Chief Ruben Quesada served most of his policing career in Arizona. Starting with the Glendale Police, he rose through the ranks in the Mesa, AZ Police, retiring as a Police Commander. He moved from the desert to New England and served as the Deputy Chief of the Northern Essex Community College Police, until his appointment as Chief of the Swampscott, MA Police Department. Dr. Quesada earned his doctorate and has served as an adjunct instructor at several institutions of higher education.
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[00:00:02.530] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The CopDoc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing, communities, academia, and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:00:32.650] - Steve Morreale
Well, hello, everybody. This is Steve Morreale. I'm coming to you from Boston, and this is The CopDoc Podcast. And today we're talking to someone on the North Shore, someone who came from the desert, Dr. Ruben Quesada. He is now the chief of police in Swamp Scott, Massachusetts. We'll talk about that, but it's a beautiful town on the North Shore. Hello there, Ruben.
[00:00:51.300] - Ruben Quesada
[00:00:51.840] - Steve Morreale
How are you doing?
[00:00:52.620] - Ruben Quesada
I'm fantastic. Thank you for having me on your show, Steve.
[00:00:55.560] - Steve Morreale
Thanks for joining us. We originally were going to get together while you were in another position at a community college. And you come from, you say, the Phoenix area, but from Mesa. So let's let the listeners know about you and why you would leave the warmth, the heat of the desert to come to New England. So tell us your story.
[00:01:14.630] - Ruben Quesada
As I sit in the wet 28 degree weather this morning, I also wonder that too, right now. So I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. My family is from Phoenix. I started my law enforcement career in Mesa, Arizona. I should backtrack just a second. I started my law enforcement career with the Glendale, Arizona Police Department in 1993.
[00:01:33.070] - Steve Morreale
There's a big stadium there.
[00:01:34.340] - Ruben Quesada
Yeah, there is a big stadium. I say we still we also have a football team, but I don't know if we always claim them right now. So I started in Glendale, Arizona, really looking to get my foot in the door as a law enforcement officer. And I started as a reserve officer, and I worked in Glendale, Arizona for about two years until I got the full time position as a police officer in Mace, Arizona in 1995. Just to make a long story short, I stayed in Mace, Arizona for about 25 years, retired as a police commander over a patrol district, and I had met my wife who was from New Jersey. And so we ended up it was always her dream to go back home. Retirement was on the horizon, and so I said, okay, let's make the big jump. Let's move back east. And it didn't necessarily have to be New Jersey or New York, but definitely the East Coast. And just so happened, she also has family in New Hampshire, and we had visited New Hampshire a couple of times. So I had applied for a few jobs, and I got the job at Northern Essex Community College in August of 2020.
[00:02:27.900] - Ruben Quesada
And I started as a deputy chief of the campus police department. I stayed there for about a year and a half and then moved on to the where I'm the chief police now for the Swamp Scott, Massachusetts police.
[00:02:37.980] - Steve Morreale
I also called you doctor. So you now have a doctorate and I think that sort of changes perspective, the work that you have to accomplish that. But I want to know, so you retired from Mesa?
[00:02:48.000] - Ruben Quesada
I did, I retired from Mesa, retired from the police department, and I was really at that time talk about the doctorate. Back in 2010 I started my doctorate. A good friend of mine in the Mesa police department said, hey, we're not getting any younger here. You never know what's going to happen in your police career. So why don't we think about going to law school? And I thought, I don't want to be a lawyer. There is no way. I don't want to sit in a courtroom, I don't want to do family law.
[00:03:12.380] - Steve Morreale
I hate those lawyers. I know, I mean the defense attorneys who try to jam you up.
[00:03:19.810] - Ruben Quesada
Yeah, I decided to go get my doctorate and I wanted the experience of learning how to do research and potentially moving the law enforcement profession forward as a profession. And so I basically raced my friend and he said, you know, I'm going to go to law school, you do your doctorate and let's see who finishes first. And so needless to say, seven years later, many tears and angst and agony later, I did complete my dissertation and my coursework. And so I completed my doctorate, education and organizational management.
[00:03:48.550] - Steve Morreale
That's great. That's actually big. And so let's do a little bit of a descriptor to compare Mesa and its police department size wise. And Swampskut, I know, completely different. I'm sure you didn't necessarily say I'm moving back to the east for my wife and I'm going to be a chief someday, but it sort of happened as we talked before. It was a surprise to you. But listen Ruben, you know damn right well so many people say I don't know what to do. Well just raise your hand, put your periscope up, see what happens. You only miss the shots, you don't take it's, that kind of stuff. So talk about that.
[00:04:20.050] - Ruben Quesada
That's exactly right. It was my chance. Although I love the valley of the sun, it was always my dream to go out into the world and look at and experience new, have new experiences. And so one of the things that as I ended was I was nearing the end of my career in Mesa police department. I really thought about and the reason why I attained my doctorate was to go into teaching. I knew that as I remember professors who had law enforcement experience and as a young individual in college, I hung on to every word that they said because I knew that not only do they have the experience in being my professor, but they have the law enforcement experience. And so that's what I really wanted to do after having a very good career in the Mesa police department, and what I did was I thought, heck, my identity is as a police officer. I've been a police officer since I was 24 years old and I decided that I would go teach other I was teaching also in Arizona, at a university in Arizona. And so I really loved what I did and I thought I can teach up until I'm 80, hopefully 90 years old, and this will be my second career.
