New police chief sees growth, finds diversity, seeks to serve

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Bluffton's new chief of police describes himself as a pretty energetic, outgoing, passionate guy.

Christopher Chapmond, who took the post Sept. 1, also considers himself a "baller," so when the police department plays basketball with and against the Bluffton Township Fire Department, Marines and Beaufort County teachers and staff Dec. 8 in the Bluffton High School gym, he expects it to be a lot of fun.

The tournament is the first Holiday Heart Warming Classic, a fundraiser to help local families in need have a better holiday.

"This is our first year that we've done this so we don't know what it's going to look like," he said. "We're looking for 10 kids. I wish it could be 100 but we don't know what kind of support we're going to get."

The idea came from Officer Oscar Frazier, Chapmond said, and each school resource officer has been asked to identify a family to help.

Following the game, children will have an opportunity to Shop With a Cop, using proceeds from the event.

Chapmond is passionate about the profession of law enforcement in general and loves serving people.

"One of the things I talk to my staff about is the one thing we have to have is a servant's heart," Chapmond said. "Eighty-five percent of what we do is service-based. Even when you have one of those critical incidents, you still have that service component. You still have to have empathy and compassion."

Chapmond saw that empathy and compassion first-hand before he entered law enforcement.

"I never really wanted to be a police officer. My family was in the building business in Hot Springs, Ark., and I went into it when I got out of the Marines," he said. "I was on a roof one day when my pager went off. It was my dad. I climbed down and called him."

It was Feb. 12, 1996, when Chris Anderson, Chapmond's uncle, was killed in the line of duty while serving a warrant.

"I remember the day of his funeral, driving down Central Avenue in Hot Springs. I was in the lead car with my cousins," said Chapmond. "Looking up and down the street, there were police cars and people along the road paying honor to my uncle. It was a changing point in my life, it was pretty surreal."

Four days after his uncle was buried, Chapmond felt called to become a police officer. With his aunt's blessing, he took the necessary tests and joined the Hot Springs PD later that year. Chapmond eventually rose to the rank of assistant chief before retiring.

He first saw Bluffton during a visit with his son, who is serving with the U.S. Army at Fort Stewart in Savannah. "There was no question that when I saw the opening here I immediately applied for it. One of the things that I identified about Bluffton from a leadership possibility was the potential for growth," said Chapmond. "It's also a very diverse community."

One of the things that makes Bluffton so different is the willingness of citizens to come to the police department and ask how they can get involved. "Not all communities are like that. Bluffton's pretty unique," he said. "One of the things I say to people when they ask what they can do is if you would just thank your first responders that would be enough. It can really change an officer's day if that would happen. My line officers who are out there answering calls, if somebody tells them 'thank you,' it really goes a long way."

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.

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