Setting the Tone, Casting a Vision

          A few months after the spring election in 1973, and seven months into the job, I was asked to address Madison’s Downtown Rotary Club. It was an opportunity for me to cast a vision; to tell them what I wanted to do.

What made the Downtown Rotary Club important was that a lot of the “movers and shakers” in Madison were members.

I titled my talk, “The First Seven Months and the Next Seven Years,” In it, I set forth my vision for the police department—where the department needed to go. I write about this in my forthcoming book. At the time, the stakes were high.

“That day, I felt a real sense of urgency as opposition continued to build against me within the police department and in some segments of the community. I knew I needed to lay out an exciting future with lots of enthusiasm on my part, then be able to convince them that I could deliver on it.  

Two of my closest advisors in the community, Professors Frank Remington and Herman Goldstein, gave me wise advice: ‘David, this is a time when the community needs to know what will be lost if you leave! You need to tell them.’”

Opposition within the department and some parts of the community was heating up and I needed to define myself. I told the club that I had three main directions:

  1. Move to neighborhood policing by decentralizing current police services more localized units.
  2. Build a “people” orientation—a sensitivity to, and understanding of human behavior. (This would require us to hire high-quality, educated police officers and train all current police employees — especially those in leadership positions. We would begin to work “upstream” on community problems with community members.
  3. Develop a high capacity for conflict management and crisis intervention in addition to our traditional law enforcement duties — to handle public protest by means other than teargas and a nightstick.

           I needed to let the community know who I was and what they possibly would miss out if I was not around to lead the department. In my book I also wrote: “I was, in fact, fighting for my life and my career.”

The three directions I laid out were immediate; that which I was trying to accomplish even as I spoke. But I went further… I visioned – this is what we are going to look like in eight years!

“[Eight years from now] we should have successfully made the quantum leap necessary to field a                        behavior and human services expert which shall be known as a professional police officer …

“Police officers of the future will be human behavior experts as well as community workers …

“These future police officers will also have a community advocacy role within our communities. They will identify government and social problems and solve them with the resources of the government and the community.”

The tone and direction for the next twenty years was set! Now I had to try and stick around long enough to get it done.

In March read what happened in “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption, and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police.”