CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The search appears to be over for the City of Corpus Christi’s next top cop.
"We understand many cities across the country are trying to recruit (police) chiefs, so a lot of demand in a tough time for the profession," said Corpus Christi City Manager Peter Zanoni. "And when you have an outstanding leader like we had, it's hard to replace, or hard to find, someone of that caliber."
Earlier this week, Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo announced former police chief Mike Markle had asked for his job back after a brief retirement.
In his first sit-down interview since that announcement, Action 10 News had the chance to ask him what made him want to return to the force.
“It's real simple,” Markle told me. “Not a mystery. I miss the job. I missed the job. The opportunity was there to come back and I seized the opportunity. Fortune favors the bold. I asked, and they said yes and I said, here I come.”
He also denies speculation that his return is due to things not working out in the private sector, financial issues, and that he perhaps retired from the force too soon.
“Not at all,” he told me. "First of all, 32 years in service is not jumping the gun. Not at all. The private sector I worked in was fantastic. The people were wonderful. This is simply a matter of me missing my former position, my co-workers, the community, and the busy work life that is associated with it. Nothing more. There's no real mystery here.”
When asked if anyone from the city, the police force, or any other governmental agency, asked him to return, Markle responded, “during conversations, casual conversations, hey chief, whenever you want to come back. That kind of thing.”
He said his retirement wasn't prompted by burnout or anything or the sort -- that he was looking for a change of pace.
"You know, honestly, the metric I used was numbers-based," he said. "I was looking for a good accent from a strong platform into a different life, but it didn't work out. What I didn't include in there is was my passion for the job and I was remiss for that. I didn't include how much I love the job, how much I love the city, how much I enjoy working with the great people of Corpus Christi.
"You know, it's cliché but you don't know what you have until it's gone. Fortunately, this position was still open.”
Markle joined the force back in 1989, worked his way up to assistant police chief, was then appointed interim chief, of course, after the death of then-chief Floyd Simpson. He then became chief in 2016.
In those three decdaes, Markle seen a lot of change.
“A big one is our philosophical approach to policing, right?,” he said. “So 32 years ago when I came on, the mantra was 'Chase the bad guy, catch the bad guy, lock the bad guy up.' You have to get away from that. Our core mission needs to change and it has to be from within, right? You have to transition to shepherds; to problem-solvers. Officers just don't chase bad guys anymore. As a matter of fact, when I reach out to the academy, I talk to them and say 'If you came here just to drive fast, wrestle bad guys and put them in jail, he probably came to the wrong place.' ”
During Markle's absence, Zanoni said the city did begin to look for a replacement.
"We began a search, a local and national recruiting search, and given the state of policing across the country and the fact that other cities are also looking for police chiefs, there was not a lot of candidacy frankly out there,” he said.
So the fact that Markle said he wanted to return was fortuitous for everyone.
“I haven't lost that desire to move the department forward," he said. "There's a long way to go.”
In his eyes, the department’s biggest challenge moving forward is one facing many police departments nationally.
“We need to grow with the city," he said. "We need to have enough resources to deal with the challenges that are before us.”
But what have been called his "calming influence" on the force, his consistency, and the fact that he's well-liked the rank and file, should make the transition back into the CCPD seamless.
"What you don't want to have in the chief’s office is drama,” Markle said. “You don't want to have a variance on how things are handled, what your leadership will become, you want them to make the decisions and you absolutely want the public and the people who rely on those decisions to have confidence in what you do.”
Markle went on to add, “You know when something bad happens, there's a split second when your citizenry or your leadership will look at you and decide they'll trust you or they won't trust you and that has to be continually shepherded so you'll always have that trust. You have to work hard for that grace, right? You have to work real hard for that street credit and that goes from the top of the leadership to your line officers,” Markle said.
According to Markle, here's what's happening now and what will be happening. New training centers, new equipment, better training for de-escalation, as well as working with social services, including veterans and working with people who live with mental illness.
The city council will vote on Markle’s status at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, July 27th. Many say it's already a done deal. If Markle is re-hired, the former chief will become the new chief effective immediately.