The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

Dr. Mark Chaires, TCD Podcast Ep 42, Tennessee State University, retired Chief, Schenectady, NY Police

October 04, 2021 Mark Chaires Season 2 Episode 42
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
Dr. Mark Chaires, TCD Podcast Ep 42, Tennessee State University, retired Chief, Schenectady, NY Police
Show Notes Transcript

We chatted with Dr. Mark Chaires, retired Police Chief for the Schenectady, NY Police.

A second career academic, we spoke about teaching, policing, the issues of race, and the difficulties of leading police agencies.  A U.S. Air Force veteran, Mark is now actively involved in the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee, a non-profit started by Dolly Parton.  It addresses the issue of early literacy.  

Mark provided an interesting perspective on policing and teaching.  He spoke about his experience in the military and the essence of followership. 

[00:00:02.640] - Intro

Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas The CopDoc Podcast 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.


[00:00:32.930] - Steve Morreale

Hello, everybody, Steve Morreale, and you're listening to The CopDoc Podcast, thanks for listening. Today, we have the pleasure of meeting with Mark Chaires, former chief of Schenectady, New York Police Department, and now at Tennessee State University, Dr Chaires. And he is in the Criminal Justice Department. So good morning. Good morning, Mark.


[00:00:51.680] - Mark Chaires

Morning, Steve.


[00:00:52.490] - Steve Morreale

Welcome. The semester's over. Here we are. Summer has started. It got hot up here in the Northeast.


[00:00:57.950] - Steve Morreale

How was it down there? The last little bit.


[00:00:59.510] - Mark Chaires

It's been rainy the last week, but that's all pretty much from April. It gets hot out till October.


[00:01:05.810] - Steve Morreale

So I was reading about you. We met through LinkedIn and some of the things that you were writing caught my attention and writing about and posting. And you are a former military person like myself in the Air Force. Thank you for your service, Mark. Thank you. When were you in and what were you doing?


[00:01:21.950] - Mark Chaires

I went in 1977. I got out 1986. Primary job was a military working dog handler.


[00:01:28.270] - Steve Morreale

Oh OK. Canine. That's terrific. So you trained in Texas with that. With the dogs. Yes. Yeah. I started out in Texas and I actually went to patrol dog school in seventy seventy seven and then I went back for a drug detector dog school in seventy eight seventy nine.


[00:01:43.970] - Steve Morreale

Great experiences isn't and certainly brought it forward to your role back in and local policing. Is that fair to say.


[00:01:50.660] - Mark Chaires

Yes, yes it is.


[00:01:51.530] - Steve Morreale

So I saw that your dad was it was a police officer in that same town. Talk about that. Is that what drew you to policing?


[00:01:58.190] - Mark Chaires

No, I actually want to be law enforcement inadvertently. That's another story. But no, I love my father tremendously. I could never measure up to the man he was, but I just decided to go in a different direction. But, yeah, he was he was a groundbreaker, first African-American officer in our city and was the first African-American officer there for a long time. If you mention his name, anybody knows him. It's still I get nothing but the warmest and the kindest, most gracious comments about the footprint he left.


[00:02:23.300] - Mark Chaires

So I've been very blessed with a great father and a great mother.


[00:02:26.540] - Steve Morreale

That's pretty special. So you left the Air Force and how long before you joined the police department?


[00:02:32.930] - Mark Chaires

Well, I got out in eighty six. I joined the police department in nineteen eighty eight. That's when my academy began.


[00:02:38.210] - Steve Morreale

OK, so talk about what you did there. What kinds of roles did you play in that department? And tell us a little bit about the department, because listeners are coming from all over the world. Where is it located? How big is it? Did it grow while you were there? What changes?


[00:02:51.410] - Mark Chaires

Well, I think Schenectady, New York, is the home of General Electric. And the one point that I think it's a classic Rust Belt story, at one point you had the city had fifty thousand factory jobs. Now they're down to about two. And those are mostly white collar jobs. And we follow the city fall, unfortunately, building back up now. But for a while there, they followed the same pattern. All the jobs left cities struggled financially.


[00:03:13.940] - Mark Chaires

Then we have issues with drugs and with drugs generally come a long guns. So we're it's a city of about sixty thousand. But we're really busy, really busy city. The violent crime rate was higher than you would be expected when I joined Schenectady. As everybody else, we start out as a patrol officer. I was a patrol officer for about four or five years and I was a sergeant for four. And then I was a tenant for about eight.


[00:03:35.840] - Mark Chaires

Typical patrol supervisor. I was the they shift police commander when I made lieutenant. I was also a community police lieutenant and I made assistant chief in two thousand one. And then I made I was promoted to chief in two thousand eight at department. We've got an interesting history. We and it wasn't all good for a while there. I think you could categorize this as a bit of a problem child, but we made some changes and they're really doing great things now.


[00:03:57.050] - Steve Morreale

So it was part of your job to make some of these fixes to work on the culture and to tamp down on police misconduct?


[00:04:05.480] - Mark Chaires

Well, I think the most important part was I knew when I took the position, the vast majority of the officers there were doing good, great police work, good police work and doing what they're supposed to be doing. What I looked at my role was to the officers that are doing the right thing, focused on the positive that people are doing the right thing and do as much as I can to put them in a position to succeed and let the officers know what the guidelines are.


[00:04:27.800] - Mark Chaires

And unfortunately, those people who self identify as not wanting to color within the lines, so to speak, well, there's consequences.


[00:04:35.150] - Steve Morreale

So let's talk about that. Let's talk about your trajectory. Did you learn anything from your military experience that would help you later become a leader, a good leader?


