Welcome to Elements of Community!
I am your host, Lucas Root, and in this episode, we are going to talk about breaking authority barriers through leadership. Joining me in this episode is Mark Bustillos. Mark is the Chief of Police in Concord since April of 2020. Previous to that, he spent 29 years in the police department working his way through various ranks, and ended up in Concord. He has been serving the community for about two years now.
Here’s just a taste of our talking points this week:
Creating a Better Place for the Community
Mark has learned a lot of lessons all throughout his career. Including the good and bad. And what works in various communities around language, ethnicity, income, poverty, and commonality of interest.
In law enforcement, when they are working on building a community, they want people to understand that they are there to help them have a better life and let them know that they’re in a safe spot to do whatever it is that they’re doing, whether it’s recreating a business.
Concord has 130,000 residents, Mark has 130 officers, It’s not a lot. What do they depend on? They depend on the cooperation and their force multiplier is a community that they can work with and support whether it’s a problem or just to make places better.
Helping the Badge of Authority Become Leaders
The core of what Mark wants his folks to be is to become the leaders in the community that people can trust. They can flag down and be independent problem solvers.
He wants to see his officers in the shopping ranch 99 markets buying tortillas, walking through the supermarket, and engaging with people. Which is a simple way of letting the community know that they are not just looking for criminal activity, but they are out there as an asset and to be of service to the community.
Other subjects we covered on the show:
- Some of Mark’s experiences where the elements of the community show up powerfully.
- How does Mark reapply the elements of community framework as a Chief of Police in Concord?
- Does Mark’s force understand what they are working towards?
- How does a common value in a common language issue work in Mark’s community?
- Ways on how Mark deepens the shared value and the shared language in his community.
If you want to know more about Mark Bustillos, you may reach out to him at:
[00:00:00] Welcome to Elements of Community podcast about discovering and exploring the Elements of Community. I am Lucas Root, and each week we talk with a community leader about what makes their communities thrive and bring value to both the leaders and the members join me as we unpack the magic of the elements of Community.
[00:00:38] Mark. Thank you very much for joining us.
[00:00:41] Great. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:42] Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself?
[00:00:45] Yes. My name is Mark Bustillos. I'm the chief of police in Concord, I have been since April of 2020 previous to that, I spent 29 years as a police department working my way through various ranks. And I ended up here in Concord and in here about two years now.
[00:01:02] Lucky us 29 years. That's amazing.
[00:01:05] Yes, it's been a three decades is a long time in law enforcement. Certainly lots of changes from when I started in 92, which was right at the onset of the Rodney King Riots. A couple of summers ago, the George Floyd Riots.
[00:01:20] So, you know, we've come full circle and have a ways to go. Certainly.
[00:01:24] Yeah, we do. Obviously we're here to talk about community. I bet you've learned a lot about community in those times.
[00:01:31] I have, I've actually learned a lot of lessons. Good and bad kind of what works in various communities around language, around ethnicity, income, poverty, commonality of interest. And one of the things that certainly in law enforcement, one of the things we see when we work to build community is that we want people to understand we're there to help them have a better life that they're in a safe spot and they can do whatever it is that they're doing, whether it's recreating a business.
[00:02:04] And we can't do it alone. Concord, it's 130,000 residents. I have 130 officers, you can do the math. It's not a lot. So what do we depend on? We depend on the cooperation and as our force multiplier is a community that we can work with and support on common, whether it's a problem or just to make places better.
[00:02:28] Absolutely. So we talked about the framework.
[00:02:32] And there's the five elements of community. And in your 30 years, have you seen examples where this really shows up powerfully?
[00:02:43] Oh yes, absolutely. I can give an example, project hope in San Jose. That sounds fun. Yeah. Well it, you know, it was interesting because it was an area where I grew up and grew up near.
[00:02:54] It's one of those things that many cities have where it's the entry point for folks, oftentimes that come to the United States. And it had been the entry point since I was a child and I was working out there in my forties. And it really hadn't changed over time. And one of the things I noticed was what can I do as a leader with some sway with city hall, with different departments as well as the police department to make the community better, because it has always been challenged with crime street-level crime, especially around gang issues. And there was a nearby school that one of the things I noticed right away, I hadn't worked in that area for awhile was the moms would all walk their kids to school.
[00:03:43] And for me, that was the natural place to start. If we're going to build something where they're going to trust the police more and we're going to build community. It had to start there at the school with frankly mothers who were walking young children in elementary school and that's frankly where I started.
[00:04:01] And I'll be honest, it was a collective between myself, a city council member, and I used some leverage on code enforcement and other things that can make a neighborhood look better and feel better about itself. And we went and our first meeting, we had 10 people. And it was like, well, why are we here?
