2018-01-03 / Featured / Front Page

Chesterfield's new police chief, Jeffrey Katz, takes the reins

New chief brings academic approach to leadership

Incoming Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz, pictured here at a press conference in November, has completed executive level management courses at Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame. 
ASH DANIEL Incoming Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz, pictured here at a press conference in November, has completed executive level management courses at Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame. ASH DANIEL Chesterfield’s new police chief is living proof that even a long, winding road can still get you where you want to go.

Bored and disillusioned with high school, Jeffrey Katz dropped out after his junior year and obtained a general equivalency diploma in his native Florida so he could begin college a year early. He took classes until his money ran out, at which point he entered the police academy and began a career in law enforcement that has spanned three decades.

Between working full time, getting married and raising a daughter, it took Katz 17 years to complete his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Now he also holds a master’s in business leadership and is working toward a doctorate in organizational psychology.

“In that respect, I suppose it is fair to say I bloomed late academically,” said Katz, 45, who was scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 2 as the eighth police chief in the department’s 103-year history.

Katz, formerly chief of police in Boynton Beach, Florida, was hired in November to succeed the retired Thierry Dupuis as head of the Chesterfield Police Department.

Dupuis retired in September after working for the department for 38 years – the last 10 as its chief. On his way out, he unsuccessfully lobbied the Board of Supervisors on behalf of two internal candidates – Dan Kelly and Chris Hensley – who were finalists for the position.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously confirmed Katz’s selection at its Dec. 13 meeting. During that meeting, Katz said he has “immense respect and admiration” for Kelly and Hensley, calling them “good, honorable and capable men.”

“I consider it a blessing to work with them so closely,” he added.Chesterfield's new police chief, Jeffrey Katz, is sworn in at a ceremony on Jan. 2. Photo by Ash DanielChesterfield's new police chief, Jeffrey Katz, is sworn in at a ceremony on Jan. 2. Photo by Ash Daniel

The new chief spent that week in Chesterfield, meeting individually and collectively with members of the command staff who will help him lead a department of 500 sworn officers and 100 civilian personnel.

“My intention is not to create my own legacy, but rather to build upon and optimize the legacy of those who came before me and build a strong framework for those who will assume this mantle of leadership in the coming years,” Katz told the board.

Katz is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute’s command officer development program and the FBI National Academy. He also has completed executive-level leadership and management courses offered by Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame.

According to his biography, Katz conducted extensive research in destructive leadership behavior, organizational incivility and corporate psychopathy, and applied what he learned while moving up quickly through the ranks of Boynton Beach’s troubled police department.

Katz joined the department as a patrol officer in 1998. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2001 and became a lieutenant three years later. He served in that position until his predecessor as chief, Matt Immler, selected him to lead the offices of internal affairs, training, media relations, recruiting, grant procurement, agency accreditation, promotional assessments, public records fulfillment and grievance coordination.

“I saw a great deal of toxic behavior in my work environment,” he said. “It was an opportunity to explore and perhaps make sense of some of the interpersonal dynamics and destructive tactics which were contributing to undesirable work outputs, but also more importantly, a real sense of emotional malaise among so many talented and otherwise motivated people.”

Katz was hired as Boynton Beach’s police chief in 2013 and immediately built a reputation as a reformer with zero tolerance for bad behavior by his subordinates.

He inherited a department in which officers had been accused of conducting illegal searches, trafficking in narcotics, falsifying police reports and violating citizens’ civil rights. In June, following an FBI investigation that Katz requested, two current and two former Boynton Beach officers were indicted for a 2014 beating of motorists that was caught on video. “A lot of guys had been there for a long time, and a lot of the policies, procedures and accountability all needed to be revisited and updated,” Boynton Beach City Manager Lori LaVerriere told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in August. “People naturally resist change, even if it’s good change, but he’s been very committed to making a difference.”

Dorothy Jaeckle, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, noted that Katz earned high marks from a variety of Boynton Beach city officials and police department employees who were interviewed as part of his Virginia State Police background check.

“We heard comments such as, ‘He genuinely cares about the officers,’ ‘He’s a dynamic leader,’ ‘He’s always a pleasure to work with’ and ‘I have a deep respect for him and admire what he has done,’ ” Jaeckle said.

“City leaders described Chief Katz as being honest, open and transparent, and possessing tremendous leadership and communication skills. All of the comments indicated he is a great fit for the professional culture of our police department.”

According to County Administrator Joe Casey, who served on Chesterfield’s police chief recommendation committee with Jaeckle and three others, Katz demonstrated “skill and talent, but also a spirit and determination that county leaders believe make him the right person for the job.

“I very much look forward to working with Chief Katz as we set a course to meet challenges and continue demonstrating the police department’s vital role in maintaining and enhancing quality of life in Chesterfield,” Casey added.

While he acknowledged the county’s police department is more than twice the size of the one he just left, Katz described “the process of leading and managing others” as “primarily an interpersonal endeavor.” “There are budget processes, strategic planning initiatives and personnel matters, and the size and scope of these processes may be more expansive in a larger organization, but the fundamentals are the same,” he said. “Effectively rallying people toward a common vision is the core of running a successful organization, irrespective of the number of people or the size of the budget.” ¦

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