[00:05:24.530] - Ruben Quesada
And so going to Northern Essex Community College Police Department, that was my way to go out into the world. There’s something different in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and Lawrence, Massachusetts, and really be ingrained in the college environment. And so what I wanted to do is start teaching criminal justice as well as being a deputy chief of police because I still couldn't get that's in my blood. It's in my DNA and I couldn't take that out of me. And so, to me that was the perfect balance. Law enforcement as well as being an academic and teaching at the college.
[00:05:53.020] - Steve Morreale
So it just strikes me that once. It's in your blood, it's in your blood. I would consider that you are a pracademic like myself, a practical experience in an academic credential of higher education. And because of that, I want to know what you didn't say is how big you recall the Mesa Police Department, how big is it? What's the complexion of the city and how many people?
[00:06:12.200] - Ruben Quesada
Mesa, Arizona is the second largest city in Arizona within the Valley of the sun, the second being Tucson, Arizona. And then I say we in Mesa, Arizona, come a close third with a population of over half a million in the police department, we had 1200 employees, almost 900 sworn officers in the department. And so it was always my dream to work for a large sized police department. And so when I came to Mesa, Arizona, I actually thought, well, it's not Los Angeles, it's not Vegas Metro, it's not a big city, but it'll do. And I quickly learned that it was a fantastic experience. It's a big city, big city issues. And we were in the east valley. It was Phoenix in the west valley and Mesa on the east valley. And so very large area, lots of police districts to work out of. Every district has its nuances. And that's where I really grew to love the police department that I started working for in Mesa. And so lots of opportunities as a police officer to do different things. And in my career, it allowed me to just flourish into specialty areas.
[00:07:12.070] - Steve Morreale
What were those?
[00:07:12.840] - Ruben Quesada
I worked my first assignment out of being a police officer as a police officer.
[00:07:16.830] - Steve Morreale
Out of uniform?
[00:07:17.970] - Ruben Quesada
Out of uniform. My first assignment was undercover narcotics.
[00:07:21.140] - Steve Morreale
Are you bilingual?
[00:07:22.170] - Ruben Quesada
I am bilingual.
[00:07:23.570] - Steve Morreale
That doesn't hurt.
[00:07:25.630] - Ruben Quesada
Yeah. That certainly helped in getting the position. Although I wouldn't consider myself completely fluent. And I compare myself to Mexican American descent and I would compare myself to people from Mexico and does my Spanish. Is it up to par? And while it's not up to par, I would say I definitely learned Spanish. I had an ear for it, but learned it on the job mostly. So worked undercover narcotics, loved every minute of it. We bought back in the 90s, bought cocaine, bought methamphetamine, did a lot of surveillance, conducted search warrants, and then out of there I became a supervisor, a sergeant in the police department. I worked in the patrol division. And then after patrol division, I was selected as a public information officer for the police department, which was a challenging job itself. Did that. Worked in our Center Against Family Violence, our Family Violence unit, our sex offender unit, then moved over to our street crimes unit as a street crime supervisor. Over. Our undercovers in the district worked the gang unit, and then I got Moted to lieutenant and eventually made the jump to police commander, where I retired as a police commander.
[00:08:30.940] - Steve Morreale
So, let's talk about how you found me. It seems to me that I remember getting an email from you and we connected and so this is a long time coming but tell that story. You said that you had a friend who was listening, I guess.
[00:08:41.740] - Ruben Quesada
Sure. So, I have one of the friends of mine from the Mesa Police Department. He and I would always have some talks about the law enforcement profession. What can we do differently, what are some of the things that some of the cutting-edge ideas that are now being what we did back in the 90s, even late 80s, how has that changed and how can we progress the profession? And so, we're always talking about the professional law enforcement profession and he introduced me to your podcast. Now I started listening to your podcast and I've listened to some of the individuals that you've had on the podcast as people were starstruck, by movie stars, by people in the film industry, by television industry. Well, as a law enforcement professional and I call myself a law enforcement nerd, I am starstruck by the Carmen Best of the world, by the Bill Bratton's of the world. I am starstruck by the chiefs who I have learned so much. And in being a chief, gaining that advice and listening to other experiences just makes me a better chief and law enforcement professional as a whole. And so, he had introduced me to your podcast and then he is also a chief out in California and I definitely am going to refer him to you.
[00:09:46.650] - Steve Morreale
So hopefully you can yeah, no, that's how this happens. That's how it works. People are listening from all over the world. I'm waiting to interview the Chief constable for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and very excited about that. And that happened in the same way to say who can I talk to and really who is innovative. So you are a new chief in Massachusetts, it's different. It is much different. Right?
[00:10:10.720] - Ruben Quesada
It's very different. In my first, probably six months as a chief, I had to ask my staff to please repeat what they were saying, because I didn't understand everything that they were saying.
[00:10:20.410] - Steve Morreale
Is it the terminology or is it their accent?