[00:04:21] And I said, well, you came for a flyer, obviously, you thought there might be something of interest here for you. And I laid out my plan, which was essentially we can make the neighborhood better. You can feel safe that maybe your kids can even walk themselves to school. It's kind of the way I grew up, I walked myself to school, not uphill and downhill. Like you tell your kids, but nonetheless, I walked to school since I was a tiny kid.
[00:04:46] But you do tell your kids that, sorry. Right?
[00:04:48] Yeah. Across the major highway, right?
[00:04:50] Across, barefoot, right?
[00:04:51] Exactly. No snow in California for me, but nonetheless I knew this was a group of people that would resonate that wait, I want my kids and it's heavily impacted apartment kind of neighborhood and kids play in the street and it's dangerous.
[00:05:06] And there's cars parked everywhere. It's always one of the issues is impacted neighborhoods. And they're playing soccer in the street and we has a case where a couple of kids were hit over a period of time. Like these are things we can make a direct impact on with the community's health.
[00:05:25] And so we went about laying out the groundwork of here's the grand plan. You help us, we help you. One of the fascinating, if you will, things in the neighborhood, that's a transitional neighborhood or where people first immigrated, frankly, they want to get out of the neighborhood as fast as possible. It's hard to build community because everybody who's there that their desire is I want to be somewhere else.
[00:05:49] And it's an interesting dynamic where people are like, well, I'm only here for six months. I'm only they'll tell you in English or Spanish. Oh no. I'm only here for a year when you would go knock door to door saying, Hey, we're trying to get this community meeting going. We want to hear what you need to make this a better place for your kids.
[00:06:07] A better place where you feel comfortable with it could walk to school, which is only three blocks and not feel something negative is going to happen because there had been some issues with some individuals fighting, some gang violence shootings like that type of thing. The first lowest hurdle was, well, I'm only going to be here six months to a year because that's the mindset. I got to this country, I know this is a transitional neighborhood and I want to get out. I'm happy to report. The program started probably six, seven years ago. It's still going and it's not so transitional anymore. I'm not taking any credit for that. I think the neighborhood takes credit for that where one of the things is people in transition will have a used mattress.
[00:06:52] They're going somewhere else. They just leave the mattress on the curbside. And that was an easy fix because like I told law enforcement, can we do a cleanup day? That on this day, everybody can bring out their junk and the citizens are like yeah, that'll work. And we felt the first year we filled like 10 dumpsters, big 20 yard dumpsters of stuff.
[00:07:15] But right away the moms, I would interact with them on a monthly basis.
[00:07:20] They're happier.
[00:07:21] Well, they're like looking around like the couch isn't there for months anymore. The mattress against the wall is not there. So I came through for them. And I think you had, when you start to build community, who says, I saw it, they saw the purpose was to make the neighborhood better.
[00:07:37] And I came through on something that I could do for them. In terms of leveraging city hall.
[00:07:42] You organized a project.
[00:07:43] Yes, exactly. And it had some value to them using the framework, right?
[00:07:48] And so that was really the platform that we built of. And then it was incorporating bringing officers out to play soccer.
[00:07:55] Certainly we addressed the crime issues and it became, as it became more robust, it really only became, there were only three or four problem apartment specific targeted areas that we could focus on. And that came as the community began to trust us, even some of the mothers like, well, I'm not quite sure I'm ready to let them go to school by himself But I can see him go to three blocks. So that was the stepping stone where I can watch my second grader walk three blocks and then make the right turn into the school. That was a success for me. I said, alright, that's going to take a while So you're fully comfortable that you stay in your apartment and you taught them walk with friends in a group.
[00:08:34] When we instituted a whole safety program for them. And I'll be honest. It was really on the road to success. And we had a setback. We had a homicide in the neighborhood and it was unfortunately witnessed by many of the same children. We were building up to be self-reliant to walk to school, the neighborhood safe.
[00:08:56] And we were, it's hard not to look defeat. We felt defeated. Our team felt defeated. Kids are back in their apartments. Nobody wants to leave. Nobody wants to walk to school anymore. Everybody thinks it's going to happen to them.
[00:09:10] Yeah. Tomorrow.
[00:09:11] Yes. Thankfully we had another community meeting. This one was very robust and a lot of folks wanting the answers and the reality was.
[00:09:22] Hold on.
[00:09:23] Go ahead.
[00:09:23] So if you had people showing up wanting answers that all by itself shows progress. Because you had to train them to believe that they could actually get answers.
[00:09:35] Yes. And that they had a voice.
[00:09:37] Yeah, they were not home. They showed up, I mean, angry and demanding, but they showed up with the expectation that they would get answers, which is a huge step.
[00:09:45] Like I can understand why you were defeated, but what I hear is amazing progress. Like you went from a neighbor. That was not a community where five people showed up to your first meeting or 10, whatever, it was nothing. Because they believed that they had no voice. They believed that there was nothing to gain from showing up and meeting with you and, interacting with you.
