Conversation with Dr. Lane and Deputy Chief Lindsey

Dr. Monique Lane: At this moment in time, how are you taking care of yourself, Drennon? 


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: Right now, it’s hard for any of us to not do, what I am calling, “time management on steroids” because I am juggling so much. But I exercise daily, and I am taking my vitamins and meditating. Connecting with family also helps me to recharge; checking in and making sure they're okay and then also receiving that energy from them. Lately, I am giving myself permission to not be perfect. You can't always be all things at all times. In this journey as I get older, I find myself in a place where I don't want the stress as much. And so I try not to be so hard on myself. And in this program, I’ve learned to have a bit better balance


Dr. Monique Lane: I love that you have identified specific methods for filling up your cup. We have to be intentional about filling ourselves up . And I love what you said about giving yourself grace. It is super important. In light of the fact that you're earning a doctorate in educational leadership, it is critical for leaders to know when to stop or press pause, to know when we have had enough.  So tell us, who are you, what you do, and how did you make your way to OPD? 


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: My path to law enforcement wasn’t traditional. My undergraduate degree is in biology and I started out as a research associate at Chiron, a biotechnology company. Then, I spent a few years as a middle school teacher but then I kind of took a risk to try something different. 

So now I’ve been with Oakland PD for 23 years and I am the only female African American commander in our department and the second-highest ranking female in our department outside of the interim chief of police. 

It’s been an interesting journey. When I applied to OPD I  was 5’3”,  about 108 pounds and I was a geeky science type and I didn't think they would offer me the job. My friend and I just thought it would be fun to apply.

So when I got the call from the background investigator saying you've got the job, I didn’t accept right away.  I wanted to check with my family to see what they thought, and they were all against it.

Growing up in Richmond, my family was worried about me taking this career path.  As the only child in my family and the only granddaughter on my paternal side, it was scary for my family based on past perceptions of the police. A family friend recommended that I try policing. He said, “police officers are good people, I have a friend that's an officer and they're good people”. When he said that police officers are good people and that he had a friend that was an officer, it intrigued me and motivated me to give it a try. 


Dr. Monique Lane: So what about joining the academy or the police department excited you?


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: I have always been a people person. I love interacting with different types of people and I knew the police department would give me that opportunity. 

I’ve interviewed people accused of killing people and people who are just trying to do good in the community. I’ve done block parties and community engagement with officers and the faith-based community where we can have a simple conversation and see the shift in how each other thinks about one another. I've done a lot of charity work and community work and have been part of the Oakland Black Officers Association for 22 years, as well as one of the lead mentoring and coaching and development trainers on our department since 2002.

I also teach at Merritt College in the department of Administration of Justice. I love helping students figure out what they want to do with their lives whether that means going on to a four-year institution or helping them to become police officers, dispatchers, or whatever else it is that they want to do. 

For me, policing is a way to have an outlet. I like to do a variety of things to help others which have always been just a part of my personality. If you ask anybody in my family. It will be a common theme.

But more than this, joining the department allows me to be a force multiplier for justice in the right way, putting a stamp on it and showing people that there is a way to address or support the judicial system, but in a way that allows a person to have their human dignity and self-respect. 


Dr. Monique Lane: I love that. It is really encouraging to talk to you and hear you talk about human dignity and self-respect and making folks whole and healing as a part of--or as integral to the work that you do in the police department. Being a public servant in the truest sense of the word. I really appreciate that.  It sounds like public service is a really important part of your identity. How do you promote these values in your work with the Department?


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: You know, that was a challenge, you know, and I without going into too much detail, but I felt confident enough to be able to take on a leadership role within policing.  I’ve worked to make sure there was a level of accountability with how officers provided service to the community. Our department has been under a consent decree for 17 years for some serious things, so we have to continue to have the courage to be able to hold others accountable in policing. We have to treat the community with respect and dignity and make sure we're doing things the right way.  That has led into my path of being a part of the solution. I love having the autonomy to do policing the way I thought policing could be done. 


Dr. Monique Lane: The recent murders of unarmed Black people by police officers have sparked national protests and outrage. I'm wondering about how you and your colleagues are responding to the national push for radical change within our system of policing, including calls to defund the police?


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: The Oakland Police Department has changed several policies over 6 - 7 years ago that have dramatically minimized the number of officer-involved shootings (OIS) for OPD.  We have had three OIS's in the past three years. Our narrative for OPD is to practice procedural justice towards the community and employ the "best practices" geared towards reducing the number of stops against Black and Brown people and minimizing uses of force. We have collected "stop data" since being under a consent decree where we routinely evaluate the reasons for stops being made based on the racial demographics of those being stopped.  The evaluation is meant to identify whether or not stops are being made based on race (racial profiling) or if it was a legitimate stop. We have also employed intelligence-led policing interventions to minimize officers’ ability to randomly stop people of color without legal cause or justification. 

