Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks is the first Black and first female to head the Inglewood Police Department (IPD). Assuming her new duties in October last year, Seabrooks took some time with the Los Angeles Sentinel to discuss her first months in office, the progress she has made in asserting her style of leadership within the department, how she has addressed the issue of being Black and female in a position dominated by males, how she has demonstrated her ability to earn the respect of the city’s police officers, elected officials, and citizens, as well as her plans for the future.
She was selected after an exhaustive search by the Inglewood City Council and in a race that ultimately was between three highly qualified candidates. A seasoned and well respected senior member of the Santa Monica Police Department’s command staff, Seabrooks had the experience, credentials, background and preparation to step into Inglewood’s ‘top cop’ spot.
“During the final stages of the selection process,” Inglewood City Council Member Danny Tabor said, “each of the candidates participated in an individual interview with the city council members and while all of the three finalists were well qualified and would have been a good choice, Seabrooks distinguished herself from the others and emerged as the best choice for the City of Inglewood.”
This year the City of Inglewood is celebrating its Centennial Anniversary as the City and the Police Department were chartered on February 14, 1908. Seabrooks is Inglewood’s 16th Chief and her photograph is prominently displayed in the waiting area of the Chief’s office, along with the pictures of those who preceded her.
Serving a population of 112,580, in what many consider the ‘Crown-Jewel of the South bay,’ the IPD department employs 183 police officers, though it is budgeted for 213. As is the case throughout Southern California, where the number of police officers is less than budgets provide, the city continues with an aggressive recruitment campaign.
“In addition to normal attrition,” Seabrooks said, “I have terminated eight officers for values and integrity-related issues. We are aggressively recruiting to fill the complement of 213 officers currently in the budget and, in order to respond to the economic renaissance the city is experiencing, with over 38 urban redevelopment projects underway, to work more closely with the school police, and to address the density and crime-culture that exists in the City of Inglewood, 260 sworn officers is closer to the ideal number.”
Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, who continues to be the city’s champion for citywide economic renaissance, said, “We are committed to expanding our economic base while making our community more prosperous and livable.”
To address a number of fairly recent and negative issues attributable to some Inglewood Police Officers, including allegations of sexual assault and improper contact with prostitutes, Seabrooks indicated that she has implemented the plan identified and recommended by her predecessor, Chief Davis. The city has committed to spending a total of $60,000 to receive ethics, behavior and values training from the Michael Josephson Institute, an organization with a proven track-record of addressing municipal police department and officer’s behavior shortcomings.
“What has been most alarming, during my first few months,” Seabrooks indicated, “are the number of allegations of ethical breaches among some police officers and the perception that the department is not operating in a manner that is acceptable to the community and within generally acceptable police standards.”
“In addition to discharging several officers and continuing investigations into allegations of improper conduct on the part of others, “ the chief noted, “eventually the entire force will participate in an on-going series of extra training that will focus on team building, re-defining values, and focusing on the mission of the police department.”
Seabrooks explained the complex process and manner in which police officers may be subjected to disciplinary action or criminal prosecution. Unlike the private sector, where disciplinary action is relatively swift, allegations of police misconduct, even when there may be a video-tape or a single eye-witness, for example, require a thorough and frequently time-consuming period to bring the matter to conclusion and in some cases, the District Attorney (DA), has up to 365 days to determine whether or not criminal chares will be filed. After the DA reaches a decision, police department officials may then determine the appropriate punishment.
“An appropriately-public investigation is what we want.” Seabrooks said. “But, it must be done right to determine if the action was conducted within police policy and in accordance with public expectation.”
The fact that Seabrooks is a woman has not detracted from her ability to garner the respect of her staff. “I believe that members of the IPD respond to good leadership where treatment is fair and equitable; where they feel that their voices will be heard; where standards are evenly applied and problems are adjudicated promptly; and where their leadership is authentic and truthful.” She explained. “I am about the truth and that does not change.”
The most frequent measurement of police performance pertains to the crime rate. This year, the City of Inglewood has experienced two homicides, one gang-connected and one related to a drug deal, according to the Chief. She said that gangs are not necessarily the problem in Inglewood.
“The problems in Inglewood are no different than the problems in greater Los Angeles.” She explained. “Criminality and some of the conduct that flows from gangs is the problem. In Inglewood, we do not have race wars. We often have disputes that arise out of turf arguments, drug sales and sometimes women and we are involved with various gang-intervention measures, that we expect will address the issues.”
Overall, Seabrooks is pleased by the progress being made in the IPD. “I am very optimistic and believe that we are on the right path of increasing the level of professional conduct that the community deserves.” She noted. “In the medium term, we will continue to improve our internal systems including possible re-organization, and of course recruitment… When I determine that my value to the community and the police department is no longer at an acceptable level, I will retire.”