[00:10:08] Like, why would I waste my time into this horrible scenario that created this opportunity for you to see that progress, which is amazing.
[00:10:20] The upside of that is in fact, on that particular case, several of the youth that we've been working with, and we're talking really second to fifth graders contacted us in other ways not in the neighborhood face-to-face we solved the homicide within 48 hours based on, oh, that was so-and-so's brother came over and he was mad.
[00:10:44] And unfortunately these kids saw the trauma. And he also knew the story.
[00:10:49] And once we made that quick arrest with the neighborhood's help, it was only a matter of weeks til they were walking to school again. So there's that initial trauma of getting over? Oh God, here we go again, to excuse me, wait, this was very localized.
[00:11:07] The police did do what they said they were going to do. They did come back. They still held the regular meetings and we continued on with the program. So it was more of a speed bump. And I could translate that in Spanish. I speak Spanish. I couldn't think of the word for speed bump. I call it the speed bump. Right.
[00:11:22] But more than that, they actually helped.
[00:11:25] They were instrumental and that's telling them that we couldn't do what we did without them is the total buy-in for the program where we're here to be servants to you to make your community better. But we can't make it better if you don't help us. But we need to know where you need help. And some of the things, you know, we're outside the police lane, but we still handled them where a lot of the kids, I mean, there's small things, but they really made a difference in giving back to community.
[00:11:57] Cleaning up the garbage is outside the police lane.
[00:12:01] There was a major intersection.
[00:12:02] You made a huge difference.
[00:12:04] So the weird function is the kids all are in San Jose. They go to one school. But direct programs are all in another city and it's crossing the large three lane kind of Boulevard. They didn't have a way to do that safely. And so moms wouldn't let them go play soccer at the rec program or whatever.
[00:12:21] Is that across the street again by themselves.
[00:12:23] Yeah. I get that.
[00:12:26] Sending an officer out, even on a temporary basis to show them do it in mass, cross at the light, have a parent that can help teach and a parent have one in the front, one in the back shepherding this group of kids across became a problem solver. Right?
[00:12:43] So now it's okay to go take soccer classes or go play the soccer rec and whatever have you, because we've taught you how to cross the street safely with your parent volunteers, if you will. So again, small thing, but back to the important what's important these primarily the moms that are home during the day.
[00:13:03] What was important for them to see that the safety of their children? Yeah. So to me that was a success it's ongoing. The community works well with the department, their staff. And there are moments of progress. There's still some step backs. But the interesting thing is, I wouldn't call it to my knowledge anymore.
[00:13:25] A straight transitional neighborhood. Some folks have now are like, well, we're centrally located the rent is right. The neighborhood's pretty good. And we can walk to school. Why would I move?
[00:13:37] So it's been, you know, I don't know what it's done to rents, but it's definitely been an upswing where the neighborhood has changed, the dynamic has changed.
[00:13:45] And, and I think the interesting part of that is when it comes to when you hear and over hear, one mom telling another newer mom who's just showed up at the school with their kids and they just move. And that's not the way we do it here in terms of no, we let our kids walk together to school, that type of thing that became, there was a way that the communities saw. It's the way we do it here. And I would say that that was a positive outcome of building community.
[00:14:13] That is almost a common language all by itself. Like the kids, this is how the kids do it. They walk together to school.
[00:14:19] Yeah. Exactly. And so, that would probably be one of the things I think really quickly about building community, especially with law enforcement, it's not in the traditional, we're only here to solve crimes.
[00:14:32] We're actually here to make the neighborhood better.
[00:14:36] I would argue, and this is me being out of my lane. So I hope it's okay. I would argue that it's not actually the primary job of police officers to solve crime. I think that's a secondary. Your job is actually to make a neighborhood, hopefully a community, but at least a neighborhood safer.
[00:15:00] And sometimes that means you have to solve crimes in order to do that. Right? So the secondary job is actually solving the crime.
[00:15:07] Yeah, no, I would say the first is that when you build that safety and security prevention is really what it is. And then when things aren't permitted the secondary part, I would agree with then is solving crime, you were best fashion so that people are penalized and things curve when you break the law. So there are consequences. I would agree with that for sure.
[00:15:26] Cool. Thanks for tolerating me stepping outside my line. Very cool. That's a great story. How can you take what you learned and hopefully what you've learned from the framework and our discussions. How can you take that and reapply it as the chief here in Concord?
[00:15:46] Well, actually I've already started to do that. One of the things, on the first year was interesting was, well, I'll call it a hundred percent COVID, year two was 80% COVID meaning the restrictions were lessened for a short period. And then we went back to mask and that's made things unusual, a little bit different, but business has to continue my business police work.
