Season 5 - Episode 103 - The CopDoc Podcast
What if you could get a behind-the-scenes look at the life and experiences of a trailblazing female police chief? Join us for an exclusive conversation with Chief Amanda Behan of the Winchester Police Department in Virginia, as she shares her inspiring journey from a middle school job placement test to her current role as the Chief of Police. Amanda offers invaluable insights into the world of law enforcement and her transformative initiatives to engage with the community.
Throughout our discussion, Chief Behan reflects on her experiences navigating the traditionally male-dominated field of law enforcement and the lessons she's learned in leadership and resilience. We dive into her open-door policy, her efforts in developing and empowering female officers in her department, and how she modified her command staff meetings to be more participative. You won't want to miss these enlightening revelations from a true leader in the field.
Finally, we explore the heartwarming initiatives Chief Behan has implemented to bring her family and other officers' families to the police department, fostering a sense of community and creating a more open environment. Drawing from her experiences as a victim advocate and her own personal life, Chief Behan has built a culture of compassion and understanding. Don't miss out on this captivating conversation with a pioneering force in law enforcement.
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If you'd like to arrange for facilitated training, or consulting, or talk about steps you might take to improve your leadership and help in your quest for promotion, contact Steve at email@example.com
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The cop doc 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.
Well, hello everybody. Hello everybody, Steve Morreale, coming to you from Boston. You are listening to another episode of the cop doc podcast. I am here sitting in Massachusetts, but just passed through the very place where the chief we're going to talk to is in charge of the police department, Winchester Virginia, a beautiful, a beautiful town, a very historic, And we're talking with chief Amanda Behan. Good morning to you.
Thank you so much for being here. You look all relaxed in your fancy office today.
Yes, Yes, very comfortable.
That's great, I’m glad So Amanda was. It was in policing since 2001 at the Winchester Police Department and rose through the ranks, and I'll let her tell her story. But before we do, Amanda, tell us about Winchester from your perspective. How big is the town, what keeps it active and how big is the department?
So the city of Winchester is surrounded by Frederick County which is where I was born and raised, graduated from high school here And the city itself is 9.2 square miles And we have a population of 28,000. We have a wonderful hospital through Valley Health. It’s a level two, a trauma care center, and they have a lot of different entities throughout. We have the Shenandoah University in the center of the city And so we are home to a lot of college students throughout the year And I think the main attraction for our city you talked about it being a historical city And that is our beautiful old town. It is a pedestrian walking mall that has different restaurants and shopping, and what makes the city of Winchester tick is our commitment to revitalization.
The city 2001 is vastly different than the city of Winchester in 2023. It's absolutely beautiful. We are one of the best places to retire and very, very diverse city. As far as the police department, we are 79 sworn. I'm very proud of that because in comparison to population, that number is really great. However, we believe in the city that it's not a population to police officer number, it's the needs of our community And we definitely work closely with a lot of non-police officers. A lot of nonprofits, have a lot of community partners and they support us and the need for the number of officers that we have here. Our department has a part-time SWAT team. They are a 12-person team. We also have a full-time investigations division that focuses on a general investigation side, so it's going to be your property crimes to your more serious violent crimes, and then also the other half is detectives who are assigned to our regional drug task force And then, of course, the majority of our department is made up of our highly dedicated and awesome patrol officers.
The backbone of most police departments, right Amanda 100% So we're talking to Amanda behind. she is the chief of police in Winchester Virginia And I was drawn to you because of some of the things that you write about in or on LinkedIn, because you certainly show a humility and a humanity and a care and concern and compassion for the community and for the people who work with you. Thank, you.
Amanda, i want to ask how did you become the chief? I mean, what was your trajectory? I know that you have a master's degree in executive leadership and obviously it was a pre-dis-pre-. What am I trying to say here? Hang on. It was preceded by an associate's and a bachelor's degree, but you got on in 2001. What drew you to policing first?
So it's a very interesting story my road to getting here because it goes back to middle school, believe it or not. I took a job placement test to help me determine where did I want my career path to go in adulthood, and I scored very high in the legal field, and so, in researching different careers that that could be, I decided to pursue a career as a paralegal, with the hope that I would return to law school at some point After graduating college. I did start a paralegal career. I worked at a couple of different local law firms and then I took a break and went to work part-time for the victim witness program. Now what that program is is they are housed here within our Commonwealth's Attorney's Office And then Virginia that's what our prosecutor's office is called, and so the purpose of that program, and as the assistant director I would send notices to victims of crime letting them know what their rights were. But we would also assist sexual assault victims, specifically domestic violence victims, and helping them understand the court processes, and we were a person that they could call if they did have question about those processes, and oftentimes we would sit alongside them. So that was my first interaction with law enforcement in our community.