[00:04:45.320] - Mark Chaires

Yeah, I did. The one thing it's funny, one of the things I would say is good about the military in the Air Force. I'm sure all the other branches that are similar as they prepare you, they put you in a position to succeed. They prepare you, for example, they have a for this what we call senior airman. I think the ranks have changed a little bit. You go free, supervise your course. It's I think it's a three day course to prepare you and say, hey, you're going to be a supervisor.


[00:05:04.880] - Mark Chaires

So here's some information you have and these are some things you start thinking about. Then when I meet Staff Sergeant, I mean, there was another two week school and then at some point the four between four, five and six, you go to leadership school, which is a month, and they take you a four month training now. And then there's all this other stuff they have on the job training. Stambaugh DEA valuation's to make sure you're proficient in a job.


[00:05:26.750] - Mark Chaires

Just a lot of logic, a lot of great H.R. mechanisms that are built. Into the institution, and it's funny, I didn't really realize some of this stuff in some paperwork and sometimes you gripe, well, we've got to do this again, but getting an agency that didn't have quite the same resources, you really appreciate the benefit of those. So yeah. And yeah. And another thing, too, I have to say is you see great examples of leadership and that's you look at, OK, this is a person that you'd like to emulate.


[00:05:51.110] - Mark Chaires

Yeah. That Yeah. That you respected as a leader. Because when I was I'm kind of like I didn't go to Schenectady PD when I first went there. When you went to initial interview, they said, well, what do you want to do? I said, well, I don't have any intention of ever becoming a supervisor. I'd like to work in the USA bureau and or maybe work a dog. I said I don't plan on being a supervisor.


[00:06:10.700] - Mark Chaires

And five years later, I was a sergeant.


[00:06:12.530] - Steve Morreale

So, well, somebody must have seen,


[00:06:14.810] - Mark Chaires

I'm sorry?


[00:06:15.230] - Steve Morreale

Well somebody had to see something good in you for sure, or you would not have risen.


[00:06:18.950] - Mark Chaires

Well, I passed the test, so


[00:06:21.680] - Steve Morreale

That'll do it.


[00:06:22.860] - Mark Chaires

I passed the test and.


[00:06:24.590] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, and the rest is history, as they say. You know, it's interesting that you say that Mark and myself, having been in the Army and on this show and in many of the trainings that I do for police officers, both at the supervisor level and the mid manager level and the executives, you know, I constantly ask the question, if you're in charge, whether you're a captain or a deputy chief or a chief or lieutenant, what are you doing to improve the agency?


[00:06:47.960] - Steve Morreale

And so many will say, well, that's not my job. I'm not the chief and I'm not sure that I agree with that. But I do know that you recall having been in the military, that the police agencies pretend to be similar to the military. But as you just explained, they're very different. They do not prepare people necessarily for for future positions. And but I also know and I think you know, that what's unusual about policing is that let's say 90 percent, 95 percent of the officers who come on the job, get sworn in as an officer, retire at that same rank as an officer.


[00:07:20.900] - Mark Chaires

That's correct.


[00:07:21.410] - Steve Morreale

So very few of us step up and raise our hand and say, I'll take that next step. I'll be willing to be in charge of other people or to lead other people. Talk about where you began to experience the benefit of being a good manager and a good leader to develop other people.


[00:07:38.870] - Mark Chaires

I think one of the things I kind of realized early on was you don't get things done by yourself. You kind of have to. It's not so much about leadership as is much about followership and unfortunately, that term as a negative connotation. But people like our scholar in followership and leadership, we'll talk about that. And so basically what that talks about is how leaders get too much blame and too much credit. So basically, you realize that a lot of people most disappointed you going to lead themselves, especially in law enforcement, especially in all organizations, but in law enforcement.


[00:08:10.580] - Mark Chaires

You know, we work unsupervised most of the time. So early on, even before the leadership, the followership literature started becoming more well known, I realized, you know, I'm not going to be handling these calls. I'm not going to be in that interrogation room doing interrogations. These people are these talented people are. So what I would try to do is figure out a way, what am I going to do to make sure that they have the best opportunity to succeed?


[00:08:31.520] - Mark Chaires

And if you have some people that just accelerate at the beginning. I think the bigger challenge is to get people work with people who might struggle a little bit. And I think that's something in law enforcement agencies. We don't always do as well as we need to. I think as far as leadership being developed, I think one of the keys I learned early was put your people in a position to succeed, give them the resources they need and kind of get out of the way.


[00:08:50.480] - Mark Chaires

And the people that need guidance or whatever, well, you you address them as needed.


[00:08:54.470] - Steve Morreale

So let's talk about your climb up. You said that you were a lieutenant in community policing. Is that what you're told?


[00:08:59.980] - Mark Chaires

Well, I was a lieutenant and I was the community policing lieutenant, which is kind of interesting because when I took the community policing, we got a grant and we got a grant to hire 12 new officers. And typically what we would do, we put them in community policing positions. Well, I took a different position when we did. We did is we created a directed patrol unit. So we identified problems. We could have these officers to directly certain problems.


[00:09:21.080] - Mark Chaires

Now, there was people that back during that part of our history were kind of there was a little bit of a disagreement as to what the pressing problems were and what they should do. But I thought that's basically the approach we took. We implemented community policing, I think, back in the early 90s when Commissioner Knowles came there and he actually unfortunately so he has died in one of the towers on 9/11. So we went through a lot of different changes.


[00:09:40.730] - Mark Chaires

As far as community policing, the best thing I would say is try to integrate it within everything within the whole organization. One of the problems is if you have a community policing officer that's just assigned to a neighborhood that works great. I think maybe the challenge for us was to try to get the entire agency to buy into community policing, the whole partnership thing or problem solving efforts.


