Thursday, April 25, 2024

Good leaders work through tough times

| August 23, 2020 1:00 AM

Coeur d’Alene boasts a strong city council. It also elected a mayor any community in the country would be thrilled to have serve.

Its police chief? Let’s just say Lee White is one in a million.

Nothing against his predecessors, but six years ago, Lee White came to town from Mesa, Ariz., with a plan. That plan has positively transformed policing locally.

Sure, Coeur d’Alene police still pull drivers over and put ‘em in the cooler if they’ve had too much to drink. Criminals won’t find shoulders to cry on at the CDA cop shop. White’s men and women in blue will shoot back when fired upon, and as we all know too well, they’ll be willing to sacrifice their lives if that’s what it takes to keep people safe.

But the plan White unwrapped and implemented right away was about community confidence. It was a breath of fresh air that went beyond low crime stats because it involved real live people. Recognizing that the vast majority of citizens are law-abiding, good people, White’s plan was to remodel the force from a perceived adversarial entity, one to feel nervous about when in their midst, to a group that’s a friend and an unmitigated asset.

Since White went to work here, it isn’t unusual to catch a police officer changing the flat tire on an elderly driver’s car. You might see an officer talking to someone in his or her yard, not on a formal call or welfare check but just shooting the breeze briefly as neighbors might. When Lee White came to town, his priority was to make members of his department easily recognized as citizens’ allies — so long as they obeyed the law, anyway. Mission accomplished.

We assert that the influence of Chief White’s plan spread to other law enforcement entities. As a result, our crime rates are low and the esteem citizens have for their protectors, their friends, is off the charts.

Because taxpayers are almost never given information about personnel matters in the public arena, we might never know why Chief White’s job is suddenly being scrutinized under the City Council’s microscope. But we do know this.

The council is a group of solid people. The mayor is stellar. And the police chief is rightfully as valued as any public servant in our region. With all these good folks working on the problem, surely a solution can be found to forge a way forward and keep a great thing going.