[00:16:06] We didn't, we don't take a day off. We continue to work through pandemics or whatever else happens. One of the things that I was able to collectively identify was as let's say, the veil, a pandemic was being lifted and things were opening up again, then parks, building community around parks. And a big part of my career, a big part of my personal life in terms of the importance of parks.
[00:16:30] And you grew up in a neighborhood. There are two things for me that were important, child was the library. Cause I love to read and it was free in public, in a park it's free and public and you can recreate and go there and just be home by dark time. And I wanted to bring some of that here to Concord.
[00:16:49] So it took me a year to understand which parks serves which neighborhoods and what's working, but it was kind of influenced by COVID because everything the tot lot was marked off. So toddlers couldn't come out and play. So people weren't really using the parks and to give me a real kind of estimate of how often they're used.
[00:17:10] But one of the things I said is, parks have to be safe for families. This is about building community that I want my parks. It's not mine, but our parks in Concord.
[00:17:21] It is yours. I mean, it's not only yours, but it is yours.
[00:17:24] I want the parks to be safe for children, for moms and dads, whomever, the safe place to recreate. We have some dense housing and their only outside space may be a park. And it's hugely important to me that they can go and the parks are there to use. I know I got some rolled eyes, but we st started some park walk talks, meaning I authorized some overtime for officers not taking calls for service, not making stops.
[00:17:53] Their sole function was to drop in at parks and there was an issue and there always are red lane, fire lane parking they'd write a parking ticket, but they passed out stickers to the kids. And this is ongoing and they play soccer, they throw in a football, they remind people gently at park that little dogs need to be on leash or no dogs depending on the park in Concord.
[00:18:16] And actually, it was a positive setup because I think some of my officers are like, oh my God, what are we doing now? And the result has been twofold. I've had officers come and tell me, I really forgot how much fun it is to engage with the public when there's no agenda, I'm not stopping crime.
[00:18:36] I'm not looking somebody. I'm out there to say, hey, how you doing? How's your day? How's it going? Throwing the ball with the kid. People are especially the little guys under six, curious about the badge and all the tools you want to show and tell, hey, this and this and that. Making parents feel like, wow, the police know the parks here.
[00:18:56] Some of our parks are set back and they're fairly deep meaning that they face the front of the street, but they go back several hundred yards. The deeper you go into a park, the less safe you may feel. And I didn't want that. So my guys, my middle women are out there walking these parks, talking to people, knowing we're out here patrolling the parks to say, hi, see what problems are. And one of the outcomes has been.
[00:19:20] But you're not really patrolling. You are actually engaging.
[00:19:23] Yeah. Cause the first way I said, I just want to know what's going through my eyes and ears. I go to the park and I see what I see more I have going out. Then we could build around themes of now this park, I get a lot of email complaints about the illegal parking, the double parking and a couple of random enforcement days and take you alleviate people, get tired of their car getting towed, or getting a red tag ticket.
[00:19:50] I get that.
[00:19:50] And it alleviates, it's like magic, right? Suddenly like, oh, I can't take the risk. I don't want to take the economic risk. And so we penalize perhaps bad behavior. The upside of that is other people see that it matters how they behave at the park. We've had a few instances. Someone's had too much to drink.
[00:20:09] And they re-escorted away and dealt with accordingly, whether it was taken home or arrest was necessary. Each is an individual case. People see the parks matter, it matters to the police department, it matters to the community. We've had more people showing up at our parks now I don't want to take full function, full credit for that for my team.
[00:20:32] I think that's a functional people just want to be outside, especially with COVID. So it's a safe place.
[00:20:37] So framework question is more people showing up to the park. Is that common language or is that a common project?
[00:20:49] I'd say that's a common project.
[00:20:51] Okay. What's the project?
[00:20:54] For me. It's the park is a safe place to recreate and you can go there anytime that it's open and feel safe with your kids or your kids can go there by themselves to reacreate and not be hassled or having any kind of issues come up. And so for me, that would be the framework piece. You it a different.
[00:21:15] I think that play is a language.
[00:21:23] I can buy into that. No, no, for sure. And that's a commonality where we want recreation play to be the language of use at the park.
[00:21:30] Yeah, exactly.
[00:21:32] That makes sense.
[00:21:34] That's fun to think about. I probably wouldn't have thought about it and I think, yeah, I think play is a language. And so when more people are showing up playing, you're actually broadening access to common language, which brings people into the community.
[00:21:49] Yes and there's always other tangible items that get drawn into projects. One of the upsides that I had thought about, but not deeply based on some email responses. We've sent out some of our younger officers. And so in Concord, a lot of our younger officers are different ethnicities, different languages spoken, female officers.
[00:22:13] It's been a great recruiting tool in the sense of unintended positive consequences of, Hey look, mom, so-and-so, she's an officer and she had a gaggle of kids, like following her through the park, young girls, look, Mom. And I think it's very powerful statement, say, Hey, look, you can do this. And she's in a position of authority and these little girls are looking up to her and it's achievable.