[00:09:59.660] - Steve Morreale

So so you rise to become the assistant chief. You're watching every day what's going on. You're like myself now, a professor. I like to call ourselves academics. We have practical experience and some academic credentials. So what's your take on what's going on in America today, being now from the outside, no longer a chief? Looking back, what do you thought?


[00:10:21.710] - Mark Chaires

Well, it's it's I think you can fairly say it's the most challenging time for the officers on the street where the most important people in the building, the patrol officers and. Detectives of frontline workers. It's an incredibly challenging time, but again, these things are cyclical and this, too will pass. I think I think you could talk about a bunch of different ways, you know, like, for example, defining policing. People bring that up. And I'm you know, one of the problems is sometimes people it's good to have leaders, community leaders.


[00:10:49.440] - Mark Chaires

But I think sometimes community leaders need to make sure that they're talking about with the community residents want. I don't think if you talk to most people in these communities, they're going to say, we want less police, we want to do fundable. I think what they're going to tell you is we want the police, but we demand a certain level of service and respect and treatment and procedural justice and things like that. So I think that's what they would want.


[00:11:08.830] - Mark Chaires

So one of the problems is that you're trying to we want to make sure that the reforms we need to make are what the community really wants. Again, some of the other things they talk about services for people with mental illness. I think that's absolutely a critical need. Unfortunately, when people say, well, we'll cut the police budget and give the service, give those resources to them. I think that's based on the assumption that the reason why there aren't mental health resources is because the police are getting them over.


[00:11:32.280] - Mark Chaires

You take money, you can just give that to them. And I don't think that's right. I think one of the biggest issues as far as people with mental health issues, no one is going to be. They are there are there are enough resources available. Number one resource, we have the proper mental health health care insurance for these people. That's it's very difficult no to do. We have enough mental health people in mental health care professionals who can provide these services and talk about a couple of other issues to keep in mind when you're dealing with people with mental illness.


[00:11:55.470] - Mark Chaires

One is people said, well, we don't want police officers dealing with people with mental illness. Well, one of the problems is you're never going to separate him because some calls are clearly involve people with mental illness. For example, we used to have a call in. My old agency was a pick up order. In other words, mental health care professional would deem someone a threat to themselves or others, and then it would send a patrol car and we'd have to try to talk them into going up to for an observation.


[00:12:16.020] - Mark Chaires

And generally we could talk them up. But sometimes you have to kind of compel them to go up. But the other problem is, is that there's a lot of calls where we deal with people with mental health issues, that we stumble across it inadvertently in the process of another call. Those can be hard to hard to address. The other issue is, is that I don't know what they're asking. I don't think they know what they're asking for, because you've got to remember, if you're going to say, OK, we don't want police officers handling mental health calls, you've got to remember, OK, they're fine.


[00:12:39.090] - Mark Chaires

If you're going to take that promise, then it has to be you have to be prepared to provide 24/7 service. And I think that's a big problem. Even some of the best cities that have that, I know they're dealing with this. They're only able to provide like maybe eight or 10 hours of like a in-service clinic. And then what happens to the rest of that time? What happens two o'clock in the morning when you have somebody who's in crisis?


[00:12:55.860] - Mark Chaires

I think one of the and again, I think police don't want the police haven't seen the need for us to improve our services in this way. For example, as early as the late 80s, the Memphis Police Department with the Memphis Mobile crisis intervention and several decades ago, and they realized officers needed training is probably one of the better models now that I'm seeing that I'm aware of and I'm not an expert in his field. There's call responder model. I say that's Boston.


[00:13:17.280] - Mark Chaires

We were familiar with that. Boston has a model like that, Rutland, Vermont. I think there's I know there's a couple of other agencies. They just don't come to mind. Matter of fact, the Nashville PD is actually going to be rolling out a call response model with mental health cooperative. I think that's the right name. It's like several agencies involved, but a lot of the problems not talking. That's a couple of issues that come up.


[00:13:34.770] - Mark Chaires

But I think one of the main problems, though, that people do, it usually has something to do with force, use of force. That typically is what the biggest concern is. And I think there's a couple of things that we can do there. One, we have to have officers. Ninety five percent of our job is talking and listening. I know when you went through the academy, I, I suspect when I went through the police academy and we had a very good police academy, I thought, what, 95 percent of our job is talking and listening in a person, you know, and most police academies, maybe now they've gotten better.


[00:14:02.430] - Mark Chaires

But back in that day, in the 80s and early 90s, you might have got a couple of days of that. And you're asking people a lot. You're taking these a lot of times as a young officer and putting them in the middle of a family in crisis or these really challenging situations. And you putting them in a position to fill if you don't stress the need to be a communicator. I have a police operations class and I tell my students, hey, your most important skill is communications.


[00:14:23.400] - Speaker 3

If you're not a good communicator as a police officer, then there's going to be a ceiling on your performance. You're not going to rise to the level of performance you need to. The other issue is, is that so again, you need to work on things like verbal judo, procedural justice, interpersonal skills. We need to make sure that people feel comfortable around other people. Maybe they don't look like them. And there's another thing that we need to do is as far as force, I mean, one thing we need to do is we need to document use of force, the Department of Justice.


[00:14:47.670] - Mark Chaires

And when they actually do an investigation of our agency and they didn't find it, we had a pattern of practice. But they find that there were a lot of things that we could improve. And one of the things was, was force reporting. I think that every agency it was my choice. And one of the problems with reform, one of the big problems with reform is they're trying to do it at the federal level. And we both know anybody understands a business that's, hey, this is we have a federalist system.


