Sugar Land Police Chief Eric Robins was short and to the point when asked what led him to announce his retirement earlier this month, after four years in the job and 33 years in public service.
“It was time,” he said.
While Robins’ time as police chief was relatively short, the longtime law enforcement member has been with the police department since 1992. A native Houstonian, the 52-year-old Robins joined Sugar Land Police Department as a patrol officer and moved through the ranks from detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and assistant chief.
During his time in Sugar Land, Robins watched as the city evolved from a quiet bedroom community into the county center of some 118,000 people that it is today, he said. And with that, the nature of policing in Sugar Land has also evolved, he said.
“Our biggest task has been keeping up with the growth and diversity of the city,” he said. “We want to ensure there’s diversity in the department to meet the needs of all our residents.”
When Robins started, for instance, there were about 34 sworn officers in the department, he said. Now, that has increased to about 174 sworn officers, he said.
Unlike some police chiefs who’ve spoken about the new difficulties of policing in recent years, Robins said law enforcement faces great possibilities when it comes to technology and rethinking the art of policing moving forward.
“It’s important for us to understand the culture and the history of law enforcement and how peoples’ perceptions came to be,” he said. “It’s important for us to stay engaged.”
The biggest change in recent years is that now police departments allocate more resources to solving specific issues, whether they be drug-related or mental-health crises, he said.
“When I first started, you were basically either locking people up, or taking them out of the city,” he said. “Now, you’re dealing with more specific issues.”
During Robins’ time, he oversaw several initiatives that reduced crime through technology, such as a network of license plate recognition cameras, according to the city.
If a department is going to succeed at community policing, it requires community engagement and input, he said.
“In Sugar Land, that means being mindful of our business and community population as well,” he said.
One reason Robins was happy to retire now is that he’s confident the right people are in place at the department to continue steering it forward in a positive direction, he said.
“I think there are smart and bright men and women in the department now who are up to the challenge of continuing to evolve with the city,” he said.
Robins plans to leave the job June 1, according to the city.
“I’d like to thank Eric for his unwavering service to our community,” City Manager Michael Goodrum said of Robins’ decision. “His selfless commitment to public service has ensured we remain among the safest cities in the nation.”
The city will conduct a nationwide search for the department’s next chief, and assistant City Manager Doug Brinkley will serve in the role on an interim basis, according to the city.
Robins plans to take some time off after his retirement, but said he doesn’t think he’s entirely done with law enforcement. The future might hold another job as chief somewhere, or another police job, but Robins is taking his time before making a decision, he said.