Glynn County Police Capt. Mike Mistisshen, a longtime Brunswick resident, was among six officers promoted earlier this month.
Mistisshen, 57, was formerly a lieutenant in charge of the mainland patrol division. He’s risen from the bottom to the rank of captain — which reports directly to the police chief — over a nearly 33-year career.
He joined the force near the end of 1987, leaving a job at a local radio station at which he’d worked since graduating from Glynn Academy a few years prior.
Like most recruits, he cut his teeth in the patrol division. In particular he specialized in DUI stops, eventually earning corporal stripes. That was far from the end of the road. He’d add more stripes to his uniform in the investigations division, internal affairs, record-keeping and state certification compliance before rising to take charge of the mainland patrol division.
It’s still mostly administrative work, but Mistisshen found his passion in the patrol division.
“I just enjoyed being there to help people,” he said.
Office work comes with its own rewards, of course. It makes scheduling fishing trips and golf with his brother and son easier, for one.
He hasn’t forgotten where he came from, though. These days, the police department puts a priority on giving officers their own cars and letting them take them home, so long as they live in a neighboring county. This practice is useful for several reasons, he said. It’s good for recruitment and morale and allows off-duty officers to respond quickly if called.
“We didn’t have that when I started. I shared a car. We were using old cars then, even old for back then,” Mistisshen said.
A lot has changed at the department during Mistisshen’s tenure. What most caught his attention recently is a shift toward what’s commonly known as community policing, starting with former chiefs Matt Doering and John Powell and following through to current Chief Jay Wiggins.
The department wants its officers to understand and cultivate relationships within the communities in their beats. Police are encouraged to take a less “authoritarian” approach than they would have in decades past, Mistisshen said. Where an officer in 1987 might have cruised through neighborhoods simply looking for signs of criminal activity, now he or she is expected to greet people, make connections and regularly show their faces in the area.
The change is not just external but internal as well. In recent years, GCPD has placed transparency with county residents on a pedestal, he said.
Reflecting recent recommendations by the county’s police advisory panel, GCPD also is crafting a new and comprehensive internal affairs policy to give private citizens as clear of a view into the inner workings of the department as possible.
It’s all necessary to address shifting perceptions of police and philosophies regarding law enforcement’s role in daily life, and while he’s never disliked working for the department, Mistisshen now believes the organization as a whole is sitting at a high point.
Mistisshen wasn’t the only one to receive a new rank this month. Other promotions included newly-minted Capt. Rick Evans, Sgt. Roderic Nohilly, Sgt. Steve Kirk and Sgt. Jacob Kapeller.
The department has struggled to maintain recommended staffing levels, said Chief Wiggins, which is a nationwide problem among first responder agencies in general. Some GCPD officers took up acting positions in leadership to fill holes in the chain of command, he continued, and the recent wave of promotions was to make sure the right people are slotted into the right positions on a permanent basis.
“With our manpower being low, we’ve had to adapt and put the people in the best positions. I anticipate we’ll have some more promotions coming,” Wiggins said.
Eight recruits — Erreka Bennet, Dakota Fields, Earl Wilson, Nathan Correll, Ricky Hall, Alec Eaton, Timothy Brown and Russell Dinkins — also took an oath and were sworn in last week. They’ll fill cracks in the foundation, Wiggins said, hoping to create a stronger police force.