His 19 years of experience in the Lawrence Police Department could be viewed as either a positive or a negative for new police chief Tarik Khatib.
While it’s true that an outside candidate might have brought some new ideas to the Lawrence department, Khatib’s long experience with the department and the community give him insights and inside knowledge that also will be an asset to the new chief.
The need to look outside the department for someone to replace former chief Ron Olin would have been greater if the police department didn’t have a strong reputation as an effective and professional operation. As it is, Khatib is in a position to take a department with a good reputation and make it even better.
He already is working to increase transparency and improve communication with the public about police operations, which many people saw as a weakness of the department under Olin. He also has expressed a desire to be more proactive in preventing crime in Lawrence by better educating the public on how to avoid becoming a crime victim.
You don’t spend 19 years in an organization without forming some ideas and opinions about how things might be done a little better. Khatib was hired as a police office in Lawrence in 1991 and has held many different roles in the department. He has had the opportunity to observe where the department works well and where it might be improved. Now he can put some of those ideas into practice. The fact that he has been in their shoes also must build Khatib’s respect and credibility in the department he now oversees.
Khatib has spent his entire career with the LPD, but he grew up in Chicago and has trained at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. He’s well qualified for the job.
When he was named as interim chief Khatib said he fell in love with Lawrence when he came here to attend Kansas University and wanted to be involved with the community. Police work is just an extension of that, he said: “I view police work as community involvement.”
Khatib’s predecessor ran a clean and efficient police department, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. A chief who respects the importance of a professionally run department and can combine that need with a new emphasis on interacting with the community has the potential for long-term success in Lawrence.