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The Leadership Beat: ‘Organizational culture starts with me’

Chief Kedrick Sadler discusses how being accountable to yourself and your followers is the foundation of effective leadership

Chief Sadler.jpg

The following content is part of a new Police1 initiative – the Police Leader Playbook – aimed at helping new law enforcement leaders move beyond basic management and supervision skills and become inspirational leaders with integrity and passion. Through a handful of questions presented by Police1, veteran leaders reflect on their early days in leadership roles and offer advice, while newer leaders detail their experiences taking on a new position. Email to offer your insights for the Police Leader Playbook.

Chief Kedrick Sadler became chief of the Oceanside (California) Police Department in April 2023. Oceanside, a beach community located 39 miles north of San Diego, has a population of more than 175,000. The Oceanside Police Department has an authorized budgeted strength of 219 sworn and 115 professional staff members and handles approximately 110,000 calls for service each year.

Chief Sadler has been a patrol officer, canine handler, property crimes detective, homicide detective, patrol sergeant, support operations division lieutenant and investigations division captain within the Oceanside department. He is currently working on a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

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Chief Sadler.jpg

Oceanside Police Chief Kedrick Sadler

What put you on the path to becoming a chief?

I grew up in the 80s and 90s in a community that was plagued with gang violence and drugs. The drug epidemic in my community impacted me personally when one of my close family members became addicted to crack cocaine. The addiction he had completely destroyed his life and negatively affected my family as a whole.

Being subjected to gang violence and murders was a daily part of my life. The horrible things I witnessed growing up in my community became the motivating factors for me wanting to become a police officer. I knew from a young age that I wanted a career that would allow me to have a significant impact on reducing drug and gang-related crimes in the inner cities of America.

After becoming a police officer in 2001, I worked a variety of rewarding specialized assignments until I was promoted to sergeant in 2015. After I was promoted to sergeant, I quickly began climbing up the promotional ladder. At that point, I developed the desire to become the chief of police of my agency. The reason I wanted to become the chief of police was so that I could have more influence and decision-making authority to bring positive change to the department and boost morale.

What do you (or did you) want to accomplish, improve, or make better in your first few months as chief?

I simply want to meet and greet with the members of my department and the community. I want to introduce myself as the chief and begin to share my priorities, goals and expectations for the department. I also want to know what my department and community members expect of me as their chief of police.

In the first few months, I want to take a fresh look at the department and observe how we are currently operating. I would like to spend time observing and listening to the department and community members. This will allow me to identify the areas where we are operating effectively and efficiently. It will also allow me to identify those areas where we can improve and make changes if necessary.

The worst thing a new leader of an organization can do is to come in and make a bunch of hastily thought-out changes. A leader’s approach has to be tempered and advised when making organizational changes.

As the chief of police, I want to build a policing culture in my organization that is more in line with our community’s expectations and needs. I want to build a culture of accountability and respectability and one that puts employee wellness at the forefront. My goal before I retire is to leave my department in better shape than it was when I started. I want to strategically position my department to be the regional leader in the six pillars of 21st Century Policing which are:

1. Building Trust and Legitimacy

2. Policy and Oversight

3. Technology and Social Media

4. Community Policing and Crime Reduction

5. Officer Training and Education

6. Officer Safety and Wellness

How are you creating an organizational culture people want to be a part of?

Organizational culture starts with me. I must model what I expect. I also need to make sure that we have policies and practices in place that promote a good culture. I want our department to operate in a family-like environment where people enjoy coming to work and spending time in the workplace. The importance of creating a good culture is that it preserves the policy and procedures that your department operates by. There is an old saying that says, “Culture eats policy.” In other words, if you have a bad culture in your organization, it doesn’t matter how many policies you have. The reason it doesn’t matter is that culture eats policy for lunch!

In order for me to keep my finger on the pulse of what officers are experiencing in the field, I periodically go on ride-alongs with my officers. This allows me to see first-hand what they are going through on a daily basis and hear directly from them about their needs and concerns.

What’s your process for making major decisions?

I like to get input and buy-in from my department members, so I include them in the early stages of discussion before any major decisions are made. I understand that the final decisions regarding policy and initiative fall on me, but I think it is important to leverage the talent around you when making those decisions. I’ve come to realize that I have people around me who are much smarter than I am so it would be foolish of me not to include them in discussions when making major decisions.

How do you show your personnel that you are leading with value-based behaviors?

It is foundational for effective leadership that you always model what you expect. You must be accountable to yourself and others or those who you lead won’t follow you. Leadership at its core is the ability to influence others to buy into your vision and be willing to follow you. Your actions speak volumes for you and demonstrate what you stand for. I must make sure that I take care of my personnel as people first and foremost.

Leadership lightning round

What is a leadership book, podcast, or seminar you’ve found invaluable?

Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times” by Donald T. Phillips.

How do you organize your day and stay on schedule?

I create a daily task sheet that I know I can accomplish by the close of business each day.

If you knew the budget request would be approved, what’s a big purchase you’d make for your department today?

I would purchase healthy daily meals for my department members because healthy eating encourages healthy lifestyles.

What is one way leaders can show they care about their people?

Leaders need to get out of their “ivory towers” on a regular basis and spend some time with their people.

At the end of the workday, how do you recharge?

I find a quiet place where I can decompress without any outside noise or distractions.

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