Archive for Saturday, February 19, 2011

A new chief in town: Tarik Khatib outlines priorities for Lawrence police department

February 19, 2011


New Lawrence police chief Tarik Khatib was front and center Friday at City Hall after his new position was announced.

New Lawrence police chief Tarik Khatib was front and center Friday at City Hall after his new position was announced.

Audio Clips
Lawrence Police chief Tarik Khatib

As he was vying for the police chief job with three other candidates from outside Lawrence, Tarik Khatib talked about both knowing the Lawrence Police Department from the inside out and still bringing in new ideas from the outside.

After City Manager David Corliss tapped Khatib on Friday for the job, the nearly 19-year veteran who has worked only in the Lawrence department spoke about how he sees his responsibilities in replacing longtime chief Ron Olin, who retired from the job last year.

“I’m here to serve the community, serve the officers and never violate that trust,” he said.

Khatib, a 1991 Kansas University graduate who started as a Lawrence officer in June 1992, sat down with the Journal-World to answer questions about his priorities as the new police chief and his career.

You’ve talked about Lawrence’s crime rate being higher when compared to other Kansas and university cities. For reducing that, what will be your top priorities?

Khatib: Globally, our top priority is going to be continuing on the program we’ve already started, and that is increasing our public interaction and engagement with the community.

We’ve met privately with various different individuals and some groups, and I want to take that up a notch and meet with a larger percentage of people and get from them what their expectations are for the police department over the coming months and years.

Specifically about the crime rate, three things we need to do to reduce that is work on education of victims, work on education of the community as far as how to prevent being a victim of a crime.

Also to develop strategies in the police department whether through efficiencies or articulation of perhaps more resources at some point down the line, like how we get about solving crime and holding the 10 percent of people who do 90 percent of the crime accountable.

A third component’s going to be environmental design, getting involved in education of the community about how we can create a safe environment so those crimes don’t occur. Those three components are going to be something we look at.

You talk about interacting with the public. Do you have an overall philosophy about being transparent with the public?

Khatib: My overall philosophy is if I can’t provide you, the public, with the information you need to make decisions about public safety, about other things that affect your lives from a public safety point of view, then I’ve failed in my mission.

A lot of the things we’re doing is just increasing access to information. If you look at our website, we’ve redesigned that. And it’s a work in progress.

It’s like when they launch a new ship. They put the hull in the water after the generator’s in and it’s watertight, and then they continue to build the masts and the stairways and whatnot. That’s what we’re trying to do with our program. We’re trying to put the hull in the water and then build upon it, so it’s not a complete picture. And it will never be complete. It will always be a continuing project to work on.

Some of the things we’re doing now that we can provide is crime mapping. We’re working on pretty soon releasing the previous 48 hours of what police activity in the community has been. So they can see where we’re going, what we’re doing. We continue to post stories about the things our officers are doing in the community, showing our commitment to working with the community and also some of the fine work we’re doing.

In addition, we’re also including information on the website that people want to know as far as crime prevention and who to contact if you have questions and those kind of things.

You mentioned taking a more active role in environmental design. Is that taking a more active role in security on new building construction? How do you see that working?

Khatib: That’s one component, being involved in the planning. But the other thing is some communities have sent officers to specific training on crime prevention through environmental design.

It’s a whole philosophy and a whole theory of how to do that, and they come back to the communities and have forums where builders or homeowners can come in, and we give them information. So there’s informal ways of doing it, there’s also formal ways of doing it.

And we’re going to be sending, hopefully, an officer to some of that training coming up and, hopefully, when that officer comes back we can get some of that information digested by us and somehow put out to the community.

Could an example be if there are plans for a new apartment building?

Khatib: Sure, even simple things. If you put up a solid wood fence, that’s a little less costly in the initial, but that might allow people to hide behind it or interrupt your light pattern. So it’s getting people to understand there’s always tradeoffs with something and that the cheapest way to do something is not always the best way. If you put up a good iron railing fence that you can see through, that gives people less opportunity to hide behind it.

Where does the department stand with the level of women officers compared to a national or regional scale?

Khatib: It depends on which article you read, but anywhere between 10 percent to 15 percent is how nationally women are represented in law enforcement. Our department now is 6 percent or 7 percent, so clearly we’re below the national average.

Some of the things we’re doing to increase that is looking at different ways to target women for recruitment. So if we can get more people in through recruit academies, then there’s a higher likely chance in the future we’re going to have more women in the workforce.

And we’re also trying to develop role models as women police officers. Of the women police officers we have, how are they becoming role models? (We are looking at how) they are involved in the community so that other females in society can look at them and say, “That’s a positive role model as a female law enforcement officer” and get people interested in wanting to be a law enforcement officer.

You’ve spent your entire law enforcement career here in Lawrence. Is there a single person who has had the biggest influence on your career?

Khatib: That’s a tough question. I’ve had a career of almost 19 years, and I think there has been multiple people who have had a big influence on my career.

