhoods.

These can be short commitments, less than one hour, but invaluable to our community. Foot patrols give officers new perspectives on areas they often drive through, and no one can explain those places better than those who live there. Interested residents should contact Lt. Michael Roberts at for more information.

Our best years are ahead, and though we will continue to face challenges, resolving them together will make us stronger. It is a great honor to serve this city and the officers of the Canton Police Department.

We are all blessed by the men and women who give so much of themselves to provide for the safety of others. I encourage everyone to take the time to meet them while you enjoy our events and share your ideas.

John Gabbard is police chief of the Canton Police Department.