Graeter focused on serving community

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

There are dozens of responsibilities that come with the role of police chief in any city, but for newly-appointed Liberty Hill Chief Royce Graeter the most important of those is a good relationship with the community.

Building and maintaining those relationships depends on trust and communication.

“People should expect everybody to be kind and helpful and I’d like for the community to know all of our officers are approachable,” Graeter said. “Don’t ever second guess walking up to an officer and striking up a conversation.”

The best way Graeter knows how to serve the community is to be in tune with the concerns and needs of residents.

“We just want more and more community engagement and participation from the community,” he said. “If they have something on their mind they want to come talk to us about the door is open. We’re going to be out there honestly and ethically policing the community.”

Graeter, who grew up in the Burnet area, is a Master Texas Peace Officer and has served in Central Texas since 1996. He came to the Liberty Hill Police Department in February of 2017. This is his first job as a police chief.

“I was born and raised 20 miles from Liberty Hill, so I’ve been around Liberty Hill my entire life,” he said. “I never moved away. All of my law enforcement experience has been in the area. This is my first department in Williamson County, but I have worked in Burnet and Llano County.”

Everything about his background makes Liberty Hill the right fit for him.

“That’s why I like the small town of Liberty Hill,” Graeter said. “I know we’re growing and growing fast, but you still have those people I am very familiar with. It’s not like I’m having to adapt to the area or these type people because it’s all I’ve ever been around.”

Public service was something Graeter was called to early in life that he never questioned or wavered from.

“I always knew, even when I was a teenager, that I wanted to get into some kind of public safety,” he said. “Initially it was probably going to be the medical field, but I ended up in law enforcement because my dad was in law enforcement.”

Even at a young age, the desire to help others defined his path in life.

“I just wanted to help people,” he said. “I started out being in the law enforcement and medical explorers. I was in medical explorers first so at 15 years old I would go to the hospital emergency rooms over the weekend and I’d be helping the nurses checking blood pressure and that kind of stuff.”

When he added exposure to law enforcement into the mix, it stuck.

“Later I got into law enforcement explorers, too, and they put us through a mini academy and taught us a lot about it,” he said. “Then I did criminal justice through high school and on up. I just became very familiar with it, and because my dad was in law enforcement I knew a lot of those guys and got to be friends with everybody.”

What he watched in his parents’ years of service also reinforced his decision, remembering their own satisfaction in a career of service.

“The pride in the job and his pride in taking care of people, always hearing stories about how he helped here and there, was what I remember from my dad,” Graeter said. “My mom was also, I think it was 17 years, working for the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center. So she was involved in the same type of stuff, too.”

In his 24 years, Graeter said there is not one moment that has shown he made the right choice, but rather a daily effort to help.

“There have been so many things over the years,” he said. “You deal with and help so many people and if you can go home at the end of every day and know that you helped somebody get through a hard time you win all day long. Most of the people we’re dealing with are in crisis at the point we’re with them.”

His focus for the department as the new Chief parallels his focus for the community.

“Training and community relationships,” he said of that focus. “Those two things are the critical base. You have to have good training to keep officers safe, you have to have good training to be able to help the community. You have to have those community relations where the community trusts you and understands that you’re there to help and they feel good about reaching out to you because they know you’re going to help them solve whatever issue they’re having.”

The department faces the usual big challenge in Liberty Hill and that is growth.

“We just have to make sure we can keep up with the fast-paced growth,” Graeter said. “We know it’s exploding around here whether everybody wants it to or not. It’s just going to happen so we just have to make sure we’re staffed well enough to take care of everybody as we grow.”

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