[00:22:41] That's something I can do. And she's really a young, energetic officer, the one that I'm thinking of. So in that regard, I got a ton of emails and I'm like, wow, okay. There's more to this because I have Spanish speaking officers and in some parks where that language is spoken. So putting a little more thought into who's where, and it's the same thing.
[00:23:04] I can do that. And he speak Spanish. Hey, check that out. There's no, I have to do this. Or I have to grow up and be that it's, sky's the limit. Look at this person, they're communicating in a language of sorts. But they're also a position in the power of Power authority, but there is an authoritarian, authoritarian, jumble, my words.
[00:23:25] And people come maybe from a culture where that's to be feared, but now they're approachable. They're smiling. They kick the soccer ball. They are using the language. That's culturally competent with the folks that are there and it's like, well, wait.
[00:23:42] Soccer is a project, but it's also a language.
[00:23:46] Yeah , absolutely. Big success on that.
[00:23:49] I love it.
[00:23:50] Because several of our parks with a lot of little kids. Now, they see a soccer ball being kicked by a couple of officers. The next thing you know, there's like a gaggle of kids running around like this amoeba with a ball. And again, their primary function is just to be seen, make contact.
[00:24:08] They're right there in the middle of doing what we want to do. We are building community in terms of trust. We're not here to take your money. We're not here to steal from you. However, you might see that in another country, we're here to be somebody that you can talk to. It can help that when there's a little accident, so they walked over and they helped with the exchange of information.
[00:24:33] And kids are like, you know, you have this whole audience of kids, what are they gonna do? Are you gonna arrest him? Are you gonna run? No, it's just an accident. We don't just arrest people. You know? So explaining to some of the older kids, some of the functions, you know we only arrest people. No. Or we only take police reports on accidents.
[00:24:51] No, that's not true. We're out here. Sometimes we just facilitate the conversation where people need an exchange of information. They can go on their way because accidents happen. So it it's as educational for my folks as it is for folks in the park.
[00:25:06] That's fantastic. Yeah. So you can have authority without being a leader, right? The two things are separate. You can be a leader without having authority.
[00:25:17] Again, the two things are separate and it sounds to me like what you're talking about is putting these two things together in your force. Each of your force members who has authority, right? The badge is authority. You're helping them become leaders as well.
[00:25:32] Yeah. I mean, and that's, I think you put it more eloquently than I would have. That's absolutely the core of what I want my folks to be, to be the leaders in the community. That people can trust. They can flag down. They can be problem solved one independent problem solvers.
[00:25:47] When they're called let's face it. When somebody calls the police, it's not their best day. Generally. Oftentimes it's their worst day of their life.
[00:25:54] Oh, I called the police today. It's pretty good day.
[00:25:56] That might be an anomaly, right?
[00:26:00] I got escorted into a police officer's office.
[00:26:02] And a cup of coffee, so it's all good right? But, you know, in my experience is having to remind folks, when you show up on a 911 call, that's generally the only time a person has ever interacted with the police. Now I'm looking to change that. I don't want my folks to just be in the car.
[00:26:23] We're having a big emphasis on that right now. Get out and talk to, I want to see you in the shopping ranch 99 market, or I want to see you at a little stretch arrows, go buy tortillas, go buy your lunch. Walked through the supermarket wave at people say hello, you are a member here. You worked for them.
[00:26:42] Let them know who you are. You're not just looking for criminal activity, you are out there as an asset and as a problem solver, you know, sometimes we have to embark directions, which was a novel thing for me, coming to Concord, I knew about Barton had written it and it's like, oh no, you want to go the other direction.
[00:27:02] You want to go towards San Francisco towards the Embarcadero versus the other direction when you had some tourists. So, you know, a little new caveat to my job.
[00:27:11] Yeah. Giving directions. Well, I mean, it can come with the territory of being a leader.
[00:27:19] No, absolutely.
[00:27:20] Yeah. Very cool. I love it. Do your force get it, do they understand what they're working towards? Do they understand that when they go play soccer, they're building, they probably don't know the words that you and I are using now, but do they understand they're building common language?
[00:27:39] I don't know that I have explained it with common language, they know something's happening.
[00:27:43] And it's positive because I have interactions with the folks that do it, and it makes them smile. And something that's happening. And it's like, well, I'm assuming we're building kind of an organic Relationship with our community. And that's who we serve. We're servants. And people need to remember that, especially our folks. I mean, there's a bit of a culture change here in that I've done a Concord and collectively we're moving in that direction is we're here to serve the residents of Concord in whatever capacity that we can within the limits of our authority.
[00:28:18] Right. But that doesn't mean, one of the things that sometimes we're siloed as a department, I want people to think outside the box to befriend people in code enforcement, to know people in the building to know the parks and rec director that we have parks. We have robust parks and rec programs, specifically around swimming issues stroke lessons, et cetera, know what everything that's going on in Concord, because you are an asset to people.
