KCBD INTERVIEW: Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell discusses changes, challenges

KCBD INTERVIEW: Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell discusses changes, challenges

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Floyd Mitchell sat down for a conversation with KCBD after a little more than a week serving as the 23rd Chief of the Lubbock Police Department. The discussion comes on the day the Lubbock City Council approved the contract with Lee Lewis Construction, Inc. to build three Police Department Substations.

The construction of the substations will begin at 19th Street & MLK Boulevard. The southern substation will be at 140th Street & Indiana Avenue. A CIP document provided in the City Council Agenda lists the substation in the northern part of the City at Erskine Street & Guava Avenue, however, in the agenda item summary the substation is listed to be built in the area of Erskine Street & North Frankford Avenue.

You were in the Air Force and serving in that way, is that what brought you to law enforcement, a desire to serve?

Early on in my career I had a couple of positive interactions with law enforcement. It had always been a career I thought was a very respectable career. You get to serve your community and it’s just something that when I got into it, I truly fell in love with it and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Almost three decades now…

Almost three decades. If you add the [FBI] Academy time in there, it’s been over three decades.

What brought you to Lubbock? I know it involved your family a little bit but you had to have some peg there to come to Lubbock.

I had been the Chief of Police in Temple. My entire time was just over four years, but when I saw the job posting with the City of Lubbock, one of the most interesting things I saw was that they were going to go through this decentralization process, going from policing out of one large law enforcement headquarters through three decentralized policing stations, all within the individual communities they will serve. I grew up in a policing environment such as that in Kansas City, Missouri, where the patrol divisions, there were six patrol divisions each within a geographical location within the city. That interested me. The whole piece in the decentralization and being involved and immersed in that community, it goes right with the community policing models of being engaged and connected to your individual communities. When I saw that piece of it, that also interested me in coming to Lubbock. Doing a little bit more research, looking at the size of the department, it’s a larger community than in the one I was serving in Temple, almost three times the size of the community I was serving in Temple. I did, I just through it would be a great move for me and the community.

Is that what you, your offer to the City Council and city leadership that you could bring that to Lubbock, that experience in decentralizing and the community policing?

I think it was part of the process. My experience within law enforcement and my professional experience throughout my career in law enforcement and then just competing with the other individuals who wanted to come after this job. Lubbock is a very attractive opportunity for any law enforcement professional. When the posting came out, me and my wife, we had been here before. We had come and been to a First Friday and really looked at the city from the standpoint of becoming residents and becoming members of the community. When we came up here and spent some time here, I thought this was a position we could really, a location where we could really prosper. We could really become involved in the community and I could grow professionally. That’s why I put in for it.

You mentioned “engaged and modern” in your speech after your swearing-in. What’s the modern part of that? Is that the community policing as well?

During the interview process, the conversation came up about the decentralization and I was somewhat surprised from the outside looking in that a department and city this size was not decentralized, because from a geographical standpoint, from a police deployment standpoint, when you look at a city that is over 135-136 square miles, your geographical area of getting resources from the north side to the south side or from the east side to the west side, the decentralization model just makes sense. The Council and the City Manager of having the forethought of saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to go into this decentralization model because it’s good on a number of aspects,’." Resource deployment and community engagement and community policing efforts, I think that’s a very important piece.

The City Council will vote [Tuesday] tonight on moving forward with the construction part of the substations. What would you want the public to know about moving forward with this process and how you will ensure that this process is successful as the City ventures into something it hasn’t done before?

I think it’s very important that the City Council takes action tonight to move forward in that. We have the public groundbreaking this Friday on the East Patrol Division Substation. What I think is going to work to ensure the success are the people here in the Lubbock Police Department and in the community. The men and women of the Lubbock Police Department are excited about it but they are nervous about it. This is a lot of change for a police department internally. Just me and my command staff and officers and my civilians, or non-sworn folks, sitting down and working through the deployment process of how this is all going to work out. Yes, I have some experience in the decentralization in law enforcement but my job here as the police chief is to make sure that I communicate my experiences and best practices in the deployment, in the execution and I think that’s where I will be very valuable to this police department and this city, is ensuring the proper execution of this deployment plan, working with my command staff and the officers who are here. Again, I can’t do it by myself. We all have to sit down and we had a brief meeting on it last week and we are going to more meetings on how that decentralization plan looks like, who is going to be deployed there, the shifts schedule and all that.