But then I got the bug that I wanted to pursue something that paid a little bit more, maybe a lot of bit more. So I went to a law firm in Fairfax, Virginia, which is just outside of Washington DC. It was a real estate law firm, probably the best experience I had had so far with how an employer treated their employees. They were very caring. They rewarded us not just by money or doing special things, it was just every day. And how they treated their employees. It was such an incredible experience. But about a year into it I felt like I was missing out on my calling And I started doing what we did back in 2001.
And that was going to the newspaper to look for jobs.
Certainly Remember those days, yes.
So I found an ad. It was for the Winchester Police Department And it just it hit me. Maybe this is something I should pursue. So my best friend at the time, she was a probation officer and working in the Winchester area. So I reached out to her for her advice. She had also was in law enforcement for a short time And I decided to give it a try. That was December of 2000. And I was in a whirlwind of an application process full of a lot of things going on, but they were able to get this accomplished within a month. It was crazy. So in January of 2001, i entered my law enforcement career with the Winchester Police Department. So you had nobody in your family who was in law enforcement.
Okay, so you were you're a first generation, as we say, first generation college, but that's, that's very interesting to me. We're going to talk a whole bunch about recruiting and dealing with mental health, both outside the department and inside the department. But since I like to talk an awful lot about leadership, I'd ask you this question How do you get involved in law enforcement? How would you say your leadership style is?
Oh, that's my leadership style is. I maintain an open door practice. I have candid conversations with people, but I always treat my employees with the utmost respect, no matter the situation that I'm in. I am a very caring individual. I'm humble, but I will hold you accountable. I think it's really hard to describe my leadership style, because I believe that it's more about my personality, is why I've been able to excel in leadership, but it's also because the things that I have failed in along the way that I've learned from a lot of why I'm here today is through the power of resilience. So, again, it's just hard to sum it up in one or two.
Well, Amanda, let me challenge you on that a little bit. You say the power of resilience. That to me at least the way I would interpret that, is that there were some resistance along the way, that there were some naysayers along the way. And there's a book out there Kristen Zeeman is one of former chief and who said I had mentors but I had tormentors. and I'm not looking to see if that's the case, but would you say you had a little bit of an uphill climb being a female in an all-male, generally male dominated discipline.
Absolutely, and that was apparent from the very beginning. I had a bad experience in the Academy with a fellow recruit who felt women shouldn't be in law enforcement. He was very vocal about that. There were times that he, when we were in defensive tactics, he let me know that as well. So I learned to be resilient very early on in my career. It definitely happened throughout my career.
Good. Thank you for sharing that. When we talk about leadership, i want you to go back in time and tell me some either leadership misstep or leadership crisis that shaped you in that way, i would hasten to say or suggest. Let me restate that I would suggest that, since you've been a sergeant and a lieutenant and a captain, that you have somehow morphed into a better leader. Is that a good assumption?
Okay, so you've made some missteps. Do you recall something where you may have lashed out at somebody, jumped to conclusion a little bit too quickly and looking back and reflecting that you are now a different leader?
There are so many examples that I could pull out from my time in leadership And I think one of my first mistakes. I was promoted to sergeant and I was placed in charge of people who were my field training officers. They had been with the department triple the time that I had at this point. I definitely there were times where I wouldn't admit that I didn't have the answer to something, so that would be my first mistake that I made. The second mistake and it happened a couple of different times is just learning. Well, learning the ability to take a step back and breathe and then make a decision or have a conversation And wow, I have a long list. I don't know that I want to put that out there, but yeah.
No, but Amanda, thank you. We're talking Amanda Behan. She's the chief of police in Winchester and I appreciate you being honest and forthright because certainly I've had some of those same experiences And sometimes we have a tendency, especially when we're new, we've got stripes, we've got bars, we're in charge and you're going to do it because I tell you And then you realize, I think later on it's like being a young officer You want to stop everybody, You want to put everybody in handcuffs And then when you kind of become seasoned, you realize this is not all, it's required. I mean I have to kind of tone it down a little bit and be more reasonable and use discretion in a better way. At least that's my experience. Would you say that's the same with you?
Of course, 100%, 100%. Yeah, it's amazing how the officers, the recruits, the seasonal officers, and how we transition and, as leaders, our first line to senior level leadership and how we transition and grow and mature and yeah, it definitely is those mistakes that make us who we are, because we learn from them. A good leader is going to learn from them.