[00:10:23.910] - Ruben Quesada
Some of the terminology is different. Coming from Arizona, we have certain phrases or sayings in Arizona, you say I arrested somebody. You say I hooked them up. And whereas in Mass, it might be something yeah, it's a lockup. And I remember so many times saying.
[00:10:36.320] - Steve Morreale
Hey, you interpret that for me.
[00:10:38.890] - Ruben Quesada
I think I know what that means, but I want to make sure lots of times I would say, hey, guys, you have to understand, this is a little Hispanic kid from Phoenix, Arizona. I'm not sure if I completely understood what you're saying. My public information officer. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, I can't believe you're my public information officer, because I don't know what you're saying as a joke. He's fantastic and wonderful.
[00:11:01.100] - Steve Morreale
You're adapting, Ruben.
[00:11:02.670] - Ruben Quesada
I am. I really am adapting to the culture. Cops are cops are cops. Yes. Regardless of where you are. And I feel very fortunate being the chief of police in swamp Scott, because as an outsider coming in, it's very difficult to make your way. If I would have stayed in Arizona policing, I could have moved into different aspect of law enforcement in Arizona, where I had you have your connections, you have your contacts, you have the people that you call friends. Well, here I came here, and I had nobody. I had my wife and family and kids, but other than that, I didn't know anybody, and many didn't know me or my values or where I came from. And so it was very difficult. I feel very fortunate being the first non-civil service hire in the town, and it's just an amazing community. I think one thing that I have seen and learned from being a chief in small town Massachusetts is community policing, community engagement. It is so ingrained in the DNA of our police department, and I would say of many police departments here in the commonwealth that people call the police department, whereas maybe in Mesa, Arizona, we would say, hey, we're not sending an officer out.
[00:12:06.730] - Ruben Quesada
This is not something that we would do. I'll give you an example because of volume, partially because of volume. And I think it's one of those things where the police department says, we have our policies that say this is a priority call. This is the different priority types of calls, and this explains what each priority is. Well, I think what we've lost, in a sense, is, hey, listen, if somebody's calling the police department, they're calling for a reason. They either need help, they need advice, they need to speak with somebody. And one of the things that I've seen here in the commonwealth is having a desk officer. You can walk right in a police station, and there is an officer there you can speak with. And so we've had several types of calls where we've had individuals call, say, I'm by myself, I'm elderly, I'm in a walker, and I need the police to help me, walk me across the street so I can get my hair done. In Arizona, we would have said, sorry, why don't you call a family member? Or Is there someone that can help you unless you're in any trouble?
[00:13:00.160] - Ruben Quesada
Right now, we have other priorities that we're taking care of, but in my town, my officers will go out of their way. I'm not saying that we're not occupied as well, maybe not to the extent that we were in Macy, Arizona, but our officers have lots of duties, lots of tasks, lots of responsibilities. They go out of their way because in small town Massachusetts, you know, oh, that's Mrs. So and so from down the street. I grew up with her grandson, and so that is I'm envious to see that. I'm proud to see that out of my officers because many of them grew up in the town. They have generations of families from the town. And as an outsider, I am just honored to be part of this new family.
[00:13:54.460] - Steve Morreale
So we're talking to Ruben Quesada. He is the police chief in Swampscott, Massachusetts. He has his doctorate. He is Dr. Ruben Quesada, and he is relatively new in Massachusetts, coming from Arizona. What I'm hearing from you is that your officers probably, without you having to legislate that behavior, already had a compassionate bone in their body. But I'm also hearing a humility in you. And so I'm curious to know here you are, the outsider, knowing no one, you got nobody to vouch for you necessarily, and you show up and you're going to be interviewed. And you must have said some things that were probably heartfelt and genuine. You said you were going to do some things and what you would do and you were hired. What were those things?
[00:14:50.750] - Ruben Quesada
I think it's just taking a compassionate approach. Leadership is about human behavior, and it's about relationships, and it's about earned trust. And I think that if you are honest and you uphold your integrity and your values, I think that's what will shine through. And so I think being an outsider was something that the town was looking for because they wanted the prior chief police, who is a wonderful individual, had been there as the chief for 21 years, had been there for 40 years. And so I think having that new maybe young blood come in and having that different perspective, many of my supervisors, my chiefs, my sergeants, my lieutenants who I work for, they just went by their first name. Hey, we all understand the police department is a Para-militaristic organization, but when it comes down to it, we share the same things, whether it be family issues, whether it be health issues as individuals. So, one of the things that one of my sergeants was, he said, hey, just call me by my first name. You know who your boss is. It doesn't mean you're going to be disrespectful or anything. But I think I brought that.
[00:16:30.270] - Ruben Quesada
I really loved knowing that, hey, I am just an individual, just like you. I'm fallible, I make mistakes. But what I'm willing to do is I'm willing to learn from those mistakes. I'm willing to fail and fail again. But I will continue trying. Hopefully. That's what won me over in the job. I think that just the humility, and I don't have all the answers. I don't know everything. I want to learn as much. I want to be a lifelong learner, but at the same time, I have so much to learn from other individuals who have whether it be academia, whether it be law enforcement professionals, whether it be my officers. I learn every day. I learn something new every day, especially being as an outsider from Phoenix, I definitely learn something new every day from my officers in Massachusetts.
