On Friday PERF reported survey results about officer retirements and resignations since June 1 and interviewed police chiefs whose agencies have experienced an increase in officer departures.

Today’s edition features police chiefs whose agencies have not had a recent increase in retirements and resignations. The chiefs explain why they believe their community support remains strong.


Yakima, WA Chief Matt Murray

We had protests here for about two weeks straight. They were all very polite and respectful, but there was clearly a strong feeling among the individuals associated with Black Lives Matter.

Given the national narrative, I think everyone in policing was feeling vulnerable and surprised at the anger and the concrete actions, such as defunding police. I think it surprised most of us, because we have been reforming for quite a while, and people seemed to be responding to that. I was concerned about officers’ morale, and I thought it was important to reemphasize what we were expecting and that officers are supported.

Yakima is a very supportive community, and we started getting overwhelming support: notes, letters, emails, cookies, cupcakes, people dropping by, etc. It was just amazing. We started to catalogue that, and every weekday we sent an email to our officers about everything that came in that day. The email has the same title every day: “Your community cares.” If there are notes from kids, we’ll scan them in. Sometimes there are 3 or 4 things in a day, and sometimes it’s just one phone call. But it was a steady drumbeat. We’ve also been using it in recruiting, particularly with officers coming from communities that aren’t really providing support.

The file of emails is now 72 pages long. That’s the single biggest thing I can point to that made a difference. Officers are feeling supported, and they sense that what’s happening here is not what’s happening in other places. They’re also feeling an appreciation for the job they have and their community.

When this first started, everybody was pretty tense and uptight, but things have really calmed. People are smiling, they’re happy, and they feel respected and protected. I think that is what the police need to feel. The last thing we want is for them to stop engaging in proactive policing because they’re afraid of something happening. So we need to reassure them that they have the support of their community.



Punta Gorda, FL Chief Pam Davis

We have 38 sworn officers. We had a tragic incident back in 2016 when a citizen was attending one of our demonstrations and one of the officers accidentally shot her. As a result, the chief and a couple others were terminated, and some resigned as well. After I got here, a couple more people resigned.

We hired about 14 people over the last couple years, and the experience level has varied. We have some people who are new to the agency but have 30 years of experience at other agencies, and we have others who are just out of the academy.

With COVID-19, we did the same things everyone else did, including responding to some calls over the phone and teaching officers when to wear PPE. There was a little angst, because officers were worried about catching the virus and taking it home to their families. If anyone had any possible exposure, we would immediately get the health department involved and get them tested. I think that helped them feel a little better and that we were doing everything we could to take care of them and reduce their exposure.

In the middle of all that, the George Floyd incident happened. Right away we put a message out to all our roughly 20,000 residents that acknowledged what happened, said we do not agree with what happened in that incident, and explained that we ban the chokehold here. Our population is 93% white, 4 to 5% African-American, and the remainder is Hispanic. We reached out to our black community right away, including the NAACP. We also kept an open line of communication with our officers.

We had two protests, both in June. That was brand new to some of our officers; they had never seen anything like that. The four female college students who organized the protests did a good job. We had a lot of communication with them. It was very peaceful, and the route was predetermined. There were about 1,000 people at each protest.

Before the protests, I had a frank conversation with our officers to let them know that they might be antagonized by protesters, and encouraging them to maintain good body language. But as the protests moved past officers, the majority of protesters were thanking the officers for being there.

We have a very supportive community. There are a lot of letters to the newspapers and letters to us thanking us for our service. People come by the department to thank us as well. All those messages of support are pushed out to the officers.

I was asked by several organizations about de-escalation and other police reforms. When I got here in 2018, I went through all the policies, and put in pretty much every policy that was in PERF’s Guiding Principles on Use of Force. So we already had the policies in place, which made our officers very comfortable. And we've implemented ICAT training. We were able to respond as soon as we were asked, so we didn’t get a lot of backlash. And we had already ordered body cameras, so when that question came up, we were able to say that the cameras were already on the way.

A lot of our new hires have really bought in to the agency and the profession. The believe in the profession, and morale has stayed high the whole time.

Chuck Wexler: Not every agency hires officers with 30 years of experience. Why do you recruit those officers?

Chief Davis: We can all imagine ourselves as that young, 22-year-old cop with the need to be fast and make arrests. I’ve found that as you get older, you start to see things differently. You mature and see that it’s about making a difference in the community, and you don’t have to go rushing into everything.

