City Policing – Is Your Police Department Friend or Foe?

With the recent negative media coverage of questionable policing around the country, it is a good time for ALL cities to evaluate how they address policing.

Policing is the most important job a Mayor / City Manager will ever have. Policing saves lives, prevents crime, solves crimes, keeps order, increases property values, and brings new citizens and businesses to an area.

How does a Mayor / City Manager address policing in his or her city?

The first and most important thing is, they hire the right Chief of Police with the same policing philosophy and then give him or her all the tools and support necessary to accomplish the most important job in any city.  

The Mayor / City Manager stays in close contact with the Chief and they get the community involved. 

What does the Chief of Police do?

Having a Police Chief who is always out there and not sitting behind a desk is the #1 job of the Chief. I call it “24/7 Leadership”. Since working with police departments since 2008 the two most impressive departments are the Lake Saint Louis PD, Chief Mike Force and Chief Chris DiGiuseppi and the Fort Lauderdale PD, Chief Frank Adderley and Chief Rick Maglione.

I used to see Chief Adderley everywhere, all times of the day and night. He would show up at events I was speaking at and connect with the people in a personal way. You can’t teach that. It is leadership on a high level. I used to wonder if he had a double. LOL Seriously, it takes that kind of energy and smarts to be a successful Chief of Police.

The two police departments I mentioned above should be emulated. They have found the formula that works best for their communities. Community policing as a foundation along with caring, consistent, transparent enforcement.

Hiring the right kind of people.

Giving a person a badge and gun and the authority to take another person’s liberty is a responsibility that has to be given to only the best. The Chief has to hire the best people and get rid of the bad apples.

Depending on the size of a police department, it is inevitable that a few bad apples get through. Where a great leader comes in, is when you find those bad apples, you not only get rid of them quickly, you get rid of any bad apples that were infected along the way.  

Fixing the Police

The police have to fix themselves first. How many videos do you see where other cops are around bad behavior and they do nothing? All the time, and until the police fix themselves, nothing will change. Abuses have been going on for a long time and it is only because of cell phones and cameras everywhere that they are being caught.  

Policing is about trust with the “whole” community. Breaking down the “Us Against Them” mentality that the citizens and police have is what is needed. Once you break down the “Us Against Them” mentality, change happens and you solve crimes, reduce violence and crime as a whole and make the community safer.   

The police work for the citizens and the community. And yes, the media is part of the community. A partnership with the media is how the Mayor and Chief of Police will get their message out and show the community what they are doing. 

When I received my honorary badge in Lake St. Louis, Missouri the Police Chief, Mike Force, my policing mentor was telling me, Protect and Serve is a stock answer new officers learn in the academy, but the question he asks all new hires is, why do you want to be a police officer in this city? If they don’t say, I want to “help” the community somewhere in their answer, he doesn’t hire them.  

You have to have strong, smart, leaders who think outside the box. It is a policing philosophy that has to come from the top down. In policing, change comes from the top down, not the bottom up. The Mayor and Police Chief are the two most important individuals to lead the way.   

When a community sees that the city and police are willing to work with the “WHOLE” community, the police gain true partners. Most families have a member who made mistakes. Maybe they have a record, are an addict, etc., and when the citizens see that the police are willing to “help” and work with all people, the police gain trust. It is about community interaction in the right way. 

When cops work with ex-cons, at-risk teens, and people who had negative run-ins with the police, they show the community that the police don’t judge people. It is easy to work with people who love the police, but working with people who dislike the police is what is hard and needed. 

A survey of young people aged 18 to 25 showed 88% of the young people had a negative interaction with law enforcement. That has to change. Law enforcement and young people have to work together. When they do, violence and crime subside.  

“Help” the Community

98% of all cops join the police force to HELP people. It is the policies and direction of the leaders that helps keep young police officers motivated to continue helping people.

A leader who gives his police officers awards for helping people, (changing a flat, speaking at a school, church, etc.), or uses resources in a community-minded way, is a leader who sets the tone as a community-minded leader and changes communities. That is what is needed. Giving out awards for the most arrests, most DUI’s, etc. sets a confrontational tone. It is the way of the dinosaur.  

A smart, positive community policing leader sets the tone and the police officers under him follow it. The community becomes a friend and not a foe. The Mayor and his Police Chief are the ones that create that positive environment that lasts for generations. A true legacy.

Get involved in your community now.

Larry Lawton

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About the Author:

Lawrence “Larry” Lawton appears regularly on national TV and Radio as an expert on teen issues, crime, schools and community policing. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC  —  CLICK HERE to see Larry Lawton on TV

Larry Lawton is the only ex-con in the United States to be sworn in as an Honorary Police Officer and only ex-con ever to be recognized on the Floor of the United States Congress for his work with helping young people and law enforcement agencies.

Larry is an Author, Speaker, Teen/Young Adult Expert and Law Enforcement Consultant. Larry developed the nationally recognized Reality Check Program and Reality Check Video Card Program. 

For further information, Larry Lawton can be reached at or 844-922-4800.