ELLIS — Taft Yates gave his last “out of service” call to the Ellis County Dispatch on Nov. 27, but he intends to stay involved in the community where he led its police department for seven years.
Residents and area law enforcement personnel from the Hays Police Department, Ellis County Sheriff's Office and Kansas Highway Patrol gathered Friday afternoon at the Ellis City Building for a reception honoring Yates on his retirement.
The U.S. Army veteran brought a new level of professionalism and integrity to the department when he became chief in 2012, Mayor Dave McDaniel and Ellis police officers said.
“He really held the entire department to their ethics and making sure the community is safe,” said officer Christopher Krom.
“He pushed his officers to be the best that they can be and to put forth their best foot in serving the community,” officer Cameron Moeder said.
“He was interested in his job and there was no agenda,” Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin said. “He just wanted to do what he thought was best for the city of Ellis.”
Yates retired from the U.S. Army Rangers in 1995 after a 20-year career. He lived in Lincoln, working for the Kansas Department of Corrections when he met his wife, Barb. They moved to her hometown of Hays, where Yates worked for the police department.
In 2008, he started working for the Ellis PD part-time. During this time, he also worked overseas with a government contractor, training U.S. and coalition forces in Kuwait, Afghanistan and countries in Africa.
When he returned to Ellis in 2012, the city was in need of a police chief.
“I applied and got hired. And that’s how I got here,” he said.
Yates brought some changes to the department, including the use of body cameras. The biggest change he affected, though, he said, was integrity to the department.
“If your integrity is questioned, you’re no good in this job,” he said.
A couple of officers did leave shortly after he took the office, but the five-member force is strong today, he said.
“Our cohesiveness, our overall professionalism is a lot more than what it was 10 to 12 years ago,” he said.
It has been a challenge at times to attract and keep officers in a small force, he said, but turnover is to be expected and something he actually encouraged, he said.
“I didn’t want somebody that’s going to start brand new as an officer here and be here for 20, 30 years, because then they really don’t have the priority to grow,” he said.
Taking on the role of chief allowed him to grow, as well.
“It’s been a large learning experience for me, dealing with the governing body,” he said, adding he never really had issues with the city council or the residents.
Now that he’s retired, Yates plans to stay involved in the community. He serves on city committees, including those for the new swimming pool and campground, and is active in veterans programs such as the VFW and the Rangers.
But at the heart of his decision to retire is family.
“My grandkids and wife, to give them more quality time,” he said.
McDaniel said interviews for a new police chief will begin Saturday.