Alston brings experience, hometown face to Linden chief role

img_6279Linden is getting acclimated to a new police chief with a familiar face. After being sworn in as Linden Police Department Chief Nov. 7, Robert Alston started the process of making the jump from investigator to decision maker.

“It is realizing that you are it. No longer do I say, ‘Hey, let me holler and Chief and then I’ll call you back.’ That’s the biggest thing. This is where it starts and stops. You’re that person. You have to make that decision now. You don’t have anybody else to look to. You’ve got to be the one,” Alston said of the biggest change since taking over the office.

Despite the change in title and responsibility, the job is far from foreign to Alston. A member of the Linden High Class of 1993, Alston has longed called the county seat home. The latest job shift is just the next chapter of a law enforcement career that dates back 13 years and has been played out entirely in Marengo County.

“It’s definitely a very good feeling to be in this position. At the same time, you know, it’s a big responsibility. You have to be prepared for it,” Alston said. “I’m ready.”

Alston began his career with the Linden Police Department in 2003 before going to the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department in 2009. After spending a year with the 17th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, Alston returned to the LPD in 2012.

“In small departments, you kind of do double duty. You patrol and you work criminal cases because you can easily overwhelm your one investigator for that department. Every little bit of help that you can give him means a lot. And you get a chance to learn how to work cases by doing that,” Alston said, noting the invaluable experience that has come with the first 13 years of his career. “My first chance that I had to do that was with the sheriff’s office because you’re talking about a 960-something square mile county with one investigator. Deputies assisted as much as they could and it gave me an opportunity to learn how to work cases. When I went to the drug task force, I really learned how to work investigations at that point because I was the primary investigator.”

But Alston’s credentials for his latest position go far beyond cross-training and resume’ items. What Alston amassed over that body of work, among other things, is a keen sense of people.

“It’s just dealing with people, dealing with multiple diversities of people, dealing with different people period. You learn different cultures, the way people live, the way people think,” Alston said. “In order to do this job, you’ve got to be able to deal with a variety of different personalities. You have to be able to solve problems, because it’s one of the things that you’re going to deal with.”

As he begins his tenure atop the police force in his hometown, Alston expects the hallmark of the Linden Police Department to be people: those within the LPD and those without.

“Treat people fair. That’s most important. Be fair. Be firm when you need to be firm,” Alston said of his expectations for his officers. “I think they have to get out there and patrol as they’re supposed to patrol, check with these businesses in and out. They need to get out, walk around, talk to the owners, let them know we’re here if they need anything. Building a relationship with the citizens and businesses in town is most important to me right now.”