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The Leadership Beat: ‘Creating a supportive environment has been a priority from the moment I arrived’

Chief Jeffrey D. Yarbrough shares his philosophy on leadership, which prioritizes breaking down silos and ensuring creating organizational culture is a collective effort


Chief Jeffrey D. Yarbrough was sworn in as chief of the Hutto (Texas) Police Department in April 2022.

Photo/Hutto Police Department

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 Jeffrey D. Yarbrough was sworn in as chief of the Hutto (Texas) Police Department in April 2022. The agency is located in a fast-growing city of approximately 40,000. Hutto is consistently ranked as one of the safest cities in Texas and the nation, and one of the best places to live in the country. The Hutto Police Department has a staff of 55 sworn and 7 non-sworn. The approximate annual call volume is 38,000 calls.

What was the incident or person in your career that put you on the path to becoming a chief?

My father has been and continues to be the guiding force in my career and placed me on the path of becoming a chief. He served as a dedicated police officer, retired only to return to law enforcement, and presently serves as an elected constable in our hometown. His commitment to public service set a powerful example that inspired both my brother and me to pursue careers in law enforcement. Witnessing his genuine and caring approach profoundly shaped my perspective, revealing the true and positive influence an officer could have in society.

My father’s actions spoke louder than words, and he had a simple yet profound mantra: “It costs nothing to be kind, and if it did, it would be worth the cost.” Through his teachings, he instilled in me the belief that law enforcement is much more than a profession; it is a true calling. I came to understand that our duty is to serve, and even when dealing with individuals in the most challenging situations, to never take their dignity away from them.

Emulating my father’s principles led me to grasp the concept and value of being a “peace” officer, which is much more remarkable than just being a “police” officer. His exemplary conduct laid the groundwork for me becoming a chief. It empowered me to nurture officers who prioritize empathy, sympathy and compassion in their pursuit of peace.


What do you (or did you) want to accomplish, improve or make better in your first 30 days as chief, 6 months as chief and year as chief?

Upon my appointment as chief of the Hutto Police Department, I brought what I believed to be a unique but appropriate approach that needed to be accomplished in the first 30 days. Previous chiefs had short tenures that indicated a need for establishing reassurances and stability before meaningful decisions should be introduced. In my initial 30 days, the primary objective was not to make any dramatic changes or recommendations but to listen, ask questions, absorb, understand and support the department while allowing staff to exhale in order to inhale the transformative inspiration I aimed to introduce.

My foremost priority was to examine the agency’s culture, identify the expectations the department had of a new chief and align those with my own objectives. Building trust was crucial. I wanted the entire department to feel at ease and to let down their guard to embrace the inspiration I intended to share. Engaging with every level of staff, I listened intently to their insights, experiences, aspirations, concerns and recommendations to seek patterns that showcased both achievements and areas for growth.

The following six months were dedicated to delving deeper into the department. I aimed to understand valuable lessons of previous leadership, as well as individual staff member motivations for joining and remaining in the Hutto Police Department. Gaining a multifaceted perspective of the department’s culture took about half a year but it allowed me to witness the gradual emergence from their cocoons, like butterflies taking flight.

By the end of my inaugural year, I successfully pinpointed the department’s strengths and weaknesses, devised collaborative strategies at all levels, and set a course toward accomplishing established goals. Witnessing the collective exhale of relief and the inhalation of inspiration fostered by trust and mutual respect among the staff was the fuel that helped us come together as a department and collectively stand as one.

City manager and HPD.jpeg

Chief Yarbrough pictured with Hutto’s City Manager and Hutto police officers.

Photo/Hutto Police Department

How are you creating an organizational culture that people want to be a part of, to join and to stay?

I foster an organizational culture that attracts, retains and inspires by embodying integrity and prioritizing the well-being of every individual in our department. Valuing each person’s needs above my own and keeping my word are central to this ethos. I believe in creating an environment where individuals aren’t merely tolerated but genuinely appreciated.

At the heart of our department’s culture is an active solicitation, consideration and implementation of ideas from members of the department. The inclusive approach breaks down silos and ensures that our organizational culture is a collaboration resulting from the collective expertise and efforts of all.

Creating a supportive environment has been a priority from the moment I arrived. I aimed to provide officers with the freedom to fulfill their professional destiny by fostering a culture that embraces and recognizes the contributions of both sworn and non-sworn members.

We are truly fortunate to serve a community that proudly supports and deeply cherishes the Hutto Police Department. The city council and city leadership continuously express their appreciation in words and deeds for the entire department. The culture of the city and city leadership provides a canvas for all Rembrandts and Picassos to come and contribute to what we consider to be a masterpiece of an organization and city. It’s what makes those on the outside want to join and those of us on the inside want to stay.

What’s your process for making major decisions?

In every decision I make that affects the Hutto Police Department, I actively seek input from multiple perspectives. Throughout my career, I’ve embraced the truth that none of us are as smart as all of us. The most robust decisions are made not in isolation but through the collaborative input of multiple viewpoints. I crave feedback and additional insights and examine all angles before reaching a conclusion and final decision. Evaluating both intended and unintended consequences is critical to ensuring that decisions are made for the right reasons and can withstand rigorous scrutiny.

When seeking feedback and considering all possible options, I consistently remind my team, “It doesn’t have to be my idea, it just has to be the best idea.” This approach reinforces the confidence placed in their input, experience and ideas. It also emphasizes their value in shaping the organization.

For decisions that affect specific departments or individuals, when possible, I solicit their feedback and recommendations. The purpose of this process is to hear from those impacted and to better understand the implications of the decision and what, if any, alternatives potentially exist to make the most effective and justifiable decision.


Creating a sense of family within the Hutto Police Department is a priority for Chief Yarbrough.

Photo/Hutto Police Department

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

There’s a popular saying, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” which resonates deeply in law enforcement where we’re trained to observe not just the obvious but also the often-overlooked subtle signs. In our profession, consistent values like honesty and integrity hold great significance in how officers measure leaders. As a leader, I prioritize communication, transparency and consistency, and maintain an untarnished character.

I strive to embody these essential leadership behaviors while also embracing humility by admitting when I lack knowledge, asking questions and acknowledging my mistakes. A steadfast commitment to doing what’s right, even in challenging situations, earns officers’ respect. I ensure every member of the department feels supported through both my words and actions. When mistakes occur, I view them as teachable moments and offer correction through respect and value.

Creating a sense of family within the Hutto Police Department is something that I prioritize. I ensure that each member is celebrated for their successes and special life moments. Their joys are mine, and I take every opportunity to acknowledge and share in their excitement. This values-based leadership approach transcends strict organizational boundaries and fosters an environment where support bases are formed. This approach has helped me to break down barriers while building confidence and trust within the department and reassurances that I care for all.

Leadership lightning rounds

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

Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek.

How do you organize your day and stay on schedule?

In addition to electronic calendars, I use accountability partners on my command staff team and we serve as meeting reminders for one another.

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

Given the assurance of budget approval, the primary investment I’d make for our department today would be a new facility to replace our current one, which has exceeded its operational lifespan for a police facility our size.

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

One way leaders can show they care about their people is to allow their deeds to speak louder than their words.

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

I recharge by detaching from work and reconnecting with family which is my source of peace, serenity and resilience.

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