Our department continues to look for opportunities to minimize the disparate treatment of our community members by working with Stanford Researchers, Dr. Eberhardt, and Dr. Monin.  They have assisted our department by using a methodology designed to minimize potential biases by creating policies and procedures focused on structural solutions (also known as decision points).  An example of this process was the creation of the policy where officers can no longer chase a subject into a backyard.  Once we implemented this policy, our uses of force (including shootings) were reduced significantly.

We know we still have much work to do to gain the community's trust and we are attempting to be more transparent with our policies, procedures and provide information that may be useful to educating our community members and other stakeholders.


Dr. Monique Lane: It is hard but critical work and I am hopeful that as you help guide the department, we will see real change. If you could wave a magic wand and reimagine the institution of policing and its role in community wellness, and if you had all the resources that you needed both material and ideological, what would be your vision for OPD? 


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: It would be for people to really come to a place where we can have a true, robust, and honest conversation about our needs. I can see both sides. We have good people here, and every profession has some bad seeds, but we have good officers that mean well. And we have people in the community that are good and they mean well.  

But what I don’t see is the conversations being had where you can come to an understanding. 

You don't have to come to an agreement, but let's come to an understanding, and then from there let's move forward and try to work collaboratively to identify some priorities that we all can agree upon to make the community safer and better.  I think we will find that we really want to make the community safer and that people want to be made whole and kept safe.  But what I don't see is that level of trust and a level of communication and respect on both sides. I think there's a lot of misunderstandings.

There are opportunities to change policies and procedures and come up with solutions where people are happy to be engaging with one another and working with one another for the ultimate goal. And that’s to reduce violence and to reduce crime and to just have that better relationship and community. This will involve everyone from city officials and other entities and stakeholders that have a role.

We need true, open, and honest conversation, where people are actually hearing each other, where they are not just listening, but hearing and understanding each other. I think that's where we can begin to make really good change and stop blaming each other. 

I've learned so much in this program about nonviolent communication and lately, we're talking about systems thinking and how everything is interconnected and related to each other. In our class resource Emergent Strategy, by Adrienne Maree Brown she shares the concept of fractals and how you do things locally and how they reflect nationally. You have to start somewhere and maybe we could be the model city that shows people how to get it right. 

I am buying that book for everybody in my bureau because it is important to get people to understand the other person's side, the other person's perspective. 


Dr. Monique Lane:  I had the privilege of teaching and learning alongside your amazing cohort in the spring, and we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of sheltering in place.

We started that journey together. One of the things that I asked the class was to define leadership, equity, and care in light of the pandemic as well as the ongoing attack on Black lives. 

When we came back together and reflected on those definitions as a learning community, we agreed that any leader whose intention is to engage in a liberatory and radical practice, should be able to articulate their definitions of those terms.

We also recognized that our understanding of those terms would evolve over time as we learn, grow, and shift - and, as society shifts. So I'm so curious about how your leadership practices in the OPD have evolved?


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: It's always been important to me to lead by example and make myself available to others. We can forget to check in with our people as leaders.  So although I'm talking about self-care myself, I need to be aware of how my people are doing.  

I lead about 200 people and I need to check in on them. “How are you doing? How are you taking care of yourself?” Being able to see their faces and know they are tired. The attention and care that we would give, almost like love leadership. I feel like I serve them, even though they work under my chain of command.

I try to walk the walk and model my behavior and not ask people to do things that I would not do because that takes away from your intimacy as a leader 

One of the things I learned from the EdD Program, in the Transformative Leadership Class, was from the research by Carolyn Shields.  When I read it, I really began to understand and connect to those principles,  I said, “oh that’s me!”  To me, the biggest part is having the moral courage to allow me to forge ahead to breakthrough to unknown territory. 

So as we talk about reimagining policing, I think there are things we can do that provide a better service to the community, who we're here to serve in the first place.  The self-awareness is key, understanding what your true north is, and not being afraid to stay the course, even when times get difficult or it's just easier to go along to get along.

That is where I find can be the most challenging because it can be easy just to kind of fade into the background. And say,  “well, I don't want any trouble. I don't want the spotlight on me.” But how are you going to feel within yourself, when you're not able to stand up and say, “that is not right” and continue to stand on principle because I know this is who I am, and this is the right thing to do. It may not be today, maybe it’s five years later, where they say Chief Lindsey was really right about that, but being able to withstand the storm when others don't think you're right.  


Dr. Monique Lane: I love what you said about the importance of walking in dignity with our intentions, and the necessity for moral courage and self-awareness. While it's exhausting, it is absolutely necessary to carry that courage and moral compass with us into our work. And it can nourish our soul in a way that other work does not. For me, that's what sustains me.  The good that comes back to me when I do right, especially when I do right within a system that ain't doin’ right!  

I am excited to watch you do “the work” and to support you. It would be beautiful for Oakland to be the model city - to be the change that we all are hoping for and demanding. We are so proud of you, and we are with you. I just love to see how the work you’ve been doing in the doctoral program is really fueling you and is very much already aligned with who you are. Thank you so much for your time. 


Deputy Chief Drennon Lindsey: [The EdD] program has some great professors. It has been life-changing, it's been difficult, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity and the ability to see things in a different light. 


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