[00:28:46] Ans you don't know when you need that. I've been in situations where you go to a disturbance where the child is misbehaving. And the parents are at wit's end. Like we don't know what to do with the person. Is that one thing doing any sports? Part of the problem solving is having, knowing what's out there.
[00:29:09] Hey, you know, Concord has a pretty robust parks and rec program. It's got a sliding scale and it's pretty robust and you know, maybe ballets appropriately, maybe karate is something they want to look into.
[00:29:23] I think every kid should learn karate, like a hundred percent, all of them.
[00:29:27] Well, both my kids did, one came the level of black belt and the other just under that.
[00:29:32] Very impressive.
[00:29:34] But we spar together and that was always fun. Maybe that's so much for me as they go to large teenagers. Yeah, I think there's a level of confidence that's built from doing something to training. It could be an instrument, it could be martial arts, but I know that some of the successes of my children, they lean back and they look that there was a person of authority that gave them direction that taught them how to be disciplined. It wasn't their parent, cause I just watch wasn't their parent and they excelled in that and they learned some concepts in that that helped them through school that helped them through college. And now as young adults out in the working world and they're finding their way.
[00:30:22] That's amazing. Yeah, I love it. We could expand this idea, but it requires leaders and it requires leaders that have seen the value that you're bringing to that common value that you're bringing out of the community that you're encouraging, you're investing into and it's growing.
[00:30:44] Oh, that's interesting. You're investing into it and it's growing.
[00:30:47] Yeah, no, no. I think, we have a young department here. And that's really what I'm looking to do is plant the seed with all these people, all the employees because one of the interesting things, and this is my first time taking over a different department than where I was as a deputy chief versus you're being quote — unquote the boss as the chief.
[00:31:08] People are what is he like? What does he want us to do? There's this whole aura of what are we doing now? What's the chief's focus going to be, and it's been a big change and it's like, my mantra has been, what do you like to do using the framework? What do you feel passionate about or purposeful about in terms of what is it that you'd like to do in patrol?
[00:31:36] They're folks that like, believe it or not to write speeding tickets, speeding is an issue on certain boulevards in Concord, they Excel at that. Others, they're like, huh? That's not really my thing, but I like to get out on foot and go talk to business owners. Okay. And I don't know that there's one right way.
[00:31:54] I've been very wide spectrum of as long as you're doing something to forward public safety and forward facing with the community. I'm okay with that. I know, arrest need to be made reports are taken. But then that free time, what is it you're doing that's engaging that you're not just driving in circles? Which drives me nuts.
[00:32:14] If you're just driving in circles, looking for criminal activity, that's like 1990. That ship sailed. Because if you don't know, and anyone listening for Concord, you know, we use intelligence led policing. We identify certain individuals who wanted a particular crimes. No, we go after them and make the arrest and hopefully adjudicate them through the system.
[00:32:34] We're not just driving in circles, looking for criminal activity. Now, if we build community with our business owners, with our folks in the park, they're calling us and telling us this suspicious activity is going on. This is what's going on. And then we accordingly go to that call. And low and behold, we find the suspicious activity, and sometimes we make arrest and that's where we have to partner again, there's only 140 of us.
[00:32:59] A thousand to one ratio.
[00:33:01] Yeah, exactly. We can't do it alone. We have to do it with the public support. You know, I know one of the things that's interesting in law enforcement has been to me that maybe in my next career. I'll do some masters, maybe I'll do my PhD on is what I call the inverted triangles in the police jargon the tip of the spear, the most important crimes.
[00:33:23] And they are, are your classmen felonies, your homicide, your rape, their egregious crimes. We want to penalize, not totally. We want to arrest and put people in jail and have them go through the process where people are responsible for it. So it's just bahavior. That's hugely important to us when you go out in the community, it's not unimportant to the community, but when you go out as community and small neighborhood meetings, if you take the triangle and you flip it upside down, the biggest things are the mattresses in the street, the boarded up windows, the parked car on the lawn.
[00:34:00] Because those are...
[00:34:02] Quality of life.
[00:34:03] That's actually a language in itself.
[00:34:06] Oh, interesting. Okay.
[00:34:08] Oh, it's just occurring to me now, but that is a language in itself.
[00:34:13] It's something people see every day that's lower level, but they see it every day. The car broken down. It has no wheels. It hasn't been towed. It's sitting on the street.
[00:34:24] We get to it when we get to it based on staffing, but that's where I get the most vociferous emails about why haven't you done anything? It's not when we have a homicide, why haven't you arrested that? I've never gotten an email. Why haven't you arrested that guy already? But darn it. I've gotten that RV's been there for days and needs to be towed, we gotten that email 10 times. Right?