[00:15:08.520] - Mark Chaires

All these police departments are local. You can't mandate reforms at the federal level. That's one of the biggest issues. If you could get everybody to buy in. I think one of the things will be helpful is to make sure that we all document use of form and report it and make that information available because people form their opinions on the police based on the available information, what information the citizens get about police use of force. It's usually going to be some negative highlight reel of either an excessive use of force or challenging use of force, so if you don't have the information available about how often police officers use force, well, you're going to form your opinion around a police officer shooting someone or an example of excessive force. Now, that information should be available. The best available research tells us that police use force, maybe about one in five arrests. Typically, when we use force, it's grabbing somebody's wrestling or pushing somebody. It's not the kicking or the shooting.


[00:15:56.110] - Mark Chaires

And we know that deadly force to work. One last thing I would say is we and this is another example of us putting officers in a situation and not preparing them properly. Our arrest techniques are defensive. Tactics are woefully inadequate. Now, I know you know, typical police officer Eagles'. What do you mean? I can't help myself? That's not what I'm saying. It's I think we've talked about this before. What a police officer needs. When you use force, there's a certain thing that you're required to do, and that is to grab a suspect manipulator arms behind their back so they're close enough to get handcuffed.


[00:16:24.820] - Mark Chaires

Well, first of all, the skill set, the type of training that requires is something will be things like jujitsu, West American wrestling, and maybe to a lesser degree, judo in Akito. Those are the skills you need. Well, we don't teach those and we do teach them enough. We do teach them, but we certainly don't teach them enough. Most academies, you're going to get that two weeks or so. We know anybody who's played sports, a danced or anything like that.


[00:16:45.760] - Mark Chaires

These are muscle memory techniques. So you have to do this a lot more than two. Personally, if I could if I could have one reform, I would say and all police academies starting week one three days a week, you're on the mats rolling and doing the skills, learning the skills, look at developing the muscle memory that you need in order to be proficient. Because I think people don't realize is if you look at a lot of these incidents, some of the worst incidents of excessive force started out as an incompetent use of force or put another way or officers using force where they were less than proficient.


[00:17:15.730] - Mark Chaires

The other thing I think we can do, and we have to keep up those skills afterwards. I read an article, peer reviewed article about it was in the Netherlands with their officers. They get they have to certify that they're proficient in these tactics every year. I might have gotten the country wrong, but I emailed you the article later. And the other thing, finally, the last two kids go off and ramble on. But the other thing I think we could do is maybe we should reward officers for maintaining their proficiency.


[00:17:36.400] - Mark Chaires

We give officers, some agencies will give officers a bonus a year or pay them at a higher rate if they have a two year degree or or four year degree. I know people may not like the idea, but I think if the officer had a blue belt in jujitsu or something like that, I'm certainly thinking that that would be something we need to explore. And people said, well, you're teaching the officers to fight. Well, you know, officers need how to fight.


[00:17:54.550] - Mark Chaires

They need they need to know how to use these tactics, because regardless of the people that think you can de-escalate everything. And on the other side, the people that say, well, just don't resisting nothing will go wrong. People are going to resist. There is going to come sometimes when officers have to use force and you have to make sure that they're doing it in a right and proper way. And the way to do that is to make sure you hire the right people, train them properly and make sure they have that skill set.


[00:18:17.470] - Steve Morreale

Well, you know, it's interesting that you say that both you and I have made our share of arrests and most many arrests rely on compliance. Sir, you're under arrest. Put your hands behind your back and there's no problem if that's the case. But once I put my hand on somebody and there's resistance, that's where it goes sideways at times. And and I do think that any resistance is going to look horrible and violent on camera. And certainly with cameras coming around, that's a real problem.


[00:18:43.520] - Steve Morreale

Mark, I want to take you back to your first days, both as an assistant chief and a chief. You're sitting around rooms, you're having meetings, you're trying to identify problems. You're working on problems. You're trying to, I presume, to get input and engage the people on your command staff to try to come up with ideas to fix things. When you first became the chief, how did you approach that job? As I'm on the hook now, but we have to do this collectively.


[00:19:08.140] - Steve Morreale

You talked about that as a sergeant. You can't do it alone. You couldn't do it alone as a chief. So as you walked into this new job as a chief, talk about what you ended up doing to prepare yourself, maybe to change the way that you conducted staff meetings and worked to identify problems and chip away at the things that needed to be improved.


[00:19:26.530] - Mark Chaires

Well, the very first thing I did interesting when I became chief, I actually didn't think I was going to become chief again. I never was one of these people. And I think people know me will verify this. So always looking up for the next level, it's like, what's that? Same by Nick Saban, the coach, Alabama, where your feet are, do the job at that level. But what about a year before I left, I did take the test and I thought, OK, maybe they have an opportunity for this position.


[00:19:47.140] - Mark Chaires

The very first thing I did was I went to two people that I wanted to bring up. It's critical to have your management team. It's critical to make sure that you have people that you have 100 percent faith in. So I went to two people. One was Branko Kilcullen, who was the chief up in Rutland, Vermont. The other one was Patrick McGuire. He's the assistant chief in charge of investigations back in Schenectady. And they were both lieutenants at the time.


[00:20:05.830] - Mark Chaires

I said, look, I have an opportunity to move up. If I move up, I'm going to reach back and I'm going to want to bring you up, because you're the you're the ones I want. And this is no disrespect, the people that were already assistant chiefs. But, you know, you have a comfort level with people who you have made a judgment that this is somebody who's going to be indispensable. If I'm going to be successful and I talk to both of them and they said, yeah, we'd be interested had they both said, no, I may not have taken a job because I'm in.


[00:20:28.280] - Mark Chaires

And I think it was that is one thing I would tell young leaders is. Got to be careful not to put yourself in a position where you're going to feel and I felt in order for me to be successful, at least for the two operational bureaus, I needed to have people that I knew. It doesn't mean they agreed with me all the time because they certainly didn't. What I need to have people that I know are going to do the job the way it should be done.