You see your role as developing others, as people have helped develop you 100%.
So, specifically in our female law enforcement officers for our agency, I think we don't have another female in a leadership position in our agency And I want to prove upon that. I am proud of the fact that we are 21% female, which is, the average is around 12%. So I am happy about that. but we definitely need to grow in the informal, informal leadership role of our females. So, yes, i am working actively with getting our females together. We've just started a group where we're going to be gathering off duty and there will be some informal conversations and I'm hoping that I can take some of what I've experienced and make certain that our officers, our female officers, do not experience some of what I have and then some of the bad things that have happened or the lessons learned, that I can share that with them as well.
That's good. So one of the things you said a few minutes ago was the open door policy, and you understand that the culture of many police departments is top down. There's chain of command, There is a span of control and such. How do you avoid that? By having an open door but not stepping on the captain, the lieutenant or the sergeant's toes and their responsibility and authority.
It has to. It depends on the circumstances under which the conversation is occurring. If somebody is coming to me and a situation in which would require that communication to flow up through the chain of command, certainly I'm not going to turn them away, but I'm going to encourage them to take that and move it properly up the chain of command. But I'll provide a more recent example. We have a community resources team and they do a variety of things within the community. It's those things that are often not defined by a call for service. It's, working with community members to solve problems or to address issues that are more complex than something our patrol officers could handle. And so the sergeant requested a meeting with me and this is not someone who in the past would have typically gone to a chief of police to have a conversation And we sat in my office and he said this is the first time I've been in the chief's office And he just wanted to share with me some ideas that he had for the team moving forward And he wanted to ensure that they were in line with the vision that I had set forth and our strategic plan for the city. And before he talked about implementing those things, and going up through the chain of command. He just wanted some certainty that it was going to be supported And I certainly.
I really appreciated that And our sergeants, lieutenants, captains, deputy chief, they're not going to get frustrated with that because as long as I'm keeping them in the loop, as far as any conversations that I've had, i don't go out and seek out And well what's going on here or to start any kind of gossip, the topics, or to share information that they don't already know. I often will meet with folks and just give them an update on hey, this is what we're looking to bring in in the next budget year, but this is something that we've been discussing and command staff and it's being shared among several people And it's just to share the excitement of what's going on. So you definitely have to understand and know the balance of when it is and is not appropriate.
I've been. They sound very familiar to me, but I don't remember where, maybe with DEA, okay, so we'll get back to it. And I want to talk about, let me tell you, where I'm going to go and hopefully I'm leading you down the right way. We want to. I want to talk about your membership in chief and other memberships that you are in I want to ask about 30 by 30, but and I want to talk about your staff meetings. I want to talk about the role of policing in your, in your view, since so much is sort of social work, and I also think that it's extremely valuable to be able to talk about your victim, your victim advocacy and how that kind of frames the way you look at the job and encourage others. Yes, and really I want to be asking what kinds of conversations you have with, with people who are promoted, in terms of setting expectations and giving them guidance? So that's where I want to go, that okay.
Okay, sure, all right.
So we're talking with Amanda Behan. She's the chief of police in Winchester Virginia. And we've got a number of things to chat about, But one of the things I wanted to ask you about is about your staff meetings. I presume you have command staff meetings.
Yes, okay, once a week.
So tell me how you modified the way those are run. Are they more participative than you had experienced when you began? And how does that go? Take me into one of your meetings and what it's composed of.
So, everybody has this their own style and what works for them, and certainly I wouldn't put anyone down for the way that they run their command staff meetings, because they have the right to do them however they want to. So for me it is actually. It's held in a conference room that is inside of our, in my office area, and it is made up of three captains and a deputy chief and also our director of emergency communications. Right now I do have a vacancy in the deputy chief position, so one of my captains is acting in that role. I am an informal person when it comes to those meetings, because I think that you get more accomplished that way.
When you have again, it goes back to those candid and open conversations. There we allow each person to present a list of things that they want to talk about, but certainly if there are questions or somebody wants to interject an idea or something they some information they have about that, they're encouraged to do so, and each week it'll be, , I’ll just say okay, we're going to start with. Captain Stottelmeier, what do you have today? And it's not the same routine. We sit all around the table. There is no head of the table kind of a situation. We talk about so many topics, things that are affecting the community, things that are affecting our employees, status of any kind of internal investigations that are occurring.
what can we do better? There's just a wide range. I don't go into those meetings with an agenda because we end up at - I have it set that we are allotted two hours. Sometimes we will be finished in an hour and sometimes we, we'll take the full two hours. We will have conversations that make us angry at times, but we have the policy that we are. we're going to disagree and we're going to let each other know why we disagree, but when we leave the room we're going to, we're going to send one message, and that has been something in the past that has devastated our agency under a previous administration, in which there was a lack of loyalty and respect to achieve and it's destroyed morale among the patrol officers.
