I challenge each director, manager or CEO to specifically reach out to the women and minorities in their organizations. Have one on ones and ask them if they believe they have a voice in the organization. Trust is important so if they don’t trust you, you might not get the truth. In one of my organizations I spoke with women and minorities and learned that many of them felt invisible.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Chief of Police.
Chief of Police is a former police chief and current hip hop artist who uses rap as a platform for social justice. His debut album, “Highest Ranking Officer” touches on police reform, criminal justice reform and the failed war against drugs. C.O.P. offers a rare perspective that is very relevant in our current climate.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Sure. I was born and raised in Southeast Raleigh, and was immediately drawn to hip hop. By the age of 12, I decided that I would become a hip hop artist one day. I joined a rap group, did a few shows and eventually got signed to an independent label. However, hip hop wasn’t paying the bills back then so a friend asked me to give policing a try.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’m an avid reader. While I was chief, I was drawn to “Race Crime and the Law” by Randall Kennedy. It helped me look at race relations, implicit bias and the relationship between the police and African Americans from a historical perspective. There has been this strained relationship between police and people of color for centuries. Additionally, it became clear to me why Black lives aren’t valued at the same level as White lives. Not just by others but also by us. All of us have been conditioned or programmed to look at Black lives differently.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Gandhi. This quote reminds me of my favorite Christmas movie, “The Kid with the Broken Halo.” The moral of the story was that when you help others you forget about your own problems and you feel better about yourself. I have dedicated my life helping others and I submit that you do feel better when you serve your community. Adding to that, you learn a lot about yourself.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is about serving others. The higher you go up the ladder, the larger your service. Leadership is also about competence, character and dedication. In order to be a leader, one should possess certain attributes to compel people to follow. If you’re qualified in your field people will trust you. If you are trustworthy, people will trust you with their lives. If you are dedicated to your job and the people you serve, no one will hesitate to give you 100%.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Music is and has always been my therapy. When I was a homicide and SVU detective, I listened to “Lovely Day” every morning, by Out of Eden. Something about that song helped me to understand that no matter what was waiting for me, it was going to be okay. Also too, I am a television fanatic. Martin, Sanford & Son, and Andy Griffith are my favorite television shows. During a stressful day, I often watch an episode of Martin to escape the real world. Something about Martin, Arnold and Campbell’s comedic geniuses that made me forget about everything going on in the real world. I recall our unit investigating a sexual assault of an eight (8) year old girl. Before coming to work, and before the meeting I listened to Lovely Day. The night before I watched an episode of Martin.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
As I stated at the beginning of the interview, there has been a history of friction between the police and the African American community. However, Ferguson was a new chapter in our quest for police reform. Since then we have watched video recordings of questionable incidents involving police and people of color. Some incidents were clear examples of excessive force, but most resulted in little or no consequences. The murder of George Floyd was the boiling point. I think we all said, “Enough is enough.” This incident was probably the most blatant case of disregard of human life that I have seen in modern time. No one can defend the officer’s actions.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
My first experience with diversity occurred when I was a patrol sergeant. This experience taught me a great deal about team building and unit success. Our unit consisted of four Black males (myself included), four White males, an African American/ Latino female, one White Female and one Latino male. Within the unit we had several who were from the north, one from the west, and the rest of us from the south. We brought different perspectives and skill sets to the table. We had open and honest discussions and we were a highly effective unit. As I moved up the ranks I tried to bring that balance to every unit, division and department I managed. As chief, I even promoted three majors (Black male, White Male and White female), who served as my advisors. We often disagreed about things but 9 times out of 10, we presented the best solution to the troops and perfected our plans.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Yes, there are many benefits to having a diverse team. As previously stated, you have different perspectives and different experiences to share. In general, you learn from one another and debate about root causes and solutions. Groupthink can kill an organization or stifle its growth. Everyone should have a seat at the table. In law enforcement diversity is important because each member represents a voice in the community being served. Therefore, it’s important to have each voice on the leadership team.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
First, I challenge each director, manager or CEO to specifically reach out to the women and minorities in their organizations. Have one on ones and ask them if they believe they have a voice in the organization. Trust is important so if they don’t trust you, you might not get the truth. In one of my organizations I spoke with women and minorities and learned that many of them felt invisible. That’s why this question is very important. Secondly, ask the women and minorities to share their ideas. Work with them to identify opportunities for growth and ways to give everyone a voice. I had one on ones with every member under my command and received excellent ideas. It only made us stronger as an organization. Thirdly, recruit hard. Go to places where the people you need to diversify your organization exist. As a police chief I spoke to everyone and I asked everyone, I made contact with, if they were interested in a career in law enforcement. Adding to that, develop a mentorship program. Oftentimes, companies will work hard to recruit women and minorities, but once they’re in an organization there aren’t many employees taking the time to mentor them. In many cases, women and minorities do not see a clear path to take. In my career I was asked to be a mentor numerous times and I have seen some leave the profession because they felt alone. Finally, create an environment in which every member has a voice and every member is encouraged to be creative. We need to be open to different opinions and agree to listen attentively to others who are not like us. In grad school I took a diversity course and in the beginning of class the professor made it clear that we were going to be open and not get offended by our classmates’ perspectives. Additionally, she paired us up with someone who wasn’t like us, and I grew a person.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Generally, I am a very optimistic person. I do believe through this crisis we will see policing change for the better. In fact, many agencies have made changes and many made those changes years ago. Choke holds, knees on suspects’ necks were prohibited in every organization I worked in. I believe every progressive agency head is assessing his or her agency and making the appropriate transitions. Adding to that, I would like a focus on recruiting standards and criminal justice reform.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
As a Gemini I can never give one answer 😊 I would love to break bread with Tyler Perry and Regina Hall. Mr. Perry has the means to invest or guide me, as it relates to my vision as a label owner, music producer and promoter. I also believe that my music could compliment his movies. On the other hand, Ms. Hall has such a positive and energetic vibe. I would love for her to help promote our We See You movement. We want everyone, people of color, the homeless and the people who are suffering mentally to stop feeling invisible.
How can our readers follow you online?
You follow me and my music on Apple, Amazon and Spotify. Chief of Police and the album is “Highest Ranking Officer”.
You can also follow me on Instagram at chiefofpolice3 and chiefofpolice.hearnow.com/highest-ranking-officer-h-r-o
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work! Thank you for having me.