[00:20:48.120] - Mark Chaires

And again, I don't mean that it's any disrespect. Anybody who was already and it's not that I have lack confidence in other people, it's just that I had a supreme level of confidence in these two individuals. And eventually I got call calling and move up first. And then shortly afterwards, I got to tell you my judgment, my spot on, because they did a fantastic job, just really great bosses. One of the challenges for Chiefs is you have to think that, hey, all the command staff get along.


[00:21:12.660] - Mark Chaires

We always barbecuing and get along great but there's personality conflicts there. There was some of that when I was there. And I think that's probably the biggest challenge. And I think I did a fair job of trying to put it this way. I don't think that I had the same relationship as I do with all these jets and chiefs. I think I did a fair job of trying to be fair and equitable with them all. I think sometimes that's a challenge.


[00:21:32.400] - Mark Chaires

Sometimes that's a challenge. When you get up to that level, there's a certain level of ego, there's intimacy. And if you get up to that level, you've done something correct and you have a certain way you want to run things that can. Sometimes I try to take your input and a lot of times I will. A lot of times I think it's just better. Hey, leave them alone. Don't leave them alone. Let them do their job.


[00:21:48.930] - Mark Chaires

You know, there's a lot of broad parameters within which to do this job. What let them do the job in the way that they see fit, get the job done. If they've got the authority, they've got the responsibility because you're going to hold them responsible if they don't do the job right. So make sure you give them the authority and let them know. And one of the things is and I was kind of some people say a bit of a hotted sometimes, I think.


[00:22:09.900] - Mark Chaires

And I was never verbally abusive to any employee, but I think sometimes they kind of know if you're your boss, if you're not on an approachable day. I think if I could do one thing, I would make sure that I was approachable. It's always good to make sure that people can open your door and come in your office and say, hey, chief, I don't agree with this. I think we should do it this way. It doesn't mean you're always going to change your mind, but just say no or maybe you change your mind and sometimes that happen and then sometimes say, OK, we're not going to do it, and this is why we're not going to do that.


[00:22:36.540] - Mark Chaires

So I think you always listen, but I think, you know, you're ultimately responsible. So if things have to go your way again to the job, makes the cut, the situational factors related to our job kind of dictate what goes on. You know, if you're in charge of detectives, want to clear cases, you want to do good interviews, you want to run good forensic things like that. Are you still learning? Always learning? Oh, we always like when I was saying I say don't stick your chest out or be cocky about the things you know, take a realistic objective.


[00:23:04.290] - Mark Chaires

Look at all the things you don't know when you need to learn. And that'll give you a realistic sense of humility and just try to attack that pile. And if you do that, when you take your final step, you want to learn quite a bit in life.


[00:23:14.400] - Steve Morreale

You stepped away from your position as chief because I presume you had a dream, you went back to school as opposed to trying to go to school while you were still the chief. Talk about that.


[00:23:24.270] - Mark Chaires

Well, actually, I was going to school before I was going to school before I did most of my undergrad work at TCU. You Texas Christian University. When I was in the service, I finished my undergraduate SUNY Albany and then I went to graduate school. Think we're going to take some graduate courses because I wasn't really interested in the stuff. And also I thought, well, if I get a master's degree, that'll help. And I started off slow.


[00:23:43.170] - Mark Chaires

It's a really challenging program. And then I did well, particularly in a couple of legal courses, fresher's. There were great Jim Bakker. I think he's just retired Duke Law School grad. And then the other individual was Fred Cohen from Yale, just really challenging professors. And then I start working on my doctorate and I kept going and I was able to I took a year leave of absence and then I kept going. I defended my prospectus. The one thing I could not do while I was still on the job was write a dissertation early on.


[00:24:09.090] - Mark Chaires

A lot of stuff you can do with time management. So it's getting away with setting some time away from the job. And that's very difficult. Difficult because those jobs take over your life. But the one thing you can't do as a boss is get the job out of your head. So even if you take even if you could find a time to write a dissertation, maybe some people could do that if they do it. Hey, got my undying respect.


[00:24:27.090] - Mark Chaires

But I'll tell you, I could not do that. And I just said, hey, if I'm going to finish, I have to step away so I can devote all my attention to that. That's what I did once, because once I stepped away in 20212 and three years later, I actually worked on my dissertation and was able to complete it.


[00:24:39.750] - Steve Morreale

It's a long time, three years to keep chipping away and reading and writing and doing analysis and getting your approvals along the way. So now you're a professor. When we talked about this before, you indicated you, I think like myself, tried to get in here. We are successful in our in our law enforcement careers and now looking to step into this second career academia. And you met some resistance. You met maybe some rejection around you. You told me you were very lucky to head out to Nashville.


[00:25:09.000] - Mark Chaires



[00:25:09.300] - Steve Morreale

So talk about that.


[00:25:10.110] - Mark Chaires

Well, I'll tell you, I actually had a pretty good conversation with my I had a frank conversation with my dissertation chair, Rob Wernicke's, who runs the John Finn Institute up in Albany, real good think tank. And I asked him, I says, obviously, I think my professional credentials would be helpful. And again, to I think coming from a larger agency, a lot of times it's that's helpful to when we came from a medium-sized agency.


[00:25:30.060] - Mark Chaires

But the big. I think the biggest issue was and it makes common sense, it's like somebody invest in you as an assistant professor, we want to make sure they get the return on investment. You know, I was like late 50s heading towards 60. And it's like they hire you. You can you've got a pension, you're going to have other opportunities. You could walk away at any time. What's the safer investment here? You, yourself or maybe one of these young, brilliant system is coming out of one of these great schools.