[00:34:47] So what the community sees and will toerate in their neighborhoods. Is that bottom half of the triangle, but again, it's inverted, it's important to them at the top wide layer. Whereas for us, it's like now we need to get the robbers, murderers and the folks committing violent crime.
[00:35:06] And there's an intersection certainly in that middle part of the triangles. And that's the interesting part because a community that feels safe, we'll go to the parks. And we do a tremendous job in our violent crimes, make an arrest and getting convictions. So, you know, I try to promote that in terms of this is your agency, this is your community with your help. We've made these arrests, but that does not get the traction that we towed the RV that has been there for a week. It's just unbelievable, but I get it too. I mean, I live in the neighborhood. I had to look at the broken down RV out my window every day. I'd be that sending an email may I, may have in my community send that email, why is it still here?
[00:35:47] Right. So I understand that perspective too. And one of the time as the chief is take a step back and seeing the value in people need to see action taken on their concerns. Whether we may consider a low level or high level, they need to see some activity and action. And we try to be as responsive and customer service oriented as we can.
[00:36:11] Part of that is communication. Yeah. We're aware of it, we will get to it. Now, our timeline and your timeline may not intersect to the exact point, but it will get done. And that's one of the things I communicate a lot with frustrated citizens and residents that call in, we are aware we will get to it.
[00:36:32] We're a little, let's say backed up for lack of a better description. You know, we have some major crimes work. It takes all hands on deck to solve them in the 24, 48 hours. So some things get pushed to the side until we get back on track.
[00:36:50] This is fun. If you see it as a value, I see a common value in a common language issue. What they're doing when they write to you about that RV or that truck that's been sitting there for four days and has no wheels, what they're telling you is the value that I want in my community, part of it, part of the value, part of part of the purpose of the community, the value is cleanliness.
[00:37:13] Oh, absolutely.
[00:37:14] And so this is out of value.
[00:37:21] Absolutely. We get some issues around stores that are dirty, cause obviously code enforcement as well. I'll be honest. That was like a new thing for me. I always been a customer of code enforcement and using them, bring them in on situations I had in various commands I held the different department.
[00:37:42] But here, since I oversee code it is hugely important. And I see the demand from the residents in Concord. And so then that, you know, I have a different viewpoint of it. It's like, how is it that we can best serve our neighborhoods with where code is very important to keeping the value proposition as you put it that their neighborhood is whether clean is the right word or organized, or, some level of decorum is acceptable. Some level outside of that, it's not, and usually a function of code. And then therefore, you know, they want some activity around that.
[00:38:18] That's so cool. I'm enjoying the way that this is making me think about this. Awesome. Thank you, Mark. I really appreciate you showing up and having this chat with me and playing with me inside this arena.
[00:38:32] Like I said, I heard your five minute pitch. It was interesting enough and then was probably a pitch. I think it was interesting enough. I thought it was worthwhile to come on and have some open air, honest discussions, because frankly, to be honest with you.
[00:38:50] Usually as a police chief folks come in with an agenda. We have a problem with this. What are you doing about this? Or we don't like this policy that you guys have. We want to change your policy. Why do you have this policy? So this was kind of a breath of fresh air. One of the reasons I said yes, to be honest with you is we need to just have more conversations.
[00:39:13] I'm themed if that's even a word, but where it's just some dialogue, find out what's important to people that aren't agenda driven. Do you must do this, or we want to change in this. And then you're always responding versus fully understanding. What's important to people and getting a sense of hearing them, giving voice to our residents. Like this really is important.
[00:39:39] Yeah. Well, you're trying to look past the project to see the purpose.
[00:39:48] That's fun. Cause they come in, they have a project, that's their agenda. They have a project, I want to adjust this to fit my vision of what the world should be. Right. So let's change this policy.
[00:40:01] Let's change these codes. Let's whatever. Right. That's a project. But that project is being driven by a purpose, by a vision, by a goal. Like, I want my community, I want my neighborhood, I want my experience of the world to match something. Right. And you're trying to see past the project to the purpose.
[00:40:21] Right. And I I'll share one more, a little vignette with you. That's appropriate for Concord.
[00:40:25] Yes, please.
[00:40:26] On Todos Santos Plaza. There's an ice cream little Baskin-Robbins.
[00:40:31] And I would go in there. And it sees the high school kids. And if there's three or four, I buy then an ice cream cone and one day, a kid say, where's my ice cream? And I said, well, where's your backpack? I said, these kids are coming there. It's like, there was a group that they seem to go to. I'd go there once a week and different kids. And I think we're going out, I'd buy them ice cream if they had their backpack in their homework with them. Right. This kid. Well, I left it somewhere and I said, well, kids with backpack that are doing their homework get ice cream, a week later, he's there with his backpack, not on the, what it was in the backpack. It was books or shoes or whatever. But the point being that I wanted to just break barriers, especially with teenagers. Oh my God. There's the cops running or I'm afraid of the police.