Initially, in my earlier days, a person that had a lot of impact was retired Capt. Dan Affalter. I worked a lot for him when I was in the drug unit. I worked for him when I was in detectives, and he was very community-oriented.

He believed in police officers interacting with the community and having membership on community boards and being a representative not just as a police officer, but also as a member of the community. He developed in me a strong investigative ability and mentored me through a lot of those things.

Later on in my career, as I got closer to the office of the chief and interacted with the office of the chief, chief Ron Olin had a big impact on me.

I learned a lot from him about professionalism, about the importance of relationships with other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices. And the fact we’re not an isolated law enforcement agency. That it’s a totality that we have to have good relationships with law enforcement across the country and federal agencies to utilize the full force of law enforcement across the nation because crime is not local. It can move around.

Those two individuals have had the biggest impact career-wise, in addition to my family, as well.


lawrenceguy40 6 years, 9 months ago

Public relations bovine excrement. And not very got at that.

We're stuck with olin reincarnate. Get used to the taste of boot polish, Lawrence.

doc1 6 years, 9 months ago

You should be happy to know that Khatib is nothing like Olin. He's a dedicated guy who actually cares more than what a newspaper can reflect.

MrClean 6 years, 9 months ago

Public relations is a huge component of the job, so relax. You may not have liked Ron Olin, that's your perogative, but the men and women on the LPD are some of the hardest working folks I know. Instead of bashing the new Chief here, why don't you suggest something constructive as its obvious you have some issues with the ways things operate. The changes will come slowly, but I am confident they will come. Make patrol a priority!! Keep them happy and they'll keep us safe!

irvan moore 6 years, 9 months ago

i was unloading something from my truck on Friday parked with the rear wheels in the "dip" between the street and the driveway so it would be lower and walked off to move something and forgot about my truck being in the street. ( i know, i'm old) a few minutes later i heard someone in my driveway say "is that your truck in the street?" it was a police officer who noticed it 1/2 way out in the road, asked if I was going to be moving it in the near future. I laughed and told him i forgot about it and he laughed too. Nice, courteous, friendly young man who got the job done and did a great job of community policing.

Brent Fry 6 years, 9 months ago

That's ridiculous. I've interacted with almost all of the younger officers and none of them have ego problems. Your interactions must have been with some of the older Olin-cops, who will be off the streets one or two at a time as they near retirement.

BlackVelvet 6 years, 9 months ago

So you personally know all of the LPD officers, which qualifys you to make a statement like that ..."You were lucky to get one of the very few LPD officers that are actually doing a good job..." ??? How impressive you must be.

JimmyJoeBob 6 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence Guy 40, Give us a few examples of what you are referring to. How have you been stepped on?

MagisterTempli 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm not sure what the references to jackboots and being under the heel of Mr. Olin's LPD are about. All of the vagrancy and public drunkeness I see every time I visit Lawrence make it pretty clear that there is no social will to help or even allow the cops to do their jobs. Yes, I get the area's liberal traditions. The powers that be need to get that homeless and drunks increase a neighborhood's crime rates, not only because these people occasionally commit crimes themselves, but mosty because they make ideal victims, and because their mere presence sends a strong message that no one is in charge and that bad conduct will be ignored and/or tolerated. I feel bad for Mr. Khatib, because he has to utter all of these pretty words carefully tailored to offend no one, and he cannot say anything about what he would like to do about these and other trouble spots and problemmatic situations in his community that are contributing to the crime rates, unless he is willing to be branded everything from a brownshirt to a sharia jockey. Wake up, Lawrence, plenty of communities a lot farther to the left than you are have managed to reduce social chaos on their streets without resorting to gestapo stuff. New York got rid of its squeegee guys and was roundly criticized for it, taking the attitude that the Supreme Court can rule against us later if it has a problem with what we're doing here and now, and sure enough rates of crimes a lot more serious than vagrancy, panhandling, and blocking traffic also fell. By contrast, somebody at Lawrence City Hall must have the attitude that a strung-out skeleton's right to let his mental health disorders worsen in full public view and get frostbite every time the weather hits seven below is more important that a young woman's right to walk around downtown without getting raped at curbside as happened a few months back.

liberalintrovert 6 years, 9 months ago

Problems exist in this nation, but policing has rarely been one of them. With few exceptions, victims of significant crime are those who put themselves in a position to be victimized. Only a modicum of common sense and keen observation is necessary to prevent falling victim in most instances. The zest to experience that which others haven't and to satisfy a selfish need to gain what others lack leads to victimization. The young girl who sleeps with the star basketball player may become a domestic abuse victim, but had she been content to settle for the proverbial nice normal guy, her problem never would have happened. The sober 53 year old victim of a DUI crash on his way home from the second shift at the factory could have easily chosen a route where he knows the drunken frat boys are much less likely to be driving their rich daddy's Lexus home from on the way back from a night of boozing. The drug addict could have never put himself into association with other seedy characters had he been strong enough to confront reality without the use of chemical. Police corruption is largely a straw man fallacy. Accidents do happen, yes, but “crime victim” is nearly an oxymoron. If you can't stay out of trouble in Lawrence Kansas, you'll likely have trouble staying out of trouble anywhere in America.