[00:25:53.510] - Mark Chaires

And that was a problem. And then the other thing is, too, is publications. I was a practitioner, so I didn't have the publications to say that was another challenge as well. I applied to several schools, mostly to historically black colleges and universities, although I applied to some others. I got responses from before I got to interviews. I must have said the right thing to the people I interviewed who interviewed me, a tissue. They brought me down to the position again.


[00:26:16.760] - Mark Chaires

I actually and I wasn't sure that I was going to get a teaching position because I said, well, push comes to shove. If I don't get one, I'll teach as an adjunct to try to do some research. I actually applied for a couple law enforcement executive positions. One, they took it in-house candidate. And I was actually I was actually honored and humbled to be given an opportunity as one of the finalists for the Ferguson job, but turned it down.


[00:26:35.720] - Mark Chaires

I said, look, I worked hard to get a doctorate. I want to use the skill set and develop the skill set. Maybe if I had retired at forty-five, maybe I might have entertained that. And I'm not saying I would have gotten a job, who knows, a really, really great competition, but I don't even know if I would have got a whiff of that job. Just they don't file an interview.


[00:26:51.590] - Steve Morreale

But you know, I feel that way too. I think that it would be very difficult for me to get into academia today with all of the changes that have gone on. I find myself lucky, I've been doing it 15 or 16 years. But let's talk about that transition into the classroom and the fact that you I presume you feel that in many ways you're paying forward, you're helping to develop other people who may go into the profession of policing. But I don't know what it's like to TSU, but I know it Worcester State University 20 to 30 percent are going to become police officers.


[00:27:19.850] - Steve Morreale

Others are going to do any other things. Juvenile justice, corrections courts, certainly law school. What do you find in your classrooms?


[00:27:29.150] - Mark Chaires

Same thing. Same thing. The minority want to become probably the same thing is just with Southern accents.


[00:27:35.340] - Steve Morreale



[00:27:35.750] - Mark Chaires

A lot of them, not a lot of them want to get in law enforcement. But so I'd say maybe 15, 20 percent some wind up there later on. But, yeah, it is a challenge because it's more of a challenge that it was some of the competitive courses, some of the core requirements, because, you know, that that is of course, it just has to take away the address. That is to make it make it someone as interesting as you can.


[00:27:54.830] - Mark Chaires

I do my best to not be a PowerPoint person. It just OK, I've got these can PowerPoint and I'm going to go down the lines. I use a lot of the peer reviewed articles. I try to have guest speakers. I definitely I will say this. I'm definitely teaching at a higher level than I was my first year, my first year. So I think that's important. And then meeting the students where they're at and then also telling them that even though you may not want to be in law enforcement, there's information about law enforcement in some of these other courses that you need to know.


[00:28:18.440] - Mark Chaires

And like when you go to write papers, I might tell them. I said one of the things I told my students when they go to write papers is I tell them two things you should think about. And one of the most important ones is if you have career goals, like if you know you're going to law school and you have to write a paper for my law enforcement classes, make sure you got a paper where you can help start building your knowledge base once you get to law school, because if you're going to be an attorney, if you're going to be in juvenile justice, things that you learn in law enforcement classes are going to be very helpful.


[00:28:42.410] - Mark Chaires

If you're going to be in law enforcement things, in your sociology courses, things in your corrections or your law classes are going to be extremely helpful, so.


[00:28:49.550] - Steve Morreale

Well, you know, one of the things, too, I think that we have the ability to do is we're starting to draw people from outside of criminal justice because of their curiosity. And I think in many ways, one of the things we can do, especially those who are academics, is to make them better consumers of policing, because no matter what, no matter what walk of life you're in, you're going to need the police at some point in time, whether it's for an accident, whether it's for a problem, child, whatever it might be, and it helps people become better consumers.


[00:29:16.010] - Steve Morreale

What's your thought?


[00:29:16.640] - Mark Chaires

As far as drawing people in?


[00:29:18.170] - Steve Morreale

No, just to help people understand the difficulties of policing so that when they encounter police, they have a better perspective of what the role is?


[00:29:26.660] - Mark Chaires

Oh, yeah. And I think that works both ways. But yeah, definitely. And I think that's one of the things I kind of mentioned. We're talking about forces, I think the challenges of policing, but also talk about the the reality of policing because, you know, on TV shows, I told my students all the time said, look, if they showed you what the average of a police officer, proportionally, that's a serious problem in the pilot that never took you would be bored silly, wouldn't you?


[00:29:49.040] - Mark Chaires

Most of the time it's talking and listening. There is some heavy lifting, chasing, using force like that. God forbid sometimes officers use deadly force. But yeah. So I think telling the reality and we talk about use of force, I think that's one of the things we try to do. And that's one thing where I think law enforcement can do a better job is I think we should all document our force, let the public know. I think if they realize the reality of how often we use force, I think it's helpful.


[00:30:11.540] - Mark Chaires

The other thing is, is I think if they can see some of the challenges that we deal with, one of the things I use in my classroom, ideally you would want them to do right alongside, that's cost prohibitive. Resource prohibitive. As for undergrads, so I do a lot of the videos, the like the cops policewomen of some Tarrant County or whatever. And I showed those videos and it showed them. I said I take a. Through these calls and I pick calls that are videos that are really representative and I explain them, I said, OK, imagine you're twenty five year old person and you walk in here and you see this this call in the house might be trashed.


[00:30:39.830] - Mark Chaires

Or I may also talk about imagine doing this day after day after day. We talk about the issues of wellness, which is I think has been a neglected area for me, that police managers. Too many of us. Yeah, I just try to put them in a seat of the officers at the same time for those people are going to be law enforcement. I also try to talk about you're walking into this person's house, think about stereotypes and attitudes and how not we know what you're going into the house to do.


