New man in charge: Thornton selected as COP director

Published 4:13 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jim Thornton started as the newest director of the Chelsea Citizen Observer Patrol in July. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Jim Thornton started as the newest director of the Chelsea Citizen Observer Patrol in July. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)


CHELSEA – The Chelsea Citizen Observer Patrol appointed a new director in July.

Jim Thornton, a member of the COP for more than two years, was chosen by fellow members earlier this year to succeed Bill Robertson as the organization’s leader starting July 1.

“I’m two months into the job, and I learn something new every day,” Thornton said.

Prior to becoming director, Thornton served as an associate director for a year, learning more about the administrative parts of the position.

One of Thornton’s jobs as director is to compile information from each of the COP patrol logs, which include volunteers’ names, tour start and end times, mileage, vehicle operational and equipment notes and patrol notes (suspicious activities, tag numbers and other pertinent details).

The log sheets also contain a list of 130 different locations in nine zones in Chelsea that COP members patrol every day.

Thornton enters all of the log information into a spreadsheet, reviews it and talks to the other members about areas they covered well and areas in which their patrolling could improve.

“It keeps everybody a little more informed,” he said.

The Chelsea COP is an all-volunteer organization that formed in 1999.

Thornton said he is the fifth or sixth director of the group, which now sits at about 40 members.

“It’s a lot more than driving around and patrolling neighborhoods,” Thornton said of the group’s responsibilities, noting members help with tasks as major as traffic control during Christmas parades and ball games, and as minor as assisting residents with non-medical emergencies at home. “We want the people of Chelsea to feel comfortable with the fact that if they have a concern, they can pick up the phone and call the COP.”

Thornton said his main goals for the organization are to expand its “teams,” or smaller groups of COP members prepared to handle specific types of calls, and become more proactive than reactive.

“I’m working on expanding that to hopefully involve all members,” Thornton said. “In any organizations, you’re only as good as your people, and that’s definitely true in a volunteer organization.”

Thornton completed the Citizens Sheriff’s Academy offered by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in 2014, and this year, he was invited to participate in the SCSO’s Incident Command Training program.

“It gives you a great appreciation of what law enforcement does on a day-to-day basis,” Thornton said. “We appreciate what they do.”

Thornton is a retired corporate financial analyst. He and his wife, Joyce, have three grown children, Kim, Scott and Doug.

Robertson, who will serve as Thornton’s associate director to assist him as he settles into the director role, gave Thornton the following advice: “Take it one day at a time.”

Thornton said he also leans on his “kitchen cabinet,” a handful of longtime COP members whose knowledge of the organization is extensive.

“If I have questions, I call on those people for advice,” Thornton said. “If they’ve been there and done that, I’m happy to pick their brain.”

Thornton said he also wants to increase the COP membership and take advantage of ways to publicize the group’s presence in the community.

“We need to grow the organization and we need to enhance people’s involvement within the organization,” Thornton said. “It’s a great bunch of people in the organization. I wouldn’t trade them for anybody in the world. They all play a very important part in keeping organization running.”