[00:17:28.360] - Steve Morreale
So let's go back to you finally getting the job. The pushback, somebody from the inside didn't get the job. Who's this guy from the outside? What do we have to do? I'm assuming you came in and did a lot of listening and tried to understand because you're only as good as your people, as you said, and I think in many cases, and you said it earlier, that certainly leadership is about relationships inside and outside the organization. How did you begin that process? How did you begin to show them your site? Now, one more thing that just tripped back in my mind. You said you're fallible and you fail. And so they have to accept that you'll make mistakes. They have to accept that you don't know everything. But I also think we underutilize so many of our people because we don't engage them. So does that mean you carry that forward, that you don't have a double standard? In other words, just because somebody else fails doesn't mean that it's fatal.
[00:18:32.390] - Ruben Quesada
Correct. As officers, I've made administrative errors. I've made errors where I didn't look at policy to A-T-I didn't follow it to a T. But does that mean that I'm a bad officer? Does that mean that I show a pattern of making these type of mistakes? And I think that's one of the things that when I came in was I think what really connected me with my police department here in Swampscott was just the community, the community engagement, the community. I come from the community. I was an at-risk individual. I was arrested when I was 16 years old by the Phoenix Police Department. And so being part of the community, what helped me become a police officer were those officers who mentored me as a young teenager. And so bringing that to Swampscott it doesn't matter if you're from Mesa, Arizona, or another location, if you have that ingrained in you, in being a part of the community, that is really what is going to set you apart and listening to your people. I think one of the things, like I said, was as the former chief there, I think one of the things that I brought with Mesa from the Mesa Police Department was listening, just going on the listening tour, letting your employees, letting your officers have their say.
[00:20:09.490] - Ruben Quesada
Everyone has. While we all have our biases and presuppositions, there are always a certain level of truth to it, whether you find that, whether that's your perception or not. And so, it was my job to go in and say, how can we improve our police department? What is it that we need to do? What is it that we need while we are always every department is scrambling for resources and financial and logistical resources. What else can we do to make this a better place, not only a better place internally, but externally for our community? And so I think they really took to that and saw the sense of trust, earning their trust in that, hey, I am not here to make this the Mesa Police Department East Coast. I am not here to although maybe I can bring some ideas. I've learned so much from how we do things here in Massachusetts, and then I get to intertwine them and come out with the best type of policies. My friends in Mass say, you know, Ruben, we're 30, 40 years behind you from the West Coast policing. And I tell them, no, you're really not, because we understand here in Massachusetts, we understand community policing, community engagement.
[00:21:27.390] - Ruben Quesada
We just have to figure out a way to enhance that.
[00:21:32.670] - Steve Morreale
So you come to this department. I'm really trying to pull from you your approach, and you come in, you listen. I presume you had staff meetings, command staff meetings. What were the things that you were saying? What were the questions you were asking? What were you trying to pick up from the crew?
[00:21:58.870] - Ruben Quesada
A lot of the things why we do the things we do, why we do it that way, when it comes to coming from the police department, I think in Massachusetts, while we have reporting mechanisms and statistics, I'm always being a pracademic, being a police nerd, I'm always looking at numbers and data. And one of the things that I asked was, we had in Arizona, we had a chief. It makes Arizona, we had a chief from LAPD come in and to become our chief, and he introduced CompStat to us. So CompStat was second nature where I come from. And I was looking for those type of statistics. Not only how many calls for service did we receive last year, but in a year, how long are we seeing on a call? What kind of calls are we getting? What are the needs of the community? I think one of the things that I brought and I bring is just the different outlook of whether it be why do we have a station officer? Why are we tying somebody up at the station? Why are we dispatching our own calls for service? There's other agencies other departments that don't dispatch their own calls for service.
[00:23:07.260] - Ruben Quesada
But when I see that and I ask that, I get the responses back that, hey, chief, the community comes in. Our community loves the police department. It's very welcoming to see that the community will come in and community will come in, and they'll come into the police lobby and they say, I want to speak to the chief. And it's my job. It affords me being a small-town Massachusetts police chief, not saying that I don't have things to do, but the most important thing is I allow everybody to have some time to come in and talk to me and tell me the issues that they see. And I think being able to start taking action on issues, whether it be from your own officers or the community, being able to take action on those items, is what will set you apart. And I think that's slowly what I'm beginning to see in Scott, I wrote.
[00:23:50.820] - Steve Morreale
Down a couple of things, and one of them was when you talk about data and comp stat and data driven management, evidence-based policing, these things that are starting to move in our direction. Just interviewed Mike Scott from the Problem Oriented Policing Center. And are we counting the right? Because it strikes me that we do a lot of being counting and policing. How many you do with this and how many did you do with this? That and you almost create a competition about you're not stopping enough cars, you're not making enough arrests, all of those kinds of things. And yet there's so many other things police do, especially in a small community, and we don't seem to capture that. When you're trying to sell I know I saw you nod your head. So, when you're trying to sell for more officers, when you just ask, how long do we stay at a call? What kinds of calls are we spending too much time? You have to kind of peel back the onion to say, why? Well, we're just sitting and talking with the family, or they're not just going taking the call, writing it up, and moving on to the next call.