I’m glad you brought up the people, because the buildings themselves won’t be doing the policing and the engagement in the community. What is your charge to your officers who will be operating out of those substations and how they themselves will be that community policing?

My hope is that that division station becomes a central point of connection and communication for those folks within that community and make sure we have the proper programming for the community rooms that are inside each of these patrol division stations, make sure we have events to bring people into there. But, from a command staff standpoint, from an officer assignment standpoint, making sure those officers understand this is their geographical police department. The command staff there, that is their police department, they are the head law enforcement officer for that particular area, making sure they understand that our culture has to be to continually invite people in, continually engage and build relationships within that community so we are weaving together and everyone understands that we are working together to make that community safe and working in conjunction with the other two patrol division stations, so that we are all working together as one.

You mentioned keeping communities safe, in your first week there have been several shootings in the community. Some of them involving young people and drugs in a lot of those. Just as the chief, as the lead law enforcement officer here, how does that make you feel just to know that is happening in the community?

When you look at a community of this size, of 260,000 plus and growing, I know we have the census coming up next year and we know that number is going to grow, and just from a geographical standpoint, how large the city is, we know in law enforcement that you are going to have issues. A lot of those issues are centered around the narcotics industry. What I think is important is we pay attention to exactly what’s going on. This last week there have been, like you indicated, a couple of shootings and they have all indicated or had some nexus to drugs. From my standpoint, are our investigators looking at the data to find out where could we have interceded in these drug transactions, working with our other law enforcement partners, which from just being here seven days in my short meeting with those folks, we are working together well with all of our federal and state partners throughout this region, just making sure that we, one, continue to try to prevent those crimes from happening and, two, working with the prosecutor and the judicial process that we continue to try to identify, arrest and prosecute those folks who are offenders.

You mentioned social influences as well as crime influences on the safety of the community and the police department in your speech. What are those social influences?

The social influences of homelessness, it impacts crime and the perception of crime. We had an event last night at Mayor Pope’s Community Engagement meeting and we were talking about some of the social influences that are not strictly police related. Law enforcement has generally been seen as an entry point into government. So as that our Homeless Outreach Team officers, we come in contact with a lot of people who are suffering from some type of mental illness or some type of PTSD that has forced them to be in some of the situations that they are in. We are not, as police officers, psychological professionals. It’s important for us in law enforcement to understand what resources are out there for our community. So, when we come in contact with these folks, we can direct them to the right resource to help them. From a social standpoint, we are making sure we are tune to what’s available and what’s going on in our community. So, that, one, affects us in crime and how we can reduce that. That’s just one of the social influences that from a law enforcement standpoint that I see affecting us the most is our homeless population and dealing with our mental illness issues. Those are not in and of themselves police related issues but they are social issues that affect law enforcement and making sure we are getting those folks to the right resources.

There is a community that is very excited that you will be leading this police department, the black community, because they see they will be represented in a way they haven’t been before. Do you see that and are you proud to be able to do that?

Absolutely, I’m very proud to be able to do that. I think it’s important to understand that I am the police chief for everyone in this community, no matter what their social, economical or racial identification is. But, it’s not lost on me that I’m an African American and the first black police chief here in Lubbock. But, I think it’s important to understand that I’m a professional police officer as well. I will lead this police department from that standpoint. But, I am happy about the recognition in that community that they have someone here that identifies with them, but I identify with the entire public as well. So, I’m excited to be here.

What is it that keeps you putting on the badge each day and wanting to come to work to protect and serve?

I say this time and time again, I love what I do. I love what I do. Like I say, putting on the badge and coming to work each day, this isn’t work. This isn’t work. This is fun. I love identifying and trying to solve complex social and law enforcement issues. I love working with great people. Day in and day out, those who enter this profession love what they do. They love being public servants. They love serving the community they are in. this is fun. It is work but it’s fun work. So, that’s why I put it on each day.

You are probably wearing the badge all the time, so to speak. It’s not really something you can turn away from at the end of the day, but when you do leave headquarters each day what is something you hope to have accomplished in that day?

I hope I have built a relationship or strengthened a relationship already there. I hope I have modeled the behavior my community wants me to model. I hope I have modeled the behavior that makes my police officers proud to call me their chief. I hope everyone here understands that we are going to treat everyone internally and externally with dignity and respect. There is great pride with professional policing and that can be done. That’s what I hope we do each and every day.

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