A lot of backstabbing going on.
Yes, it was absolutely horrendous, so I knew that I could not. I could not have that. And yeah, i've had my feelings hurt in those meetings, but I get over it quickly and move on.
Yeah Well, thank you for sharing that and being so candid. I'm, let's say I'm a new captain. You promoted, you see something in me. You've promoted me and we're going to have a sit-down for the first time, In other words, preparing me for the new role and what your expectations are. What's that conversation like? Amanda?
Well, I want to say that when the person is first notified that they have been selected as captain is a celebratory moment, 100%. We are not going to talk about any of the things deficiencies at that point in time. I've been in a situation where I've been promoted and I've been like, yeah, you've been promoted, now I'm going to tell you everything you need to work on, and you can't do that to someone who is wants to celebrate in the moment. So in the first meeting that we'll have, certainly I'm going to have a list of expectations dependent upon what role that person is serving in it, that's common knowledge. You need to have a clear understanding of what's expected of you in order for you to succeed. So there's going to be the specific duties, expectations along that line And then, moving on from that, will be the overall philosophy of the department.
When I became chief, i went away from a vision statement that was outdated We really didn't, it didn't mean anything to us and it stayed in place for, it seemed, probably 15 years And I wanted to develop a value statement And in fact that I did that when I was in the chief's process and we.
It is centered around the belief that we my belief, my whole heart that we are community forward and employees focused, and that way we are showing that not only are we committed to our community, but we, as command staff, are committed to our employees.
So it's talking about my vision and how we accomplish those things. So that's going to be. The first part of the conversation is about being employee focused and what that looks like. I want to, I’m going to want to hear, on a regular basis, any ideas that are brought forward to keep employees and their families engaged with the department, and then we'll go into the community part. We are very active in community outreach events, ones that we host along with other partners, and then ones that we do by ourselves, ones that we participate in with nonprofits or, , other government entities. We're going to talk about those things and the expectation and participation and, setting the example for our employees and how we want them to engage with the community. There's a whole list of things, but those are going to be the priorities.
That's good.. First of all, I think you to know I’m watching some of the things that you post and I'm appreciative of that candid approach that you take. But you're a mother, a chief and a coach, among other things, and work life balance is something that has been very difficult to do in policing. It seems to me that that's maybe the woman's touch And I don't mean to be a pejorative, i have three daughters, but I think that changes dynamic, changes perspective. Do you see a move towards trying to help people who work for you if your employer centered on work life balance?
Yes, we are at the beginning stages of it, but I feel if I am going to preach it, i also have to practice it. So I, as often as I can, i will bring my family to different events that we have here at the police department. We have our citizens academy and volunteer and policing meetings and graduations and community forums, and I will bring my husband, my children, to those, because I think that, it's really important for families to understand exactly what their spouses or significant others, or fathers, mothers, what they go through. And we encourage our employees to have their relatives to do ride-alongs. We are going to start doing open houses where our families are invited in. We want to encourage them to come into our place of work and have dinners.
These are things that weren't done in the past and maybe, other agencies are doing those things, but, for me it's something that that means a lot. I was, my first husband was a fire or he just retired as a Battalion Chief from the fire department And I always felt that, fire departments and firefighters did a really good job of because they're gone for 24 hours, so you would often see family members coming in and having dinners, and they would be surrounded by their families at the table, just like it was the dinner table at home. And I want to do the same thing, for our officers who have to work odd hours. I want them to feel comfortable with bringing their families here, and so, yeah, we're at the beginning stages of it, but I can, I can already start to see the difference, and things on within our house.
What I've done to change things is I've taken our break room and our briefing room had a divided wall between them. It is now opened up and so the whole area can be used for briefing or it can be used for gatherings. I changed our shift configuration to where no one's back is to anyone anymore. We are having discussions at a round table at briefing time. So those are some of the things that, just aesthetically, to try to change, to get that mindset in place that this is what we're trying to do.
That's pretty unique And I think, instead of instead of living in our shroud, in in our closed environment that you're allowing people to not only appear in but be a part of, and I think that's, it's that, it's that uncertainty. Why do we hide things, those kinds of things? And so where we can, I think it is. It certainly is of benefit to families, but also to the community, and so I'm very glad to hear that. I want to know. You said earlier on that you did some work as a victim advocate. How does that change your perspective And how do you bring that mentality, that, that that state of mind, to the department in Winchester?