I find that my older officers complement the younger ones. They’re all mixed in together on these squads and go on calls together. It helps the younger ones realize that you don’t have to make arrests all the time. You also get satisfaction from spending time on the calls that don’t lead to an arrest but make a difference to the community.



Edmond, OK Chief JD Younger

Our population is about 95,000, and we’re on the north side of Oklahoma City. We have 122 sworn officers.

We didn’t just start community policing this year. We’ve had a community policing leadership council, which is made up of 11 citizens. That was created by a city ordinance in 1997. So we’ve been fully committed to this philosophy for nearly a quarter century. We have a significant commitment to citizens police academies, running two a year.

We’ve really tried to invest in relationships and  partnerships in our community over the last two decades, knowing that trust is the only currency we have, and we’re not the only ones who get to withdraw from that account. We’ve talked with our officers about how the actions of the officers in the George Floyd case really overdrew our trust account as a profession. We’re thankful that in Edmond we’ve been investing and saving for the day that that came. The relationships we had in place gave us the opportunity to respond to the questions that agencies around the country have been asked.

Shortly after the George Floyd incident, I started getting emails from mothers of children of color, particularly black children. They were sharing their heartfelt feelings about their concerns for their children, and they just wanted to talk to me. I called a couple of them and met them in person. A couple people became a small group of 10, and now, six months later, we’ve partnered with local schools and others in the community to create an initiative called Our Edmond. We’re talking about what we need to do to ensure that our community is the community we want it to be. These mothers share the anxiety they feel, some of their personal experiences, and some of their shared historical experiences. The thing that kept being said was, “I shouldn’t have to feel this way.”

So what can we do together to make it better? I don’t have a prescription or a solution, but I think that those kinds of conversations are fairly common in my community and allow us to see each other as fellow humans. We can work through some problems without feeling that there are really sides to the issue. 

Our city isn’t immune to the same problems that any other city has. We had eight protests after the death of George Floyd. We took some pretty extensive measures to make sure that we as the police department didn’t heighten tensions. We tried to stay out of the way as much as possible. We had that luxury because we weren’t experiencing the extremes that some other cities were.

Our department goes to extensive lengths to hire good people who have the values of public service. They come into our department understanding that we serve the community, we’re not a stand-alone entity, we are curious learners, and we want to improve. Because we hire people who are oriented that way, when these discussions about police reform come up, they have a paradigm of the world where they already want to improve all the time. It’s unfortunate that reforms are necessitated by negative actions, but our officers are not against improving. I think having people who look at the world that way puts us in a fairly good position to respond to these types of incidents.


Mount Pleasant, SC Chief Carl Ritchie

About 95,000 folks live in our town, and I have 166 police officers. As of today, we have no openings. Next week we’re getting ready to swear in people to fill the few openings we had. So we’re very happy about that.

I think when COVID hit, our officers knew that they were supported by the police department command staff and the town government. They had all the PPE, equipment, and testing they needed. Their families were cared for. They knew that they weren’t just going to be thrown out there in harm’s way.

We’re very community-oriented, and we have a very special community. One of the biggest frustrations when COVID hit was that we couldn’t keep having the same level of personal connections. We were so used to being involved in community events and going to various engagements. Fortunately, we have a robust social media presence, and we were able to use that to keep connecting with our community.

We had been doing a monthly reading patrol, where officers read to kids. When COVID hit, we prerecorded a weekly reading patrol to roll out every Saturday to stay connected with our kids. I also reached out to our community through written and video messages to reassure them that we were still here for them.  And I can’t tell you how many birthday parades we’ve done. I think that’s all helped our officers stay engaged during the pandemic, because they realize their community supports them.

When the civil unrest hit, I believe we were helped by the investment we’ve had in our community all along. I’ve been in this department for 32 years, including 9 years as chief, and I’ve developed relationships with community leaders in all parts of our community. They reached out to me to ask how they can help and offering support.

I was able to talk to demonstrators about their plans and their goals. We had one march with about 2,000 people that was very peaceful and organized. There was rhetoric about defunding the police, but as they walked past our officers securing the route, they were thanking us.

We’re also getting local government support. Our elected officials have stepped up to say they support the police department. Rather than defunding, they want to increase our training budget to ensure we have the highest quality training possible. When my men and women hear that, they know their community, their command staff, and their elected officials care about them. And I think that goes a long way.


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.