It is often said, in organizations large and small, that the entity’s behavior and climate flows from the top down. CEOs, executives, proprietors, directors, sheriffs and chiefs are essentially charged with setting the example for their respective organizations, and guiding it to mission fulfillment and service delivery. Within each of these types of organizations is a body of personnel, whether two to 2,202 sets of hands, from whom the entity’s mission is carried out.
Among law enforcement circles exists police chiefs, police directors, police commissioners, and sheriffs. Given the oft-scrutinized role of the police agency and its inherent function, it takes a strong-willed, authentic, personable, approachable, patient, goal-oriented, intelligent, and esteemed figurehead to lead a unique cadre of law enforcement personnel, ensuring the overall mission and expected function is carried out, Constitutionally.
Segue’ to the police chief of the Tampa Police Department, Jane Castor, who leads the departments 1300-plus officers. Castor, known as a “cops cop” for having lived her entire police career with the Tampa Police Department and climbing its ranks until achieving its coveted role as police chief, is frequently out of the office and among her officers. Castor is often seen among the citizens of Tampa, whether it be in attendance at a city event, a press conference, a school teach-in, a civic club, you name it…she is there.
Chief Castor, deservedly revered for leading her department and countless supplemental officers from agencies from all across the nation, ensured a super-successful Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, in August 2012. Chief Castor and her department’s personnel performed so well at the RNC, amply enough to entice the attention of the law enforcement authorities and its city government charged with hosting the subsequent Democratic National Convention. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department administration sent a contingency to Tampa. CMPD and Tampa police administrators, including Castor, dissected the RNCs all-encompassing blueprint and discussed how it relates as a model, serving for the DNc in Charlotte, NC, and similar venues in the future.
Also of high-esteemed qualities is the Memphis Police Department’s leader, Toney Armstrong, who is the department’s Police Director. With a commissioned force of 2500-plus officers, Director Armstrong has his hands full, especially in light of recent events regarding police-involved shootings in his jurisdiction. Director Armstrong handled the assessment of this recent spate of shootings himself; he opted to ride the squad cars on the streets, and on midnight shift too, setting the example to his officers that he cares and wants to effect change, positive modifications.
Director Armstrong, famously known for his televised appearances and matter-of-fact, diligent, pointedly-clear reality-TV-show role as a police lieutenant in the Homicide Division on A&Es “The First 48”, exhibited his admirable persona and formidably-unrelenting pursuit for justice. Any episode–of many in which Director Armstrong was depicted–showcased his style of stellar and gritty invocation of getting to the bottom of things. It is no wonder he was chosen to lead such a dynamic department, given his flavor of ensuring justice, transparency, and unbridled foundation for truth.
Ray Kelly, the police commissioner and 43-year veteran of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), has had his hands full, given his agency’s 34,500–member force. Its leader since 2002, Kelly has personified the qualities and fortitude necessary regarding an often highly-controversial law enforcement entity. Dubbed as the largest municipal police force in the world, in context larger than some small nations’ military forces, the NYPD has had a long-held history shrouded in corruption and “police state” notoriety.
Commissioner Kelly is known for his no-nonsense, highly experienced police leadership, and is quick to respond to the multitude of fissures bound to evolve within such an enormously large agency. Never one to mince words, and always forthright in assessing and facilitating discipline among his officers, Kelly is a modern-day example of a leader who has been there, done that.
Equivalent to Kelly’s NYPD with respect to scope and notoriety, however on the opposite coast of the United States, is Charlie Beck, the police chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Given its own history mired in corruption and alleged “police state” tactics, Beck has revamped the department’s most-troubled divisions. Consider the infamous Rampart Division, with its own sordid background including extreme criminal activity among its officers.
Given recent events involving his department, mired in the large-scale, epic manhunt for one of his own. A terminated LAPD-cop, Christopher Dorner, who allegedly went berserk after publicizing his manifesto delineating a specific list of police authorities and their families, all of whom he slated to murder, kept Chief Beck busy. Reportedly, Dorner was fired from the force for varied reasons and was seeking retribution for his release from the department.
Nevertheless, Chief Beck and his force, as well as other regional police forces sewn-in to the diaspora which sought Dorner, had been prolifically public and center-staged with regular releases of information. The public at-large, Chief Beck and his administration felt, was inherently endangered given the circumstances of this unloosed, self-professed vigilante who was a reputedly highly-trained former military- and police-disciplined elitist.
Chief Beck guided well his staff and the public at-large throughout this ordeal.
As well, there are the myriad small police agencies, comprising most of the total law enforcement departments in the United States. One such department, the Tulsa Public Schools Police Department headed by its leader, Police Chief Gary Rudick, guiding his 22-member agency. In the currently murky waters of who is best adept, trained, and equipped as to safely and adequately staff schools in his jurisdiction, Chief Rudick asserts that school resource officers are the clear choice over arming teachers with firearms and holding them responsible for teaching and securing school premises.
Chief Rudick’s contention is to maintain endemically-trained, highly-visible, armed and authorized sworn peace officers within school campuses. The argument he proffers is that teachers are trained to teach, and that should steadfastly be their mission, to educate, uncomplicated, without the burden of policing the schools as well.
Theoretically, Chief Rudick’s philosophy is based on the traditional mode of school resource officers; however, recent events across the country, namely the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, bring light to the multitude of paradigm shifts among political, educational, civic, and law enforcement leaders.