I think for every officer who gets in this profession is going to have a level of compassion for what a victim goes through. It's going to make an impact on you. However, as you go through your career and your own personal life, you're going to have times where things are going to impact you differently. But what often happens, as you, become more senior in your career, you have a tendency to lose those things And it's just because of the toll that the job has taken. You don't become surprised by anything that you see anymore And you lose, you lose track of that compassion for victims And so oftentimes it's, doing reminders. We will do debriefs following an incident and a significant one And oftentimes in those discussion those reminders will come out.
I think I don't know necessarily that being a part of the victim witness program had a significant part of my compassion for victims in law enforcement. I think that it just it's a part of who I was. It wasn't through those experiences that made me more or less compassionate And I think anyone who gets in this job is going to feel this way.
So I wrote a few things down. You just said something and I'll tell you what just triggered in my mind. Most recently, we had the shooting that we just heard about at VCU right. Not far down the road from you and high school, graduation and such. How do you use those situations, which you hope will never happen in Winchester or any other community that you're responsible for, and how do you use those as teachable moments?
We take it's and I don't want to say take advantage, because that's absolutely horrible to say, but we use those incidents to bring our shifts together and talk about, how we would respond as a department, how our shift would respond to that incident, the aftermath of it, what we need to be doing in the community. So there's different levels to things. On our patrol level, they're going to talk about the incident itself, maybe something that they would have done differently or maybe something that they didn't think about. And then when you talk about the, the lieutenant level, the more mid-level, that's when you're going to expand on incident command and because they are likely going to be holding incident command until more senior folks are going to get there. So there's going to be those discussions that take place.
And then at the command level, we're going to be talking about okay, if this occurred within our jurisdiction, what are our resources? What do we need to make sure we're accomplishing? We do have a wonderful emergency management program here in which we do tabletop exercises outside of just law enforcement. So we're bringing in our government leaders and we're having discussions. We work at the state level as well And we are going through incidents and will be asked a question and expected to answer it just as though, just as if we were in the situation, and oftentimes those exercises are developed because of something that's happened nationally.
Great. thank you for that. What do you think are the seminal moments that that helped you become a leader?
At first and foremost, it was my first the lieutenant that I had on midnight shift. He was a role model to me and he continues to be a confidant and someone that I go to. That because in this position you find yourself that you can't rely sometimes on the folks that you do because the level of confidentiality that exists. So we had a conversation early in my career and it was after he had to address accountability with me And he received a survey from him and he wanted to know, where did we see ourself in five years? Where did we ourself in 10 years? What trainings did we want to go to? and I struggled with this. I was loving life.
I was a midnight shift lieutenant and finding the things you talked about earlier.
You want to stop every car and arrest all the bad guys and I was that person, and so he pulled me aside and told me how disappointed he was in me that I didn't fill out the survey and it was requested but required to be by him and by a certain timeframe, and I felt, i felt devastated that I disappointed him and it was at that moment that I realized the impression that this man had on me. And so from that afterwards he told me, he said, Amanda, i don't want any opportunity that you have. That comes your way. And, if you want to be police chief one day, you will do that. And that just I. I'm getting chills right now even thinking about that conversation, because I never, i never imagined at that time that I would be here and I never imagined how strong those words would resonate throughout my career. So that is, first and foremost, the moment that set the tone for my career.
And when you're saying that, it seems to me that one of the things I've learned is that one person can make a difference Absolutely, and I think it can be all the way down. Because, as as we're talking, I’m thinking what exactly is policing? and so much of the work we do is social responsibility, social responses, anything from homeless to people in crisis of one way or the other. Obviously, we have alcohol problems, substance abuse problems and mental health problems, and I would dare say if you can help convey the idea from your experience what exactly policing is, because I think many people misunderstand it's law and order, it's. We can enforce the law, and I think that is probably five to 10% of what we do.
I'm seeing you shake your head.
So talk about that. How do you convey to a new person that locking people up, arresting people, writing tickets is only a fraction of this job?
I think the great thing about being a new recruit is that you go through a field training program And so what you've learned in the academy, the basics that that allow you an understanding and the authority to respond to a call for an interview, have an idea of what to do, what arrest you need to make. But it's the field training program is really how that message gets conveyed. So, we're making sure that they do carry out all the things that they have learned in the basic community. However, it's the interactions that the field training officer will have throughout the day with the community making sure that they're stopping, if they see children at a park playing, making sure to take that opportunity to engage with children playing in a park. Or, riding through a community and seeing members sitting out on their benches in front of the houses and stopping and chatting with them.
