Police chief's column: Police officers can impact and make a difference in the communityTwenty-one years ago I became a police officer and it is a decision I have never regretted. Becoming a police officer at age 20 made me grow up fast and realize the impact a police officer can have on families and a community.
By: Gordon Ramsay, For the Budgeteer News
Twenty-one years ago I became a police officer and it is a decision I have never regretted.
Becoming a police officer at age 20 made me grow up fast and realize the impact a police officer can have on families and a community.
I will never forget a call to a home where a 17-year-old son was out of control. When I arrived the son was in his room and his parents
had flushed faces and the dad was visibly shaking. They were obviously very upset and at their wits’ end; they looked to me for advice.
I remember thinking to myself, “I’m 20 years old, what do I know about raising a troubled 17-year-old?” I realized it is much easier to look at situations from an unattached, third-party perspective.
I provided legal and practical guidance to the parents and spoke at length with the son. To my surprise they embraced much of what I told them.
They were so appreciative they sent a letter to my police chief at the time. I saw them about six months later at a local restaurant and they made a point of thanking me again. It was situations like this that fulfilled a desire I had: i.e., to help and make things better.
For me, helping and making things better would become my mission in serving our community. I had learned police officers count; they can have an impact and can make a difference.
As a community police officer I would often get frustrated at inefficiency in government and by the red tape of bureaucracy. I was (and still am) relentless at trying to change ineffective processes and systems.
I had some successful outcomes, but there were dustups along the way. I never felt better than when we changed things for the better and sustained it. We found success in call reduction with rental properties and with problem people. By partnering with property managers who cared, we reduced calls for service, lowered crime, helped the vulnerable, and improved the quality of life for residents and neighbors.
I began to think if I could make it to a management position I could make things even better for police officers and those we served. I thought becoming a police manager would give me a greater advantage when dealing with the bureaucratic structures and red tape. It would help us accomplish our primary goals of crime prevention and reducing crime.
When I was promoted to a sergeant at 27 years of age I was not sure what I was in for. Being a patrol sergeant was one of my favorite positions to date. As a sergeant I still gravitated to community policing and was determined more than ever to make a difference. I found I could make further inroads and had success I am proud of, but change was still very slow and difficult.
Even as a sergeant I still did not have the clout to change some systems. I began to think I could have a greater impact if I were promoted to a command-level position.
Soon enough, I had made it to lieutenant. While in that position there was tremendous budget chaos and major variables. For example, staffing levels would change from one day to the next. The budget issues also impacted the health benefits of staff and the department had a monumental exodus of employees, including many of the department’s top leaders.
Then the police chief at the time announced he was retiring.
A few months later I was promoted, at 34 years old. I recall seeing
a retired trooper I had known in a grocery store and he said “You’re too young,” and shook his head as if disgusted.
I was taken back, but his comment like that made me more determined than ever to do a good job and make a difference.
This month, seven years ago I was appointed chief and have loved every minute of it (OK, almost every minute of it).
Each of the last two years we have competed with police departments from the U.S. and around the globe and held up our community policing initiatives for comparison and examination. I am proud to say we have been recognized as leaders in community policing and have won several awards for our efforts.
We still have a lot of work to do — but know your police department is committed to working with our community to help and make things better.
Contact Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay at 730-5020 or email@example.com.