[00:31:03.680] - Mark Chaires

We know what you're going to real reason why. Think about how this person might perceive that, you know, and I'll never tell an officer to do anything that's unsafe, a free person or an officer safety, just kind of letting both sides know, hey, this is the reality of policing. Now, we live in we live in a democracy. So a lot of people aren't going to like what the police. Nobody likes getting pulled over. No, nobody likes certainly nobody likes getting arrested.


[00:31:25.160] - Mark Chaires

This is one of the realities. One of the things that people talk about a lot is attitudes towards police. And people say, well, minorities have a distrust of police. Well, that's true to some extent. But there's some research out the police public contact survey that's done by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. When they survey when they survey people who have called the police and asked for assistance during the racial differences, aren't there? There's no significant difference.


[00:31:48.800] - Mark Chaires

People are generally white, black, Hispanic or Asian, whatever. They're all for the best. About eighty five percent are pretty satisfied that the police do a good job. Where it becomes problematic is the proactive stuff when it's officer initiated. And that's where I think we've got to really work on making. Part of that comes from a couple of things. One, the procedural justice talking to people the right way. And number two, legal train officers could do need to get a lot, maybe a little bit more legal training and then refresher training.


[00:32:13.790] - Mark Chaires

For example, you look at some of the calls on TV and you say, hey, that's a call. It never should have happened. One of the ones that comes to mind is the individual who was in the store wearing a mask. I think there's this in Colorado, maybe Aurora, Colorado. And I think he had some some issues, but he wasn't doing anything of a criminal nature. And it's like this is just a suspicious situation.


[00:32:32.810] - Mark Chaires

What the officer should have asked is, OK, suspicious? What is he doing? That's yeah. You you can do something suspicious, but that's not the same as reasonable suspicion to justify illegal stop eating and somebody's liberty. And that call there, that's the call that the person probably should never stopped. An individual tried to walk away. Another issue was that called it. And people don't talk about this. Much of what I saw it. And I was like, why aren't people talking about this?


[00:32:56.030] - Mark Chaires

Is the fact where the I guess officers are telling the paramedics to maybe give them a certain sedative to make a yes. Yes. I was like, not that you're on a roll. I can imagine back in my hometown, if I had looked at him and said, hey, he's fighting too much, give him this, they that looked at me like I had to. It's so crazy. It's legal training. Well, you know, what you're saying, too, is all of us stay in our lanes, which I think is important to things I want to get to as we wind down.


[00:33:20.210] - Steve Morreale

I'd like you to address the major issue that is coming at policing and that society that deals with race and racial issues and racial confrontation. What's your take on that when people say that policing is systemically racist? As an African-American chief yourself and now academic, what's your take on that?


[00:33:40.790] - Mark Chaires

My opinion is that I don't believe that the system is systemically racist. I think there is a disproportionate effect on African-Americans, and I think that's for a lot of reasons. Am I saying there are not any racists in the criminal justice system? I certainly wouldn't say that whatever characteristics are out there in the community when we hire them, you can't read into a person's heart or read their mind. Despite a lot of the screening, we are able to do so.


[00:34:03.620] - Mark Chaires

And in some of the times, you might hire somebody person and maybe develop negative attitudes afterwards. So and if they provide their services in a manner that's racist, yeah, that could happen. But I don't think that policies and systems are, for the most part, neutral. Where they become problematic is how the implementation and how they get affected by it, by citizens. People won't talk about when we talk about systemic racism in policing, hey, we help an awful lot of crime victims.


[00:34:26.300] - Mark Chaires

The most likely person most likely to be a victim of violent crime is a young black male between the ages of 15 and twenty five. We really try to help black victims. So it's like, how are you? I just don't know that you can say that. And see, there's other things, too, that economic issues, social issues that kind of stacked the deck where things are going to work against poor people and people of color. But that doesn't mean that the system's racist.


[00:34:48.170] - Mark Chaires

I ran a police department. It was nothing systematically racist about the police department. Are there some things the way society set up in economics and all that, that maybe we're intervening more we're arresting more people of a certain color? Yeah, that might happen. But that's not because of a system that's the mission statement or that's built into the system. I think it just happens. And I think certainly you want to address those issues. What if you're going to address them?


[00:35:07.880] - Mark Chaires

You have to in order to solve a problem, you have to take a step back. And these are really passionate issues in our history of race is really horrific. But this is something you have to take a step back and say, OK, what is the issue? Why does this test to see if the system is racist? I don't believe in it, but I think have to take a step back and look at and say, OK, well, then why might be is it possible that we're arresting maybe more young African-American males?


[00:35:29.300] - Mark Chaires

Well, I think there's other things. Explanations, their education, education, the educational gap as part of that, I think de-industrialisation which happened well before it started happening in the late 70s, that I had a huge impact on the factory jobs, the well-paying union jobs. And I guess I'm not trying to get political here. Those jobs were away for a lot of African-Americans and poor people to get into the middle class. Those jobs are gone. And I don't care what any president says.


[00:35:51.510] - Mark Chaires

I don't think they're ever coming back to the level that they are. And the problem with that is, is that we switch to a service economy so people are living paycheck to paycheck. And that's a problem. And that's these are some of the things that I think you need to look into. And then also you have to go all the way back in history. I read an interesting book and talk about why some equate policing to the slave patrols and there were slave patrols.


[00:36:12.150] - Mark Chaires

But I think if we can go back to slavery and take a really good look at a history, yeah, sure. Slavery, the system itself speaks for itself how evil it was. But it wasn't it wasn't designed necessarily to benefit all Caucasians, 30 to business because its master was men, not men, poor whites in slavery in the antebellum South we're talking about is a 30 to 50 percent of whites were poor and a lot of them actually their quality of life was equal to or less of a slave.