And as far as when you talk about the hard issues such as homelessness and addiction and mental health, we are certainly taking a different approach here in the city of Winchester and how we are addressing this. We have to be creative And while it always lies on the the heavy shoulders of the law enforcement. We can't continue that way. We have to work alongside our government partners, our nonprofits and our businesses, our providers, and come up with solutions or policies in which we tackle these tough issues. And I recently developed an addiction response to the community resource team And that team is our creative, think tank, if you will. So they are our, when it comes to solving these, the problems, they are our go to And I'm so, I’m really looking forward to this position.
It's not the only beginning, but we are working alongside our community paramedic, we're looking, we are working with our service providers, our nonprofits. We have recently acquired homeless tracking software And we know that we can make sure that our homeless population is receiving the resources they need. We can answer easily, answer their questions, we can maintain emergency contacts in a situation, that, in which they, , would become unconscious or, , God forbid they are found deceased. There's so many things that we're doing And when you talk about those three things, we have encompassed it and all into one because they are so highly, , integrated.
Yeah, interconnected for sure. How important is discretion and how important is it for your officers, all officers, to understand discretion.
So it's really important? I certainly don't want to. I'm not going to tell them how to do their job. Each encounter that we have is going to be different. No one is the same, whether it be a traffic stop or responding to an assault and battery. Then, of course, the state is going to mandate when we can and cannot arrest or summons and not some mandatory situations.
Yeah, but as far as when it comes from me, certainly there are times where, when I have a complaint from a citizen and it's been validated by multiple citizens about speeding occurring in a particular area, our, our supervisors, are going to assign directed patrols And in those the dreaded directed patrols.
You don't have to tell me what to do. Yes, we do.
And really a lot of them are very valid And so when you have these valid complaints coming in, then we have a more zero tolerance policy.
Understand because you're responding to the two complaints and concerns. Let's go back to this. The situation that certainly altered policing across the world, not just the United States. The George Floyd incident You were not the chief at the time.
No, I wasn't. I worked alongside the chief on some things during that time, though.
Yeah, so talk about that. In other words, how did we, how did we communicate with the community to indicate that that is not the MO of the Winchester Police Department?
Sure, So in 2017, the former chief had placed me in charge of a workgroup to redevelop our policies. That's when he came to the department, And so we made sure that we tackled the the policies that have the most liability attached to them, For example, use of force when you're talking about the George Floyd murder. So use of force was a priority for us, And so at that time, I went to the International Association's Achievement of Police website, the Virginia Association Chiefs of Police website, did some research through the Executive Research Forum and developed policies that actually put us ahead of the incident that had happened, And so we were already educating the community through our outreach events, because we put our policies on our website And so there was already community support of our efforts here in the city. So when the incident happened, we did get word that there was a group that was going to be doing some protesting in our city, So the chief of police and the mayor and the president of the NAACP came together and did a statement through video and it was posted on social media through the NAACP, through the city of Winchester and the Winchester Police Department. There was a united message that went out, And then after that, when we did receive word.
I had found that I knew a local nonprofit who would be a good point of contact to help go through our special event permitting process and help the organizers become, familiar with processes and help them. I helped them write the special event permits. We actually participated in the helping them identify a good location where they would be safe and allowed them to parade on the sidewalk, over a several block radius, and then a location to come together and rally, And we had officers that served in, on the outskirts to make sure that vehicle traffic wouldn't affect their safety. And in the end, when they began to do the speech and what would happen in the program following, we were one of the first agencies that were at the rally And it was, it was difficult to see the hatred for law enforcement coming from some of the participants, but we had a lot of community members that actually that were very thankful along the way along the route, saying thank you for being here, thank you for helping us save. I think that we were fortunate to be able to have successes because of our community outreach and education that had been done prior to that. However, that's, it has to be maintained And of course I definitely made that a priority. I have had several meetings with our NAACP board, participated in a community forum with them, I've had one-on-ones where they have been in my office looking at body-worn camera footage And so appreciative of the professionalism that's been displayed.
There are so many times that I hold my breath after something nationally has happened and concerned, And one recently happened in which it involved a foot pursuit And the police chief in that jurisdiction said we conducted a survey and did some research on the number of agencies that have foot pursuit policy and we could only locate three.