Steadfastly, Chief Rudick maintains the mission of any law enforcement agency is to serve and protect life and property, schools included. Respectfully speaking, there is existential merit to Chief Rudick’s position regarding the choices being bandied about to maintain school security concepts. And, with respect to current fear stemming from an increasing number of mass shootings across the country, it would appear most evident that police officers are best suited to be on the frontline in the event of an attack by a crazed assailant bent on destruction.
Unorthodoxly yet so innovatively keen is the notion of the small town of Jordan, Minnesota whose police force is preparing to relocate from its current police headquarters and into each of the towns schools. Jordan police Chief Bob Malz came up with the idea, worked out the logistics, and the economic sustenance structure. Jordan has a population of approximately 5,500 and its police force is authorized at eight officers, including the chief.
Days after the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre Chief Malz proposed via memo to the city council on 27 December 2012: “These attacks have been going on for years and still no one has provided any hope of relief,” Malz intmated. “It’s time for a change. … I dread the thought of being included in the sentence, ‘We don’t want what happened in Columbine, Red Lake, Cold Spring Rocori, Newtown and Jordan to happen in our community.’ “
With plans to reinforce the school’s design with more windows so as to increase visibility and obsolete any obscurity; place officers at egresses so as to be highly-visible to students and the general population; park police cruisers on campus throughout the day, in high-visibility zones; provide an office for each officer at each school so as to complete reports and whatever can be done plausibly on campus. Conversely, any aspects which require the officer to respond to the city hall police compound (jails, evidence processing/storing, interrogations and interviews with suspects/victims of crimes, records maintenance) can be done seamlessly; city hall is within close proximity to all three of the town’s schools. The three schools are clustered together on the same block, so if back-up is required at any one school, adjoining schools’ officers can respond readily and without delay.
City Council Member Tom Boncher said, “It’s time for us to do something. Cities and school districts can no longer wait for someone else to come up with solutions. … It’s on us to protect our kids and school staff.” Boncher voted in favor of Chief Malz’s plan without hesitation.
The Minnesota School Boards Association favors the Jordan plan, citing how it addresses dilemmas school districts across the nation are facing. Jordan is being viewed as a model, stemming from the notion(s) of a small town police chief. Chief Malz was even able to obtain office furniture, via donations, further cutting costs and enabling such a concept.
Statistically, most law enforcement agencies in the United States are deemed in the small-size category. Some police departments consist of only one sworn member to police its jurisdiction; typically, this sole officer serves as the police chief, conducting all law enforcement activities him/herself.
There are approximately 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. Aggregately, there are about 870,000 peace officers throughout our nation, equating to an average of 51 cops per department. measuraely, most have fewer cops; some, like the mid- to large-sized agencies number from a few hundred to several thousand. Again, the largest of these is the NYPD, with almost 35,000 cops. Statistically, the NYPD sworn force of officers outnumbers the armies of many small- to mid-sized nations!
Included in the varied-size forces across the country are specialized police agencies, such as university/campus police departments, railroad police agencies, transportation police departments, port authority police departments, and tribal police forces. Amtrak has its own police department. NY/NJ has a joint-state Port Authority Police Department to safeguard and enforce laws in its port jurisdictions (maritime shipping yards, bus stations, train station, bridges/tunnels). However rural, Indian reservations each have their own police agencies, with federal jurisdiction under the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Thus, myriad law enforcement levels exist, each with its own figurehead and brand of policing based on geographical environment, populace, and government structure. Conclusively, however, is the stratification of enforcing U.S. Constitutional tenets; municipal departments may have their own codes (ordinances enforced as administrative laws) in addition to Constitutional enforcement authority.
No matter the size of each respective agency, leadership experience, geographic location, and highest rank achieved throughout ones police career, there are numerous avenues by which an aspiring law enforcement leader (chief, sheriff, director, commissioner) can attain the perspectives, direction, and knowledge-based accoutrements necessary.
Some chiefs and/or sheriffs are promoted to such coveted and top posts from within, brought up through the ranks over the course of many years, often decades. Others, conversely, are merely recruited from external resources. Often philosophically-based views serve as the benchmark for whom, and from where, the next top cop and department leader will sprout.
One such avenue is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), headquartered in Alexandria, Va. which governs the values, philosophies, theories, practices, and legal issues pertaining to law enforcement leadership roles, including a global realm.
In addition to the IACP, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is located in Washington, DC and serves, as is implicit in its namesake, to offer various forums for police leaders to read with respect to gun violence, budgeting, mental illness initiatives, police suicide, educational requirements, resource allocation, multi-level management issues, etc.
I wider scope as to repository for sheriff’s in America is the National Sheriff’s Association, located in Alexandria, Va. The NSAs mission is to serve as a source with a focus on increasing and ensuring professionalism in sheriff’s departments, from respective sheriff’s on down to each of his/her sworn personnel.
Typically, each state in the union has its own respective police chief and/or sheriff-representative organization. For example, Florida has both the Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) and the Florida Sheriff’s Association. Akin to the IACP and PERF delineated above, both the FPCA and FSA are established to govern, organize, and offer avnues of direction for its membership leaders in law enforcement circles.
As the endemically-expected attribute codifying police figureheads, attendance and graduation from the coveted FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar (LEEDS) leadership class is a highly touted and widely recognized asset for any police leader to attain. Respectfully speaking, its certification upon completion serves as the pseudo-PhD conferred upon its “police leader” graduates.
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