[00:36:37.590] - Mark Chaires

Now, that's and I'm not trying to minimize slavery in any way, shape or form, but it just goes to show you that this system race explains some things. But if you're going to dig into issues of race, look at all the factors and inform yourself it's a mess. And one of the things I tell all officers is that out of any agency, this country has a shameful history with some of the racial things that went on in this country.


[00:36:56.340] - Mark Chaires

I said, you know what, wearing that uniform, as an agent of the government, you symbolize that government. You symbolize the history of this country. I said, and fairly or unfairly, that's going to give people a certain level of distrust of you. One of the things I hear from white officers, they'll say, well, you know, hey, I didn't have slaves and I'm a good guy, but I get this distrust here, so I get that.


[00:37:14.280] - Mark Chaires

Is it fair? No, it's not fair for sometimes to people to distrust you. In a way, I try to explain as I try to give them another example, billions of Irish cops. I use this analogy. I should think about it. If you were in England and you were going to say if you were going to patrol in Northern Ireland and you were from the opposite side, you weren't of the Catholics. I'd say you were an English patrol officer and said, I'm going to go there and I'm going to be fair.


[00:37:35.640] - Mark Chaires

I don't like the way the people in Northern Ireland to be treated. So I'm going to go up there and I'm going to patrol and do my job is fair and really reach out to these people. Does that mean that everybody in Northern Ireland is going to accept, you know, it's not so history, although it's unfair to be judged by your history and the track record history is going to influence attitudes that I agree with 100 percent.


[00:37:53.610] - Steve Morreale

Let me let me wind down by asking a couple of questions.  Your to do list professionally. What is on your to do list as a relatively new professor, what do you want to accomplish in the next two years?


[00:38:03.480] - Mark Chaires

Get some publications out. Come on. A guy, someone out, revise, resubmit. I think I'll revise it and resubmit it maybe to that publication and get some research out.


[00:38:12.300] - Steve Morreale

But what are you focusing on?


[00:38:13.230] - Mark Chaires

Well, that one was distilled from my dissertation.


[00:38:15.600] - Steve Morreale



[00:38:16.080] - Mark Chaires

That was about my dissertation was on Stereophile stereotypes and deadly force decisions. The other thing I'm trying to work on, I was actually looking Nashville PD getting ready to roll up with along with the mental health professionals in that area. They're actually getting ready to roll out this call response model. I wanted to get in that direction, but I thought we're not in our one school. So I said, you know what?


[00:38:34.650] - Mark Chaires

Maybe the resources aren't right there for me. Now, I'm going through that program a little farther down the road. So now I'm going to look to do a paper on Officer Wellness that I'm actually going to look at an agency's wellness program, because I think that is one thing. As police managers, we absolutely some places do a great job of it. I think overall as a profession, we've got a long way to go. Go.


[00:38:55.530] - Steve Morreale

That's good. Last question Mark. If you had the chance to go back in time and talk to somebody who was famous or infamous, who would you want to sit down and pick their brain? It can be dead or alive.


[00:39:06.330] - Mark Chaires

One person. Yes. I don't know if I could do it with one person.


[00:39:09.780] - Steve Morreale

Then, give me two, give me to a couple.


[00:39:11.370] - Steve Morreale

That's OK.


[00:39:11.880] - Mark Chaires

You know what? I guess if I had to pick a couple, I think I would pick the profits. I think I would like to sit down and talk to Jesus Prophet Mohammed Ouda and say, OK, I know what everybody's saying. You said and just kind of say, OK, how did this how did this whole faith thing? And again, I'm not I'm not an atheist, but I just I'm kind of not denominational. Yeah.


[00:39:33.990] - Mark Chaires

Thank you. Make it easy for me to say. Right. I like to sit down and say, well, Jesus, Prophet Muhammad with Buddha and anybody else and just say, OK, all due respect, enlighten me. Tell me, tell me, tell me what? Because I just think that's one of the biggest questions in life, is questions in life.


[00:39:53.370] - Steve Morreale

That's that's a that's a great ending. We've been talking to Dr. Mark Chaires. Mark was the chief in Schenectady, New York, retired and is now at Tennessee State University in Nashville. Mark, I want to thank you for your time. This is such a not a hot topic, but an important topic to understand policing. And I'll leave you the last word. What do you think is important for you to convey to your students before they walk out the door, let's say the seniors.


[00:40:20.790] - Steve Morreale

What are the last words that you have with seniors, those words of wisdom?


[00:40:24.600] - Mark Chaires

I would tell them what I used to tell my officers and I know what I know a lot of my officers already believed already was. Whatever service you provide, whether you're going to law school, whether you're going to corrections, whether going to law enforcement, the people you deal with, where you deal with that service in the same manner that you would want that service provided to your loved ones, you do that. And if everybody provides a service like that, I tell you what we'll have we'll have a lot and you know that and continue to grow, you know, always, always keep spiritually, academically, physically, always keep swimming upstream.


[00:40:54.580] - Mark Chaires

Don't be don't don't be stagnant. Life is a real I don't care if you live to 100, but in a bigger scheme of things life, it's it's over in a bad way. And I so make sure you do those things. You can keep swimming upstream. That's a great way to leave. But thank you so much for your time, for your energy and for your insight, because I appreciate it.


[00:41:10.730] - Mark Chaires

Thank you, Steve. And I hopefully  I didn't talk too bad or too fast.


[00:41:15.070] - Steve Morreale

Come on. I'm all set with that. Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for listening. This is Steve Morreale. You've been listening to The CopDoc Podcast. Make sure that you stay tuned for other episodes in the near future. Appreciate you listening. Stay safe.


[00:41:27.560] - Outro

Oh, 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.