A criminal justice expert from Ellerbe is now second in command at the Seattle Police Department.
Richmond County native Mike Wagers began work this month as the department’s chief operating officer. Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole hired Wagers on July 28.
The son of Jim and Barbara Wagers of Ellerbe, Wagers credits his early work experience at Carter Farms with helping to mold him into a criminal justice professor and sought-after law enforcement consultant.
“I tell my kids that working there — and watching my parents work as hard as they did for us — instilled a strong work ethic in me,” Wagers said in an email.
Jim Wagers worked for CSX in Hamlet, and he and his wife still live in the Fourth Street home where Mike and his two brothers grew up.
“We come home as often as possible,” Mike Wagers said. “My kids love coming to Ellerbe.”
Wagers attended Ellerbe Primary and Mineral Springs Elementary schools and graduated from Richmond Senior High.
All three Wagers boys went into the education field. Jay Wagers, the oldest, lives in Ellerbe and is a Richmond Community College instructor. Matt Wagers, the youngest, is a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
The middle Wagers brother earned a doctorate from Rutgers University, where he later served as the assistant director of Rutgers’ Police Institute. He also taught as an assistant professor at The Citadel.
From the classroom to the boardroom, Mike Wagers has had a distinguished civilian career in law enforcement. His most recent post was that of director of law enforcement operations and support for the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, Virginia.
He’s also worked as a consultant for police departments in Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Denver.
A title more often associated with large corporations than cops, chief operating officer is a new position in Seattle. While not a sworn law enforcement officer, Wagers has administrative duties similar to those of a deputy police chief. The job reflects O’Toole’s strategy of bringing business-world efficiencies to the Seattle department.
The city’s top cop hired Wagers and interim human resources director Mike Fields on the same day.
“I promised Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle City Council and the selection committee that I would bring best business practices to the Seattle Police Department,” O’Toole said in a statement announcing the new hires. “I believe bringing in both Mike Wagers and Mike Fields is a great first step in that direction.”
Wagers now oversees the department’s patrol support bureau, administrative services, information technology, human resources and public affairs, O’Toole said.
The Seattle Police Department has about 1,300 officers and ranks among the 40 largest law enforcement agencies in the United States. With a 2013 population estimate of 652,405 people, the home of the Space Needle tower and Seattle Mariners is the nation’s 21st-largest city.
Though work has brought him to the Pacific Northwest, Wagers said Richmond County is never far from his heart and mind.
“I grew up going to church every Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church in Ellerbe,” Wagers wrote. “We could walk from my house. My parents still attend. My father is an elder.”
Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @RCDailyJournal.