A few months ago Anna Hatter wasn’t expecting big changes in her life.
The community of Abilene changed all that this month as she was sworn in as Abilene’s Chief of Police.
But then Hatter had never expected to be a cop in the first place and then had every intention of staying with the Wichita Police Force.
Both of those life-changing events happened mostly by accident and based on impressions.
While she claims to have little dealings with the arrest and conviction of Dennis Rader, aka BTK, she has a medallion to show she was at least part of the team that led to his arrest in 2005.
Between 1974 and 1991 Rader killed 10 people in Wichita and Park City.
Joining the Wichita Police Force in April 1994, she rose through the ranks and was promoted to rank of deputy chief in May 2018.
“Anna is in the top 1 percent of leaders I’ve worked with and she will be sorely missed at WPD,” Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said on Facebook.
As the Abilene selection committee went through the applications to replace Mike Mohn who resigned in June, Hatter stood out.
Abilene received 82 applications from people in 30 states.
“Her experience and knowledge made her rise to the top of the list. She was the top candidate and the committee unanimously selected her to be our next chief,” said City Manager Jane Foltz. “I was very pleased when she accepted the position to serve Abilene.”
Joining the force
Hatter had worked in the aircraft industry in Wichita in the 1990s.
Then the single mother of two, she lost her job to layoffs.
To make matters worse, she was caught speeding and was pulled over on Kellogg Drive.
“I had a very positive interaction with the officer who stopped me,” Hatter said. “I received my ticket which I deserved but the officer that stopped me was just impressive to me; very professional and carried himself in a way that caused me to make note of that.”
That got her thinking about becoming a police officer.
“Since I’m laid off, I thought I might as well look into this a little further,” she said.
She joined as a patrol officer, community policing officer and Special Community Action Team officer.
Hatter said the Wichita Police Department was pretty progressive in hiring women as officers.
“There weren’t a ton of us female officers when I first started,” she said.
There were a couple times a week that she was the only female on her shift.
“I spent a lot of my time going around and doing searches that female officers were required for,” she said.
There were other times during her career that she was the first female to do a specific job in that department, but doesn’t dwell on being female.
“The first thing I want people to notice about me is my work ethic and how I do my work,” she said. “I want to be perceived as being a good cop, not about being a woman.”
Hatter is, however, the first female chief of the Abilene Police Force.
Most of Hatter’s career in Wichita was a patrol officer. She was promoted to sergeant in 2007 where was assigned to the Patrol East and Patrol South bureaus for seven years. She was promoted to lieutenant and eventually captain, then deputy chief.
“None of that was in my plan. I fully expected to retire from WPD as a lieutenant,” she said. “As a younger officer, that was my goal in my career. I would love to be a lieutenant and retire at that level. I never expected in a million years to rise to the rank of deputy chief.”
As Hatter moved up into records, she was instrumental in assisting the department in transitioning to a new Records Management System.
“That was part of the department that needed some attention and needed a little bit of love, for lack of a better word,” she said.
There she got noticed.
The answer to that was Abilene and the community.
Hatter she was not looking for a move. Like she said, her goal was to retire with the Wichita department.
It was her husband Chris that wanted her to make a change, maybe retire.
“I told him I wasn’t ready to not work,” she said.
Chris had other ideas and sent her the posting for the position of Abilene Police Chief.
“It intrigued me. I started to look into it a little bit,” she said.
One day they hopped in the car and drove to Abilene.
“We support local law enforcement” signs immediately caught her eye.
“The people in Wichita have a good relationship with their police department but it doesn’t rise to the level that I observed here in Abilene,” she said.
They made several trips to Abilene.
“I was going into businesses, interacting with them, talking to them,” she said.
She didn’t tell anyone she was interested in the chief position.
“Talking with people, hearing what they had to say about the community, it was easy to see it was a great place to live,” he said. “People are so involved in their town and their neighbors and so positive about the community in general.”
After it was announced she was leaving Wichita and moving to Abilene, she said people from the city reached out to her about their exciting trips to this town.
They came for the rodeo, the fair and at Christmas time.
“We had a few people tell me that they make a special trip here at Christmas to ride the train and go to Russell Stover. It is something they have done with their families and they have done it for years,” she said. “The fact the town holds that kind of significance, that it is a special treat to come here and bring their families and something that they did while they raised their kids doing it every year, I thought was really neat.”
“I think there are things that law enforcement in general can do better,” she said. “If you are serious about the work that you do and the relationship with the community, you should always be striving to have better relationships with the community.”
She said there is probably a spectrum of officers in most departments where you have people that need a little bit more work with their community relations and you have people that do a really great job.
“We want everyone to rise up to that level of doing a really great job as much as possible because we are human,” Hatter said.
Hatter, who has been on the force less than a month, said she is still in the learning process.
“It’s going to take me a long time to remember everybody’s name, who they are, but I really want to do that,” she said.
“I have been beyond impressed with the staff I stepped into and given the opportunity to work with,” she said. “I am not saying my expectations were low but this team of officers has exceeded my expectations.
“I don’t want to fall into the trap of making Abilene like Wichita because they are nothing alike,” she said.
She said one thing she has learned in law enforcement is to first listen.
“Then you try to explain how something happened,” she said. “Then if there is a mistake that you made, take responsibility for it and try to make it right.”
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.