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WORLD FOCUS: Thin Blue Line

January 10, 2011
Lake Placid and Williamsburg, Va. have a lot in common. Both places are brand-name tourist destinations attracting visitors from around the world. Having a safe security environment is of vital importance.

By all indication, Lake Placid and Williamsburg are well served by their respective police departments.

David Sloggie, Williamsburg’s newly minted chief of police considers himself to be a lucky man, as noted in a recent interview. “We are blessed with the caliber of officers and civilian staff working at the Williamsburg Police Department. They are professional, exemplary individuals.”

Sitting is his spacious office at the police headquarters, surrounded by memorabilia that included a Scottish police helmet similar to one that may have been worn by a Scottish ancestor, Sloggie explained that what his force does reflects community values.

It means community-oriented policing that is engaged not just in crime prevention and crime-solving, but also fostering cooperation with the different segments of the community.

He noted that Williamsburg is a special place. Unlike many other small cities across the country, the ten square-miles of territory that his officers patrol, encompass not only business and residential neighborhoods, but is also home of one of America’s best- known historic sites and a college of great distinction.

“We are involved on every level in our community,” he said. “Based upon the tenants of integrity, dedication, honor and equal justice, our aim is to ensure that the Williamsburg Police Department’s culture improves toward excellence.”

Sloggie’s professional credentials are a mile long. They include decades as major in charge of the uniformed police and then deputy chief. He is a graduate of FBI National Academy, the Dignitary Protection School of the U. S. Secret Service, and the Police Executive Leadership School. He holds degrees in criminal justice from institutions of higher education.

“Police leadership is at a critical crossroads,” he said. “Many leaders are approaching retirement age. By the year 2020, most police officers in the United States will be those of the ‘millennial generation.’ We must assertively do more to develop future leaders now.”

He noted that although many police departments have a plan in place for hiring and training officers, most do not have a progressive strategy for replacing supervisors who are retiring. “Experience has shown that it is in the best interest of police departments to be proactive in developing future leaders.”

Sloggie acknowledged that for police leaders the challenge is how to develop, their own replacements. They must identify the desired traits in prospective supervisors and managers. This includes leadership skills such as communication, decision-making, interpersonal effectiveness, planning and organization among others.

Quoting Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great,” Sloggie said, “My goal is to put the right people on the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

He seems to be positioned well to do just that. Starting as a patrol officer with the Williamsburg Police department in 1976, he rose through the ranks, and on the way accumulated a lot of experience. “One of the most important ingredients of being effective as a police officer is the support and understanding of your family. They are the unsung hero’s in the police profession,” he said.

Sloggie recalled that it was his wife, Maureen, who once provided him and his men and women with coffee and snacks during an extended hostage-taking incident. “It was a dangerous situation that ended peacefully. But I am always concerned about the safety of officers on the street. They are excellently trained, still exposed to danger.”

Like veterans of wars, Sloggie also has a few stories up his sleeve. He recalled that before the WPD had a SWAT team or appropriate equipment, it was called upon to flush out a man who barricaded himself in a house. “We needed to throw a tear-gas canister through the window of his room. We duck-taped the canister to a brick, and one of our officers, a trained basketball player, had thrown it. But the brick landed instead in the room where I took up position. It hit me in my knee.”

The incident had a happy ending. The suspect surrendered, peacefully.

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.



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