MagisterTempli 6 years, 9 months ago

So you're saying that decent people should be unemployed rather than "put themselves in a position to be victimized" by a violent armed robbery and hostage situation? Or maybe refuse to attend or teach school for fear of suicide shooters? Or just stay home, period, and let the crims rule the whole damn town? Yes, liberalintrovert, I agree with you that Lawrence is pretty tame compared to Detroit or Johannesburg, but does that mean that we have to blame the victim for every last thing that goes wrong?

liberalintrovert 6 years, 9 months ago

If forced to make a guess (and removing child sex abuse in the Catholic church from the calculation because that's one crime the police don't have much of a way to monitor due to the shield placed over religious organizations from having to play by the same rules as the rest of us), I'd estimate 99.4% of crimes can be blamed upon the victim. True random victims of crime certainly exist, but the hostage situations, 7-11 robberies, school shootings and what not are rare, because our police do an excellent job of preventing such things. They get a lot of press when they do happen not because they are common, but because they are uncommon, hence newsworthy.

equalaccessprivacy 6 years, 9 months ago

Because Lawrence people don't know how to respect decent boundaries and like to point fingers of blame when they don't receive gratitude for their favorite type of aggressive( even predatory) discriminatory harassment on complete strangers it's a joke that anyone decent and honest could stay out of trouble here. Lawrence is full of liars who are determined to keep those who point out the obvious facts about the chicanery of official KU power quiet.

As far as I'm concerned too many of these country mountain type folks have sick and twisted, kiss-to-kill definitions of kindness, compassion, and friendliness. Woe to anyone who becomes the target of this self-serving version of backward Christian do-gooder "love."

Decent, capable people can easily get their lives ruined in southern-justice places like Douglas County. It's a spooky place full of shocking levels of incompetence, ignorance, and crime. Worse than L.A. for pedestrian friendliness too!

equalaccessprivacy 6 years, 9 months ago

If the new Chief is sincere he'll install a citizen's review board ASAP. The conflict- of- interest politics at KU and in Douglas County need to go. A police state mentality happens when the line between law enforcement and political power gets blurred. If corrupt KU officials are allowed by people like James McCabria to use the legal system to frame and brutally abuse those who expose KU malfeasance that counts as an example.

KU cops lack a legally required complaint procedure, don't keep records on biased policing, and won't drive off campus to get both sides of the story when the obviously dishonest and bad faith KU HR people lodge a complaint. Everyone who can stand living and working in the area graduated from KU and doesn't mind kissing the same behinds. It's just a tad inconsistent to say someone represents a threat who never even received a police visit. Only a terribly bad-faith employer denies workers legally required grievance procedures, then accuses people of crimes when they complain about that. Yet, KU can count on Douglas County law enforcement being backward enough to press these type of uninvestigated charges on their behalf. Stomach-turning, southern justice, blame- the- victim politics all the way!

slvrntrt 6 years, 9 months ago

I just wish one of his priorities was alcohol related stupidity. I'm really sick of all the drunk driving that goes on here.

jimroberts 6 years, 9 months ago

Congratulations to Chief Khatib! on a job well done!! The men and women of the Lawrence Police Department are some of the best officers in our state. My brother is an Overland Park police officer and he speaks very highly about the professionalism and integrity displayed by the Lawrence Police Department. When I spoke with him about the change in police chiefs, he also described the position as one of the most sought positions in the law enforcement profession, reiterating what the Wichita candidate said when he withdrew.

Some of the challenges I foresee the police department addressing:

1) The crime rate has risen to an unacceptable level in our city. Refocusing their resources to address the "10%" problem should be a priority. 2) Resources-- they need to hire more officers to patrol our streets. No more detectives, no more supervisors, no more fluff positions, but officers on patrol to patrol our neighborhoods. I like the idea of hiring experienced officers to get them on the street in half the time of a new recruit. I was shocked to learn at the police chief forum that Lawrence sometimes only has ten officers patrolling the entire City. That is unacceptable. Would this call for a tax increase, most likely. If we don't back hiring more officers, new businesses/families/etc will go by the way side to a safer city. 3) Citizen education-- I like the idea of educating the public about protecting themselves from the criminal element. I remember a long time ago, the police department use to have officers go out to businesses or residences and conduct security checks, while offering advice on how to protect oneself.

Again, congratulations to Chief Khatib. The community has high expectations of our police department and I am excited to see you as their leader.

Mike Riner 6 years, 9 months ago

Congrats to Chief Khatib. He will do a great job.

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