[00:24:45.980] - Steve Morreale
But what about community meetings? This is a real problem that I have because we are doing some great work, but we do not capture it properly, in my estimation.
[00:24:53.990] - Ruben Quesada
One of the things that I'm proud to say that I brought to our department here in Swamp Scott, was capturing the data of community engagement contacts. So together we created a policy, a community engagement policy. What I did find was my officers were spending time, whether attending town meetings, whether on duty, just as security attending, stopping by local high school football game, going to community meetings, community forums, that data often is not captured. And so we worked together with our It department and as well as our CAD, our dispatch, and we created community contact codes. And so knowing, as long as you can explain to your officers, this is what we expect as a community engagement contact. Now, if I see you outside of a Circle K and I say, hey, how's it going? That is not a community engagement contact. It's a contact. Whereas it's a very specific set of standards that we see as a community engagement contact. And so what we started doing back in July is we started capturing our community engagement contacts. And so I'm looking forward to see how that pans out. But I really noticed that our officers are spending when somebody comes into the police department and asks about a protection order, it's not only how long are we spending with that individual, but what is the substance of that contact?
[00:26:07.590] - Ruben Quesada
How does that create the trust, further trust between the community and the police department? And so I think that's one of the things that I saw. I talked about being an at-risk kid. Those contacts in my formative years is really what led me to be who I am today as a police professional. And I think those are so underrated by society that when you look at policing back in the 80s, we talked about community policing, and then back in the 90s, we really started with intelligence. We still had community policing, but it started morphing into intelligence led policing. And then it moved into, in the early 2000s, data driven policing. Now you look at evidence-based policing, but what is the one thing that we're always asked as cops? What are we always looking at? Community policing. What does community policing mean? It means much more than just going to coffee with the cop. Or in Mesa, we had pizza with police. We had a lot of great little cool sayings, but really, what is community policing? How can we quantify community policing? And so this was a way to be able to start to quantify our community engagement efforts, as well as what else can we do for the community that necessarily doesn't involve enforcement or anything that you would think that a police, maybe traditionalist, might think, well, we respond to calls for service.
[00:27:22.640] - Ruben Quesada
We do much more than that. And it's really looking at reframing the idea of what we do as law enforcement professionals.
[00:27:28.970] - Steve Morreale
I like the idea of that community contact codes. And since so many police departments in America, even out in Arizona, are 25 or less very small police departments, I presume you're in there. I don't have any idea how big your agency is.
[00:27:41.650] - Ruben Quesada
How many sworn we have 32 authorized, 32 sworn officers with one and a. Half administrative support staff. It's a three square mile town just like 15 miles north of Boston with about 15,000 population of 15,001 of the things that I've seen with Swamp Scott. While you might say, oh, it's a small town, Massachusetts, we are sandwiched in between two very large, two very busy cities in Salem, Massachusetts, which city? As well as Lynn, Massachusetts. And so we are right in the middle. And so we get a lot of the flow over from events happening from Salem and Lynn as well. We also border another community much like us, Marblehead, and they're very similar to us. And so Marblehead, Swamp, Scout, we face the same issues being kind of sandwiched in between Salem and Lynn.
[00:28:24.700] - Steve Morreale
We're talking to Rumor garda. He is the police chief in Swampscott, Massachusetts. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And he talked about a former chief where he came from, Mesa, from La. And he brought the idea, a large department, which was Mesa of CompStat. How do you modify that for this small department? Do you focus on data? Do you begin to change their mindset? I'm talking about your other leaders, on how important data is and how we utilize our personnel a little bit better based on data.
[00:28:54.250] - Ruben Quesada
First, we have to really reframe the mindset of data driven policing as well as evidence-based policing. In terms of introducing many of my officers, my command staff had not been to this year. We sent them to crime analysis training and looking at the data and how we can further utilize crime analysis. We don't have a crime analyst. And so it's on each one of us as command staff and officers to really look at the data. And the big difference here is I am the chief of police. I am the crime analyst, I am the financial guru, although I hesitate to say that. But when I say I, we every one of us are. I am the police recruiter, I am the janitor. I do everything in the police department, and we all do. And I think it's understanding that. Now, going back to the question of data driven policing, it's our job to look at that, because if I live in the community, it behooves me to understand and know everything that's going on. One of the things that I told an officer one time, we were heading in Mesa, we were heading to a community meeting where residents were very upset with the police.
[00:29:58.150] - Ruben Quesada
And it was very contentious. He said, hey, Ruben, you don't understand what it's like to be out here anymore. Hey, I get it. You were out there in the you're out in patrol, you're out in the streets. But it's different now. People do not like the police department. There are some individuals who do not like the police department. And granted everything that's gone on in the past few years, there's good reason for that. One of the things I explained to him I said, thank you for telling me that. I know I'm not on the streets anymore. I love to go on a patrol and just wear the uniform and speak to individuals, but it is our job to understand them and to listen, and it's your job to speak to them, hey, guess what? I was going to deliver this presentation, but now you're going to be my co-presenter in this presentation because it is our job to be chameleons. We do a little bit of everything. I'm not just about enforcement. I'm not just about responding to calls for service. I am everything, and so are you. And so you have to really fit into your environment in policing, in the community, and really connect with individuals.
