ince Lakewood, Colorado, was created as a city in 1970, it has required bachelor's degrees for all entering officers, who are referred to as agents. Lakewood was among the first departments in the nation to establish this educational requirement. Today, many Lakewood officers have graduate degrees, including a number of law degrees. The diversity of degrees ranges from social science to business to theology, and this educational standard helps officers address everyday issues in a diverse community. The on-the-job education also never ceases.
The department was formed 37 years ago out of concern for public safety because of the growth of nearby Denver. Early on, the department established a national reputation for being innovative and different. Throughout its history, the department has continually stressed the importance of integrity and leadership, and its philosophy is based on innovation and daring approaches.
What the original city leaders did not want was a traditional police department. Because the department was created without a detective division, officers handled everything from traffic violations to homicide investigations. The untraditional structure had street cops amassing more experience in a few years than officers in other departments get in entire careers. Since that time, the department has developed specialized investigative services but continues to involve patrol agents and all employees in many aspects of investigations. Employees are given the authority to take creative approaches in their daily assignments, and they are among the highest paid police officers in the state.
In the last several years, Lakewood has expanded its community policing approach to a geographic, or sector, deployment with an emphasis on working closely with the community and addressing ongoing problems. Their education has enhanced the agents' ability to dig below the surface and attack root causes. Further, they have begun to work together closely across divisional lines, tearing down any barriers that could cause turf issues. The Lakewood motto, "integrity, intelligence, and initiative," is exemplified everyday in the culture of the Lakewood Police Department.
When executive search firms look for police chiefs, the search often takes them to Lakewood, Colorado. Today there are 60 chiefs or sheriffs across the nation who were once part of the Lakewood Police Department. ■