Police chief to retire

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Phil Hardison, chief of the Franklin City Police Department, has announced his retirement. His last day will be on Monday, Dec. 31, and Hardison will depart with a strong sense of accomplishment.

“I feel good about leaving. [The department] is in a much better place than when I found it,” he said.

Franklin Police Chief Phil M. Hardison has announced he will retire at year’s end to pursue personal and professional goals, including commercial aviation. — Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater News

Hardison, 52, was first in uniform as a Marine beginning at 19 years old. At 21, he traded one discipline for another when he began working as a police office for the Town of Smithfield in 1992. A dozen years into his time in law enforcement, Hardison accepted the position as police chief in Franklin, beginning in August 2004.

Once in office, he then carried out an overhaul of the city’s police organization, which included hiring, developing and promoting who he called “very good people.”

“I’m very fortunate in my career to have worked for and with some excellent people … wonderful professionals,” said the chief. “My career has been built in and around public service.”

He praised his staff for their level of education and strong interpersonal skills, adding that when they arrived in Franklin they also came with a strong sense of integrity and commitment to the people they serve.

Hardison also said he was grateful for the “great partnership” that Franklin Police have developed with the Department of Justice.

“Our mission has always been that we have as much an obligation to help prove the innocent are innocent as the guilty are guilty,” he said, emphasizing that police and investigators are to gather the facts, not to serve as judge and jury.

As for what Hardison will do in 2019, he is raising his sights from the ground to the skies for post-law enforcement work.

“I’m looking at opportunities in commercial aviation,” he said during the interview on Tuesday, a day after informing staff, city council and interim city manager Clarence Monday.

Monday said, “The process for replacing him has not been identified yet. The announcement was just made today [Oct. 1,] it will be filled in due time after I’ve had time to analyze it.

But it is a vital position. We will fill it with the utmost urgency and fairness needed to find a good candidate.”

Monday also said no one yet has been identified for the interim, adding “the timeline will determine whether that is needed or not.”

Aviation is not at all a new thing for the chief.

“It’s always been a lifelong interest,” Hardison said. That desire became solid about 20 years ago when he sought to take flying lessons.

Fortuitously, he got another retired Marine, Robert Morse, to thoroughly school him in what’s needed to become a pilot. Hardison praised him as a mentor and friend. He mentioned that Morse served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, having flown an F-4 Phantom.

Schooling has been done at the Hampton Roads Airport as well as in Florida and even Suffolk.

On finally earning his permit, Hardison was told by his mentor that now he has “a license to learn.”

“I believe the learning will never stop,” he said.