[00:41:16] I was like, Hey, because they were really, it was odd. What flavor of ice cream you like? And they were looking at me strange, I'll have chocolate cone. And then the friend is like, gave me the, what about me? Look. And they got you too, what do you like? And I said, but don't start texting your friends cause I'm gonna run out of money.
[00:41:32] So whoever's here before and fire here. We're going to do that when I pop in. So if I have an agenda or purpose it's to break the barriers, build community and let people know, we're okay, come talk to us. We're human. And we want to talk to you and we don't just want to talk to you about crime. We want to see how you're doing? How can we be of help? Are there things we don't know if we're unaware, we can't facilitate solutions.
[00:41:58] So to reframe, what I see, what I hear of your purpose was to elevate your force from authority to leadership.
[00:42:10] Oh, absolutely. And that it's a day's work every day, that our folks are out in the field every day and night and evenings.
[00:42:17] And you're giving them projects that move towards that purpose. Right. And each of those projects walk in the park your project go to the Baskin-Robbins and buy ice cream once a week like that is a project like each of those projects builds towards the purpose of elevate the authority into leadership.
[00:42:40] You know, if I have a, yeah, no absolutely. Part of is purposeful in the sense of, we have a lot of young officers that have gone through their first civil unrest. And I can tell you it's traumatic. You have been through several hard scale ride is probably the best way to call their traumatic when you're young you're still aspirational as a police officer.
[00:43:06] I'm here to do well, to do good as it is. And then suddenly people are protesting what you do, the law, what you stand for, the authority that you hold. It really sends it somewhere. Your younger officers really like, oh my goodness, they don't like us, cause we're the police. They don't like us because I wear a uniform.
[00:43:27] Now wrap your head around that with we want to be open. And to as much as we can with language, race, whatever. And yet here we are all painted the same because we wear a uniform it's its own version, right?
[00:43:42] It is.
[00:43:43] And we're treated a certain way because people are upset about things that have happened nationally, sometimes a little late, but had a lot of young officers has really gunshot.
[00:43:55] Like, whoa, maybe the community doesn't support us, really kind of questioning purpose. What is our role in the society? And it's one of my ulterior motive is really getting out in the park, walk talks and getting out of the parks and the businesses. Once you reconnect with people on a one-on-one basis. It's not a crowd start to build that healing.
[00:44:19] Okay. I remember what the purpose is, why I took this job. We've had a lot of soul searching the young officers like, do I really want to do this? Spouses, do you really want to do this for 30 years? I don't really like you out there and dangerous, and I've made it a point with my staff. Identifying, trying to talk folks on a one-on-one basis.
[00:44:40] Internally giving them projects, purpose to reconnect with as COVID was a huge eliminator for us, reconnect with the population, with the residents of Concord. That is your purpose and it's there. And your supportive, the residents of Concord are wonderful, very supportive than other place, that you don't know that unless you get out and start talking to people and finding out, oh, well, okay. They are supportive.
[00:45:07] There are problems, certainly. And things to protest about, but with folks brand new into the job, it can be a big, scary thing. Like, oh my God, am I going to do with 30 years of riots? And well, hide my profession when I go to a cocktail party.
[00:45:23] Protest doesn't have to be a riot. I mean, some, but they don't have to be riots.
[00:45:29] No, we had wonderful peaceful protests here in Todos Santos Plaza during that time. And I think that was a Testament to the residents and to the folks that held the protest as well as to our crowd control. Let them, they have a point of view. They're doing it peacefully. We'll handle the traffic for them.
[00:45:48] Let them March do their thing. Okay. It's a rightful lawful, let them protest. But I think we, I don't know if you want to call it successful, but it was a successful, peaceful protest, an expression of their.
[00:46:01] It was a project.
[00:46:04] Interesting. And it's building towards a purpose. And by participating in that project, you're actually deepening the shared value and the shared language, at least with those people.
[00:46:16] Yeah. Cause I, you know, in that particular instance I was out there and I also had my officers talk to the people that not everyone's going to yell at. Some people are just out there because they want to have dialogue about something they're upset about.
[00:46:30] And to the extent that you can talk to them, tell them, you know, that was horrible. That's not how we do it here, but nonetheless, be human talk to them. It's not a, you know, we're not robotic, we're still human. And I have to remind my young folks that they're going to see a lot of changes. And I will say you're going to have three major changes in 30 years of law enforcement, most of folks who are going to work 30 years.
[00:46:57] And you got to go with the changes and if you don't, it doesn't work out well for you. So you gotta be able to be flexible for sure.
[00:47:08] Yep. Cool. Thank you.
[00:47:10] Yes, thank you.
[00:47:11] All right.
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