[00:30:53.240] - Ruben Quesada
And if you don't do that, you're not going to have a very long career in policing.
[00:30:56.760] - Steve Morreale
How important is social media?
[00:30:58.180] - Ruben Quesada
I am not a social media guru, but one of the things that one of my prior chiefs in Mesa, Arizona, made us do, if you were over a patrol district, was you had to whether you tweet, you complete a social media post. You have to complete a social media post every month, at least once a month. And that really, like I say, we're all open to new ideas. But that was just like, oh gosh, now I have to do this tweet. I didn't even know what a tweet is. You want me to put some video together again? That's ownership now. I look forward to putting things out on whether it be LinkedIn, Facebook, because the community is on Facebook, they are on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, all these social media platforms. And it's so important to allow the community to see a part of your world.
[00:31:46.800] - Steve Morreale
I think the communication mechanisms and if you were a Pio, I was a Pio for DEA. We have to modify our behavior. It's not the newspaper anymore. People aren't looking at the newspaper. People aren't looking at television news. They are looking at their feeds. And I think we need to adapt to a degree, and we need to get our message out. What I would have to say is that we do a very poor in policing, do a very poor job of marketing, and there's so many great things we do, but they don't know it if we don't tell.
[00:32:10.400] - Ruben Quesada
That's right. And it's not just about one of the things that I learned in Pio school was you have to feed the media. So you have to whether good, whether bad, you have to let them know, hey, this is who we are. This is what occurred. Whether we did something fantastic, we made a great arrest, we did some community outreach, or we made a mistake, and this is how we're going to do to improve it. It just increases the trust that we as police departments are looking to gain from the community. So. You're absolutely right, Steve. What are we doing? Hey, you're having this 51-year-old police chief talk about social media, I would say I'm a generation Xer. I understand social media. I'm not probably the best person to be doing that.
[00:32:49.130] - Steve Morreale
But there may be somebody on the department, right?
[00:32:51.100] - Ruben Quesada
That's right. When you look at the police department, there are individuals from so many different backgrounds, whether it be business, whether it be academia. That's one of the things that I learned as being a police officer. That was truly, being a kid from Phoenix, Arizona, I would say big city. But being from in my own little world in west Phoenix, I came to the police department, and I met so many individuals. Like, I have friends from New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Texas. That was my first introduction into the world. And so going back to social media, one of the things that I'd like to start doing is highlighting our officers. Hey, this is Officer So and so. One individual. He was a Boston College football player. He tried out for the NFL. He played with some of the players in the NFL. We have individuals from the military who were officers in the military who have had amazing careers. When you look at the individuals in the police department, you can't call officers as. Can't say we're homogenous. You can't say we're monolithic. We are so different. We have different views. We have different upbringings. But what brings us together is what my research was.
[00:33:53.820] - Ruben Quesada
This is a calling for many of us, and we all share the same ideals and wanting to further the profession, wanting to help people. I say this is selfish. Why do I want to help people? Why did I become a police officer? Because it makes me feel good about myself, because I'm caring for others. And that's where servant leadership comes in. But it really is. While it's selfless, it's also selfish, because I want to do that. I want to do some good in the world, and this is my way to contribute to my community.
[00:34:20.080] - Steve Morreale
A guy like you has already got a career like myself. Get a career, and you're moving on to another career, which is kind of interesting, it seems to me, as you were saying, that it's almost like you could start a weekly or a monthly. What's your story? And with the idea of saying, here's my backstory, here's what I did, you just gave us the fact that at a teenager year, you were arrested, and here you are as a police chief. So there was a failure, I suppose, or you got caught, and now you have changed your life for the better. So you belong to Mass chiefs. I see you have you wearing a shirt. You belong to IACP. What does that do for you as a chief? What do those organizations help you understand the wide world leasing?
[00:34:56.950] - Ruben Quesada
When you look at ICP, you look at perf, you look at the different think tank organizations within the law enforcement profession. It spurns new ideas in policing. And that's my love and my passion, besides my family, which is number one, is policing and new ideas. And how can we change? I mean, when we started, you look at Gosh, we didn't even have computers in the car. We didn't have MDTs or DTS to today, you have officers who are just your GPS will tell you exactly where to go, exactly where the call is.
[00:35:25.620] - Steve Morreale
Occurring and where you are.
[00:35:27.370] - Ruben Quesada
Absolutely. They don't know where you are. Your command staff knows where you are. We have body cameras now in this new age. And so looking at bring and looking at those professional organizations, and they are on the cusp of progression in the 21st century of policing. And so that's why I say, when I listen to the Dr Wexler’s of the world, when I listen to the prior chiefs, the academics, I just wide eyed and ears wide open because I just want to learn. And so you get new ideas. Now, these new ideas, how do you bring it back to your department? And so that's really what it brings to us. It's continual learning and profession. And so, again, in my spare time, that's the reason why my doctorates in organizational leadership, my dissertation is about the police culture and policing. And so I want to study. I want to continue studying policing and reading academic journals, reading the big fancy words that you see in there, and understanding, how does this relate to me? Because I can learn so much from PERF, IACP’s of the world, from the organizations that really want to move our profession.
