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New generation of crime fighters leading SMPD

January 30, 2020
by Rick Cole

New generation of crime fighters leading SMPD

On Wednesday, January 29, City Manager Rick Cole spoke at the Santa Monica Police Department headquarters at the ceremony to promote three new captains, four lieutenants, and three sergeants. Here are his remarks:

With the celebration of these eight promotions, the torch has been passed to a new generation of leadership for the Santa Monica Police Department. This promotion ceremony is a validation of the leadership talent in this department.

Talent is vital because police work is ultimately about people: Their judgment, their training, their teamwork, but above all their talent. Yet to lead, talent must be matched with character. 21st Century policing is built on the character of our leaders. Their humility, their resilience, their compassion, their learning and their willingness to sacrifice for the common good. I say “their” but I really should say “your” – because every person that attended the promotional ceremony has the potential for leadership.

I’ve known five leaders trained in this Department who went on to be Police Chiefs in other cities. Yet the paradox is while we are clearly a proving ground for leaders, the last four chiefs of this department have come from outside, including the one I chose, Chief Cynthia Renaud. I know Chief Jackie Seabrooks came up through the ranks before leaving to become Chief in Inglewood, but it is noteworthy that she had to do that to earn the opportunity to lead here.

What lessons might we draw from this paradox?

Here’s one: every day is important. Our reputations are built over time. This is a particular burden of inside candidates. We think we know the people we know. We often judge them not on their potential but their past. Which underscores something I’ve learned over 37 years of public service leadership: Leadership is not a destinationLeadership is a journey. Every day is important as an opportunity to learn and to grow. 

I was with Phil Washington, the CEO of Metro, at a conference recently. He defined leadership as the ability to make people uncomfortable at a rate they can stand. That’s certainly a key talent at a time when leadership is so much about leading people and organizations through change.

And while every day is important, some days are more important. There are days when we are truly put to the test. Our ethics are tested. Our commitment to the greater good is tested. Our patience is tested. Our ability to lead with grace under pressure is tested. And our ability to do the right thing when we think no one is watching is tested.

Finally, there are days when we must compete because not everyone gets the honor, the responsibility and the burden of wearing four stars, or a captain’s bars or a lieutenant’s bars or three stripes on their sleeve.

You can do a great job. You can have a great reputation. You can have dedicated fans. But as the two teams that face off on Super Bowl Sunday know, you have to also deliver when it counts. Your dedication and talent gets you into the room. Whether others choose you to lead depends on demonstrating the potential to be a servant leader.

We’ve never needed leaders like we need them now. Part One crime rose 29% in Santa Monica from 2015 to 2018. While that is not our fault, that is our challenge.  And the SMPD team, led by Chief Renaud, rose to that challenge. In 2019, SMPD cut the Part One crime rate by 16%. So far this year they are on track to return us to the lowest rate of crime in six decades.

That’s leadership.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has 30,000 members in 150 countries. The next president of the IACP is in this room. Chief Renaud is a person who has earned her reputation by who she is, what she does and how she leads. She is a role model and example for everyone in this room, especially those of you who are promoting today.

I believed the next chief of the Santa Monica Police Department is already with our police force.  Time will tell – and so will talent and character.

Congratulations to those we promote. Congratulations to their families for their support and pride. Congratulations to this department for being the benchmark of excellence in law enforcement and the pride of Santa Monica. 

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