Well, if it were only three then I would be happy to say the city of Winchester does have a foot pursuit policy. I'm sure there are more out there that do, but I can get ahead of those things because we are doing best practices here And so when this incident occurred, I actually reached out to the president of the NAACP and told him that I had not seen the video, how I did know some of the circumstances surrounding it And I let him. I provided him with our foot pursuit policy that he could stare with him ever He felt necessary and that if he felt that we needed to come together and have a meeting after the video was released, I would be happy to do that. We didn't need to have a meeting and there wasn't anything that came out within the community of concern when it comes to our agency.
Good, good. Well, I think in a lot of ways you're being proactive and you're seeking relationships before you need them and being open and somewhat transparent and sharing beforehand, And I think that's an important thing. It's for people to have access and to be able to trust, And it sounds to me like Winchester has, not everybody is going to love the Winchester Police Department but, when you have most of the people behind you, that it makes it a little bit easier, terrific.
Terrific Need to start to wind down, but I wanna ask a couple of questions. What are the things you're still looking or that are in the works to accomplish to improve service delivery or to improve relationships?
Well, i recently I'm getting ready to hire an administrative assistant that will focus on community relations, our creative content and messaging, and I think once this person is on board, i will feel a lot better that we have some things set for the future to expand our community outreach. It is my goal to be even more transparent than we are, and everybody uses the word transparent And I know it's overused but-.
But you've gotta communicate, you gotta let people know what you're doing, what you're thinking, what you're waiting for.
So we've already I've already established some things that I want to put out there Right now. Annually we're reporting on use of force, our citizen complaints, quarterly report on our traffic stops and searches, and we have our general orders out there. We put daily reports on our rest, our calls for service. But I think that we can do better. I want to make the city a safer place as far as traffic crashes go, so we are going to be proactive and reducing the number of traffic crashes in our city.
We're gonna be pushing out data to the community So they have an understanding of the, , the high areas in which these are occurring. We're also gonna show our high crime areas Quarterly. We're gonna report on, , through a heat map of what that looks like in every part of the city of Winchester and what types of crimes are occurring there. Those are things that other agencies have been doing for a long time, but we really didn't feel the need for it until now. So it's whatever we can do to provide answers to any questions that the community may have of what's going on as it pertains to the Winchester Police Department.
So we're talking to Amanda.
Behan. She's the police chief in Winchester, Virginia, and we've been talking about a number of things, including we just finished talking about transparency, but more about communicating and engaging the community and vice versa. Tell me, you seem like a very serious person. Maybe you're just being serious with me, but that's mild changes. Talk about some of the fun you have in the job.
Oh my gosh, i love just conversations with the employees, the way that we banter with one another, the bantering that goes on in the command staff meeting and picking on each other, and so at work. It's just those conversations And I think that's really important. And so at work it's just those conversations like sharing all the great things that my kids are doing and talking to other parents in the department and what their kids are doing. And we just I have this room that I started. It took a while, the room I spoke of earlier, the break slash briefing room And it took a while to get going.
But I went down and I had the biggest smile on my face because I had this corkboard in this room and, because the building is now 20 years old, so there's corkboards, and I was like, what am I going to? I want to clean up the space, and so I printed off a bunch of candid pictures that I had had of officers that I take from time to time, and I printed off a bunch and put it down on the corkboard, where the corkboard is now almost filled because other officers are doing the same thing, And they're funny.
They're funny And I love I said that just, to see, I get pictures sent to me by supervisors, by officers, and it's just fun in the community pictures, and so I love it. And yes, I know everybody describes me when they first meet me as so serious, like why are you so serious? But yeah, and then of course the fun at home is my children And my walks in the morning with my best friend and my dog And my date nights with my husband and getting out and doing fun things here. We have such a great city to get out and, go to concerts and go to restaurants and so, yeah, for sure
It strikes me that you humanize, the position of chief And I'm, very 100%, I sense that you are an innovative, thoughtful leader.
A thought leader, which is really important, which drew me to you, and we had a conversation before we got on and you told me you belonged to Chief and when you told me that I thought, oh sure, she belongs to the IACP or she belongs to the Virginia, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. But you weren't talking about that. You were talking about Chief. And when I looked it up, it was absolutely amazing. Let me say this, Amanda when I looked it up I want you to describe it for others When I looked it up, i realized that this was very, very unique And this is an organization that is made up of I know you'll tell it better than I, but of women in executive positions, and the common thread between executive positions is that they are responsible for people, no matter what those people do. So I'm sure you find very great benefit to Chief. So tell us about that please.