[00:36:33.570] - Steve Morreale
You've said that over and over and over again, and I challenged Bill Bratton was saying that he wrote the profession. Is it a profession? And the reason I say that I'm playing devil's advocate here is it a profession when we are willing to hire people with a high school education or GED. I know that the education level you are not going to move up to be a chief. You don't have education. The entry level is somewhat low. And so explain to others why you would say this is a profession.
[00:36:59.810] - Ruben Quesada
Well, I say it's a profession. I look at who taught me, who taught me about having the right values and the right work ethic. My father, my father was a garbage man. He graduated from high school. He is functionally dyslexic. But does that mean that that individual couldn't do whatever he put his mind to, which I know he could? My mother had me at 16 years old. She was a high school dropout. She is the most she has been the, the biggest influence on my life in becoming a police officer. And so just because, you know, I never well, yes, attaining my doctorate in academics who have their PhDs. There's a master's degree, it doesn't mean that they're always the best person or best suited for the job. And you can have a person who has the different experiences, the diversity of life experience, and bring that as somebody who just graduated from high school now, do they have the heart, do they have the compassion to move our profession forward? Do they have when you talk about the professionalism, do they have what it takes to really be a caretaker for the community? And so that is what's important to me.
[00:38:05.820] - Ruben Quesada
I could care less about certificates, academic degrees. That is phenomenal. And it shows the person's perseverance to attain something, but that doesn't tell me if their heart and soul is into this job. And so that's what I'm looking for.
[00:38:18.420] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, I think character is really very important, as you know, and I think, again, I'm playing devil's advocate. I'm a believer that this is a profession because there are standards. Unfortunately, one thing that troubles me is that we don't have national standards. So, standards differ from state to state. And that's something that has to be addressed and we call it in service. And it troubles me as an educator that it's not. I'd call continuing education because that's exactly what it is. And one thing you said is you do a lot of reading. And I think leaders are readers and adapting things even from the business cycle can be very, very valuable. And it's that critical analysis, like, you read something like The Leadership Challenge and that's focused on business, but you say, well, if some of those ideas and elements belong to us, how can I adapt and bring them alive for the police department? And I think it's challenging other people to be their best fair statement.
[00:39:03.210] - Ruben Quesada
Absolutely, 1000% correct. I think one of the things that I really learned while doing my research in my doctorate was, I read psychology journals, I read business journals. I read journals not just about policing. And so when you think of us as Pracademics, it's not just we are as individuals. We are not just, hey, I'm just one dimensional.
[00:39:26.130] - Steve Morreale
[00:39:26.460] - Ruben Quesada
Correct. And so really understanding what it's like, again, to me, everything goes back to understanding people, understanding research, different ideas, whether it be from business, whether it be from marketing, whether it be from social services. That's what we're trying to understand. And I think that's what makes us great as law enforcement professionals. Because I'm not just the cop, Ruben, I am also the academic, the lifelong learner. When I came from, I think one of the things that I saw as a difference at coming from Arizona to Massachusetts was like, you stated the standards where we had since 1994, we had Arizona Post. I come to Massachusetts, I thought, wow, cool. I'm going to move over from AZ Post and I'm going to transfer many of my certifications and things that I've learned along the way in Arizona to Massachusetts Post. And I quickly realized it wasn't any.
[00:40:19.290] - Steve Morreale
When you got here.
[00:40:20.390] - Ruben Quesada
Yeah, we do now. We do now, and I'm very glad and happy to see that. But there's so much going back to your point, there's so much that we can learn from other aspects, other fields, that if you can translate that into your job as a law enforcement professional, I mean, how great is that to know that we have police officers who are teachers, we have police officers who are counselors. They bring that. That is what makes us great in the police department. Again, we're not one dimensional, like you said. We come from different backgrounds, different experiences, and we bring each one of our experiences collectively to create the policy and strategies to better our community.
[00:40:56.870] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, that's good. I think in many cases, I find that we underutilize the path, and if we engage them, as I'm hearing you do that, I think you get buy in. And I like what you had said, ownership, that you're allowing your officers I'm not putting words in your mouth, but you're allowing officers to have an ownership stake in the organization. It's not just yours, it's ours collectively.
[00:41:16.240] - Ruben Quesada
And I think that's the hardest part of leadership. Go into a meeting with a whole bunch of your officers and say, what are we doing wrong? What am I doing wrong? Let me have it. This is your shot. And I think that's something that I learned seeing many of my former leaders in the Mesa Police Department. Hey, listen, I'm not always right, that's for sure. What can I do better? What are we doing wrong? What can we do better? What do we need to change? Think outside the box. Think of something completely. You might say, hey, this is crazy. We can't do this. Well, let's talk about it. Let's start the conversation. And I think that is the most important aspect in one of the most important aspects in being a leader is being willing to look yourself in the mirror and say, you're not perfect. What can we do better?
[00:41:56.520] - Steve Morreale
And it sounds to me, Ruben, like there's an approachability to you which I like. One thing I want to ask a question, though, and then I got to wrap up. You talked about crime analysis. You claimed that you and others are the analyst for the organization. Is it not time to get an analyst? Is it not time to sell your town and the leadership? That we need an analyst, probably a non-police civilian analyst. And one way I see some agencies doing much like correspondence is they're sharing. So they're sharing an analyst among two or three towns. Is that on the radar? Is that something you'd like to accomplish at some point?
