Following the announcement of Ron Lawrence being named as the new Citrus Heights police chief, The Sentinel gave the incoming chief an opportunity to answer several background and policy questions as a personal introduction to the community — including questions on current issues of homelessness and body cameras.
Chief Lawrence will officially take position as top cop in Citrus Heights, effective Oct. 31 of this year. The 46-year-old currently serves as police chief in Rocklin, a position he has held for the past five years.
According to a bio provided to The Sentinel, Lawrence began his career in law enforcement in 1989, graduated from the FBI National Academy, and holds a Master’s in Leadership and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. He is also the 3rd vice president of the California Police Chiefs Association, which represents over 300 police chiefs across the state.
The following questions were answered via email this week by Chief Lawrence and are provided in unedited form:
What initially led you to a career in law enforcement and how did you get to where you are today?
“I grew up on a rice farm in Sutter County, and didn’t grow up wanting to be in policing. As a teen, I interrupted two separate residential burglaries at our ranch house, which probably had some influence on my future. When I graduated high school, I began actively job searching when I found the Sacramento County Sheriff’s academy was accepting non-paid recruits. I applied and paid for my own way through the academy. I suppose you could say I stumbled into the profession by chance.”
You also work as an adjunct university professor (William Jessup University). What kind of classes do you teach and how do you balance your time obligations?
“I teach Introduction to Criminal Justice (a lower division course), as well as Criminology (an upper division course). I truly enjoy interacting with the students and presenting a real-world application of the criminal justice system. I teach part-time as William Jessup needs; about every other semester. Classes are held in the evenings so it doesn’t interfere with my police chief role.”
What are two accomplishments at Rocklin PD that you’re most proud of?
“There are a lot of things I am proud of accomplishing at Rocklin. We lowered the crime rate consistently during my tenure and finished each Fiscal Year with a balanced budget, often under budget, yet always accomplished the strategic goals we had set with City Council. During my tenure we led the department out of the Great Recession, navigated two historic shifts in the California criminal justice system; Prison Realignment (AB109) and the Safe Neighborhoods initiative (Prop 47), and reduced, then rebuilt staffing levels as a result of the Recession. What I am most proud of though is the people. Rocklin PD has truly caring and skilled policing professionals who police the community with empathy and compassion. I will miss the great people dearly.”
What kind of changes can Citrus Heights residents/businesses expect to see with you as police chief?
“Fortunately, Citrus Heights PD has an stellar reputation throughout the region and state. Chris Boyd has truly built a winning team who are committed to protecting the City. I have had an opportunity to tour the department and meet many of the professionals protecting Citrus Heights, including a special briefing with the Command Staff. The residents and businesses can expect me to build on an already fantastic police department, driving us to excel to greater levels.”
You’ve described police officers more as “guardians of the community” rather than “law enforcement.” Share a bit more about your policing philosophy and the role you see police playing in a community.
“Some communities view the police as a branch of government that simply writes traffic tickets and arrests criminals. Their experience is limited to what they watch on TV, social media, or may have experienced themselves. But the policing profession is far more involved and complex. Enforcing laws is not who we are as a profession; enforcing the laws is a function of our job. By definition in the California Penal Code, we are ‘Peace Officers,’ who have sworn an oath to keep the peace, which may or may not include writing tickets or making an arrest. My philosophy is that we are guardians of our community, partnering with our residents and business owners to keep us safe. To keep the peace.”
[Wondering why a new police chief was needed in Citrus Heights? See story from July: Citrus Heights council appoints police chief as new city manager ]
What has your experience been like with body-worn cameras at Rocklin PD, and would you seek to bring the technology to Citrus Heights?
“We have outfitted our patrol officers with body-worn cameras and they have been effective for Rocklin, but I don’t see them as a panacea for our profession. There are complications and expenses. For example, police officers often deal with complex calls and find people who are experiencing embarrassing or vulnerable situations. We work hard to provide dignity and respect for everyone, and cameras recording everything is not always appropriate. Storage of video is a huge expense and something that has to be considered; whether a stand-alone server is used or we pay for the virtual cloud. My position is that this is a valuable technology that will become a more common policing tool, but I prefer to wait until some of the issues are resolved to ensure Citrus Heights PD has the very best and most effective equipment.”
[See results from a 2015 CHPD study on body cameras: Citrus Heights police chief says body cameras ‘likely,’ but too early]
How do you plan to address homeless-related issues in Citrus Heights?
“Citrus Heights has recently drafted a very good program to help address homelessness, to include employing a homeless navigator. Homelessness has increased across California, and it’s important to recognize that this has to be addressed regional scale. I don’t believe most people who are homeless woke up one day and decided to choose that lifestyle. Rather many suffer from addiction issues such as alcohol or drugs, and some suffer from mental illness. Our role is to try and interrupt or break those cycles of addiction, or identify those suffering from mental illness, and try to redirect them to good programs to help them towards a more stable lifestyle. We also need to ensure the community isn’t victimized by crimes that are often associated with homelessness by taking enforcement action when appropriate.”
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Following the announcement of Ron Lawrence being named as the new Citrus Heights police chief, The Sentinel gave the incoming chief an opportunity to answer several background and policy questions as a personal introduction to the community -- including questions on current issues of homelessness and body cameras.
Chief Lawrence will officially take position as top cop in Citrus Heights, effective Oct. 31 of this year. The 46-year-old currently serves as police chief in Rocklin, a position he has held for the past five years...
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