Yeah, so we talked about earlier how I went back to get my master's degree and I love to continue to learn and to grow, and especially in this position. And only 3% of law enforcement executives are women. And so, and then of those 3%, how am I going to relate to them? Have we gone through similar things? What can they help provide me with? And I've always been a believer that you can learn so much from those in the business community or in other local government or nonprofit, and that's where that's where you really grow, that's where you become that innovative leader.
And certainly as women, we do have specific challenges that we go through being executives, and many of which who are in a male dominated field, and how you overcome that And what Chief does. It exposes you to so many different realms of the executive level, and they will. We will get to see speeches that are made by incredible women who are doing incredible things. And what I really love about it is that I have a cohort team And we meet every couple of months And we start the meeting out in a different fashion each time And we will tackle we will tackle certain questions, and then, at the last meeting we decided we were going to move forward with, like having one person talk about a specific issue and how they handled it to share with the group, and I was able to do that. Now these sessions are confidential. We are not allowed to share the specifics of what was talked about and who talked about that, and that's so important.
You mean, what happens in chief stays in Chief,
Sort of, yes, it does. Yes, so it's been. it's been really great And I was so happy to be able to share how I, how I was able to overcome a very significant challenge most recently and to feel comfortable with these group of women. So, and we're all in different all I am the only government worker not only government, but probably the only chief. Yes, yes.
Yeah, that makes you quite unique, which is just great, great. I'm glad to hear that. It's sort of a great way not to end but to come to a close that that, if you are, if you are in this position of chief, it's lonely at the top.
I understand that sometimes and it's lonely at the top. And, by the same token, you can get so much advice and counseling and coaching and mentoring from others who are in a situation maybe not a police chief, but are in a situation where they have stakeholders, they have shareholders, they have people and with people, you have people who want to do the job and people who don't want to do the job, but they want to complain, and so that's a great opportunity for you to share, right.
Yeah, absolutely, and I took it a step further. It kind of, after joining it, empowered me a bit more and pushed me to like go outside my comfort zone And I actually now network with a large group of women who are in great positions throughout the city of Winchester and our community and they meet once a month And, I was able to present there and share my story and just the comfort and the support and the things that you learn from others outside the field have been just so encouraging and so helpful to me And my hopeful continued success in this position.
That's great Talk about recruiting. How's it going for you?
Really That's. That's what you're one of the first persons who have said that, because recruiting people, recruiting people for policing is somewhat difficult.
Yes, and I'll tell you what makes it really difficult for us, as we are within 40 minutes of Northern Virginia, where officers are making $20,000 more than us starting out. And how is it that the city of Winchester is going to recruit officers here And we sell it, because we don't lie about who we are and what we have to offer. We don't and I shouldn't say lie but exaggerate or don't talk about the bad things. People love their jobs here and we encourage that to come here, find what you love and do it and do it and do it well And just. We appreciate the sacrifices that our officers make and we show our appreciation for what they do every day.
The shifts are like families. The whole department is like a family. We know the spouse's names, their children's names, and we are in a position right now We have 79, but we are allotted to over hire by two And we actually are doing a background into our over hire position that I'm so excited for. So I don't know what the magic is, other than we have great people here who truly love the job and truly love this community.
This is a question I very rarely ask people, because I usually ask it in a general sense, but that is Amanda Behan, the police chief in Winchester Virginia. Why would women consider becoming a police officer?
We featured one of our female officers recently about her journey and becoming a police officer. She was a stay at home mom and she talks about driving a minivan and then now she drives a cruiser and watching Cocoa Mellon on TV in the morning to now, responding to these calls for service, and it really it really was. So it was such an incredible video to watch And she said that what. What I like about the Winchester Police Department is the number of women who are at the Winchester Police Department and who absolutely love their jobs, and for anyone wanting a woman wanting to get to join the Winchester Police Department, it would only take a few minutes with one of the wonderful women who work here to understand how great of a career this is, the difference that you're going to make in the community but within your own life, and the satisfaction that comes out of the career.
Great, thank you. We've been talking to Amanda Behan. She is the chief of police in Winchester Virginia along Route 7.
And I've had the pleasure of driving through.
As I said, Amanda, you have the last word of all of the things I have asked you. What one message would you send to others who are in this business that are trying or considering moving up or becoming better leaders?
Never lose sight of who you are as a person. Certainly, the law enforcement career and the experiences will attempt to change who you are. They don't need to. They will certainly impact you. But stay true to who you are.
Great. Thank you Well. thanks so much for your time and your energy. It's been a pleasure. I look forward to meeting you in person on one of my trips I promise you.