[00:42:29.390] - Ruben Quesada
That is that is certainly on the radar. Similar to our crisis response teams, our co-responders for mental health, we are looking at partnering with communities very comparable to us in location and size and seeing how we can all work together. I think one of the things that we see in Massachusetts is we all need I need a crime analyst. I need a records person. I love to bring civilians into and I say civilians, I like to call them professional staff. I'd like to bring professional staff into the fold in policing. And so we need I think that's one of the things in coming into Swamp Scott is let's look at our data, let's look at our current data, and then let's look at what else we need to capture to show that, listen, we have I mean, if you drive anywhere near Boston, it's a nightmare. In terms of traffic congestion, it is absolutely horrible. You come into our town, traffic, it's traffic congestion. It is people traveling either from Salem into Boston and vice versa between in the morning and then in the evening, reverse commute. And so what can we do better? How can we look at data?
[00:43:32.160] - Ruben Quesada
How can we look at so our crime analysts will assist with that, but right now it's good because we are moving. We have to progress forward into, okay, I don't have a crime analyst. What do I need to do? What do we need to do? How do we need to approach this issue of traffic congestion? What can we do better? And so everybody becomes a crime analyst. Until that, now we show, okay, with our data or the new data that we're collecting and capturing. Now this is going to show why we need a crime analyst because they will be doing all the work. And then that'll free up my command staff, my officers, that will free us up so we can start moving on to the new area to take action.
[00:44:08.920] - Steve Morreale
Based on what the data is doing. Okay, last question. What is on Ruben Quesada's bucket list? What do you want to accomplish in the next few years, both personally and professionally?
[00:44:17.480] - Ruben Quesada
Personally, I do miss teaching aspect. I love continual learning, being a lifelong learner, I really would like to continue to teach in academia. Professionally, there's a lot of goals that I want to see us move forward in Swampscott, whether it be, again, civilian investigators. I would love to see civilian investigators, more professional staff that are part of the solutions in policing. I want to see one of the things that I see professionally in a smaller town is there's not a lot of room for improvement or there's not a lot of room to do something different. I have patrol officers who have been there 2025 years, and they've been patrol officers. They've never really got to do anything else. And so coming from a big, big city, where I came from, our bigger city, I want to be able to okay, how can we can we have a community engagement officer? Can we have a traffic officer?
[00:45:09.130] - Steve Morreale
Some specializations, right?
[00:45:10.850] - Ruben Quesada
Some type of specializations. Where I came from, what keeps us fresh and always wanted to learn more is being able to move into new positions, learning new ideas, learning new things about. That's what makes you a well-rounded law enforcement professional. And so I would love to see that. I would love to see answering to our whether it be our crime, whether it be our traffic. I would like to decrease some of those areas. And really, I would love to see more data driven policing in the East Coast, and so many of us have them. But I'm looking forward to really moving the department forward that way.
[00:45:44.370] - Steve Morreale
Well, it's been a pleasure to finally connect with you. We've been talking to Dr. Ruben Quesada, Chief Rubin Quesada at Swampscott, Massachusetts. Okay, Ruben, one last question. What do you say to young people who are on the fence about coming into policing as difficult as it is today?
[00:45:58.950] - Ruben Quesada
I would say that the growing challenges that we face as a profession changes nothing or it changes everything. And so for me, I would ask that the individuals looking to come and show our profession, do they want to change everything that there is about policing in terms of how can we continue to move the dial, how can you be a part of that calling to reframe what policing is about? And if you look at the we've evolved and do you want to be part of that evolution of policing?
[00:46:28.400] - Steve Morreale
We've been talking to Ruben Quesada, and he is the Swampscott Chief and he is an Arizona who came to Massachusetts and has adapted quite well now as a new chief in North Shore town of Swampscott, Massachusetts. Thank you, Ruben, very much for your time and energy and have a great 2020.
[00:46:43.040] - Ruben Quesada
Thank you, Steve. It's been a pleasure speaking to you. I really appreciate it and I am honored to have met with you today. Thanks.
[00:46:48.840] - Steve Morreale
Good luck. Good luck with the department. So another episode is in the can. This is The CopDoc Podcast. I'm Steve Morreale. Thanks for listening and we'll be back another episode soon.
[00:46:59.590] - Intro
Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.
[00:47:20.090] - Steve Morreale
Hi, everybody. A few things before you leave.
[00:47:22.220] - Steve Morreale
First, thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the US. But from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues, and practitioners listening. We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia. We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at email@example.com. That's firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our The CopDoc Podcast.com. Please take the time to share a podcast with your friend if you find value in the discussions. We've had so many amazing guests and more to come who have shared their wisdom, their thoughts, their viewpoints, and their innovative ideas. Most importantly, a huge thank you to those of you who show up for work in Policing every day, not knowing the kinds of calls that you'll be sent on or the kinds of situations you'll find yourself in. You risk your lives for people, many of whom you don't know, and for that, we owe you a debt of gratitude. A big thanks. Hope you stay safe, healthy, and look forward to hearing from you and hope you'll continue to listen to upcoming episodes of The CopDoc Podcast. Thanks very much.