Military and Police

Leading by Example, Police Chief Works the Streets on Thanksgiving

Every police officer wishes for that proverbial cop’s cop when it comes to a police chief or sheriff leading their law enforcement agency. I’ve served under a few who, in their own ways, telegraphed through actions how they were right there in the trenches, working alongside their street cops. I don’t mean crunching the budget while seated safely and cozily, hot coffee brewing on the exec office credenza. I mean getting geared and hitting the streets, like Indianapolis Metropolitan police Chief Bryan K. Roach.

According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) News, “Chief Roach has a tradition that he has been doing for years. Every Thanksgiving, he works patrol so that another officer can have the day off to be with family. This year, he took the place of an officer on North District Day Shift and patrolled the Broad Ripple area.”

Chief Roach has been the IMPD top cop for almost two years since being selected to fill the police chief role in January 2017. He leads a cadre of approximately 1600 sworn officers and 250 civilian support staff. Prior to achieving appointment to the top post, Roach acted as “a member of IMPD’s Executive Command Staff who served […] as the department’s assistant chief of administration under former [police Chief] Troy Biggs,” according to The Indy Channel. Roach held several executive administration roles prior to that post, endemically foretelling his ascent to the figurehead office known as police chief.

Other than the default of super small cop shops having no one else but the police chief to do all things law enforcement, including writing grants to acquire funds for new equipment or whatever is necessary, metropolis city police departments quite often relegate grant-writing duties to someone proficient enough, often a patrol officer and/or a civilian who has the acumen for the chronicling requisite details and the patience for such necessary tedium.

Not Chief Roach. Among other self-initiated protocols, he recently wrote his own grant and secured money for the hiring of 15 new street officers for three years, a multi-million dollar boost to his agency with zero cost to taxpayers, effectively bumping up his sworn strength. He had roughly 1,850 police personnel to tap for such a grant-seeking endeavor, yet he carried it out himself. More signs of a cop’s cop.

When Roach was sworn in as IMPD’s newest police chief in January 2017, he spoke of providing “meaningful services to the citizens.” Fostering collaboration among his police force and the public it serves is a principle Chief Roach holds dear. What better way to exude those and other meaningful principles than to actually suit up and work the streets on Thanksgiving, exhibiting mutual respect for his police peers?

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett once called Chief Roach an “exemplary officer” who at one time or another filled every single rank there is within the IDMP organizational structure. He is organically homegrown Indy PD.

Chief Roach rose to the police pinnacle, climbing the rungs since 1991. According to ABC-affiliate RTV6, Roach “was presented the Hulman Health Achievement Award by the Indiana Public Health Community for being instrumental in Indiana’s first law enforcement Naloxone program for opiate overdose victims, in 2015.”

Who wouldn’t want a police executive like Chief Roach leading the way and not forgetting roots? Some law enforcement agencies’ are mired in muck, doom and gloom…with figureheads thoroughly entrenched in politics while showing no inclination for crimefighting or supports for those who heed the pervasively perilous call.

Minority or Majority?

Is IDMP Chief Bryan Roach an anomaly?

Retired law enforcement officer Brian Sauls chimed in: “Years ago I worked for a small Sheriffs Office on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Sheriff or Chief Deputy or even both would take a shift. Yes, they were highly respected and the deputies would do anything for them.” That last sentiment epitomizes how street cops perceive their executive administrators (action following words) and go the extra mile to reciprocate the mutual respect. I say the extra mile because cops will do what is necessary regardless of a wondrously phenomenal or unmistakably abysmal leader at the helm.

As mentioned in the intro above, I’ve been under the command of both types; the distinctions can be polar, yet the job gets done by the grunts in the trenches. Make no mistake, gripe sessions among the rank and file are had quite often. Nevertheless, the mission gets accomplished, with good leadership, dubious leadership, or zero leadership, sign of an engrained oath.

It became lore that my fave police chief’s wife must have detested us because her husband treated his police force like his children: always looking out for them, to include leaving his police radio on throughout the midnight shift and when he was off at home. I later learned that he used earbuds. But when he keyed to talk, well, I am sure the wife wished she were dreaming away. I can imagine how that must have shaken slumber time…and I know I contributed with a few police pursuits (among other police din).

You see, it was not so much that our beloved chief second-guessed his street supervisors. He more-so chimed in when he thought some 03:10 hours banter was…inappropriate. Cops’ dark humor doesn’t necessarily abate, and it is not based in ill-will as much as it is in shaking off the stressors of the job.

This chief unwaveringly lent himself to his police contingent as well as the citizenry, authentically fulfilling his open-door policy. Forever smiling, my chief stopped, shook hands, asked about my family, even went to bat for me when I was battling cancer and teetering on losing my beloved police career because of an incurable disease which was winning at the time. I learned after the fact that my awesome chief spoke for me when I couldn’t muster the energy to do so for myself. Speaking before city council members and the mayor, pleading the case to situate me on light duty, was initiated by my chief. Light duty lasted for over one year, an unheard-of and precedent-setting arrangement for such an extended duration. I never had to ask for a thing and I was deeply grateful, still am.

But some things change in law enforcement circles. Conversely, a new chief took over the agency when that aforementioned incredible chief became ill and spiraled downhill fast. He retired and relocated to the Tennessee mountains where he became a small-town church pastor. Speaking of preaching, looks like Chief Roach has some pastoring abilities as well:

In a nutshell, my cherished police chief’s successor had plenty of words with zero actions to back them up. He was known as a prophet to the face while his back-stabbing agenda was carried out. Pitting people against each other seemed his standout skill. Skipping ahead, I let go of resentment long ago, even though that same chief continues to run aground the police agency I love. No more attention is deserved here. The likes of Chief Roach and my respected chief back in the day deserve the heralding and trumpeting.

It is my belief from both personal/professional experience that most police executives do hold their police personnel in high regard. It makes every bit of sense (humanitarian- and business-wise) that police bosses sincerely endear those busting butt in a thankless job while full knowing they may not return to HQ; any given nanosecond can deliver far-reaching consequences and infinite ramifications to any police force. How does anyone, leader or otherwise, not embrace that? It is a wondrous leader who physically and emotionally settles among his/her men/women that takes the pie, whether pumpkin on Thanksgiving or just a plain ole delicious glazed donut between calls for service on any given duty day.

Chiefs like Indy’s Bryan Roach do exist and unfailingly do the right thing. The Bayard, New Mexico police chief had some reflective words for Chief Roach on Thanksgiving, saying, “Good job Chief we share the same family values. I’m out as well for my troops, Chief Willy Kerin, Bayard, NM. Next year let’s share some pie.”

How does your chief or sheriff involve himself/herself within your agency? How does any boss anywhere treat you and your colleagues? Winner, winner, chicken dinner? Service before self?

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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