Kentfield, CA—September 29, 2010—College of Marin Chief of Police Charles “Chuck” Lacy, retired last week after a 42-year distinguished career in law enforcement that began in the midst of the anti-war and civil rights movements on the UC Berkeley campus, spanned a large-scale evolution within the field of policing and ended with a 10-year tenure as head of the College of Marin Police Department.
“For me, it’s ending a career really on a high note,” Lacy said. “I always felt that I could make a difference and the way you could make a difference was to be part of the system and work through the system.”
Lacy, who will be 64 in October, always dreamed of a law enforcement career and was one of only two African Americans in his academy’s graduating class. He graduated from Berkeley High School and went on to what was then called Contra Costa Junior College where he earned an AA degree in administrative justice. Still too young to join a police department, he went to work in an office mailroom at an insurance company in San Francisco. He was drafted into military service and served two years in Europe, then returned to earn a bachelor’s degree in Human Relations and Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco.
In 1968, at a time of campus and national upheaval, Lacy was the fourth African American hired onto the UC Berkeley Police Department. Four years later, he joined the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department where he helped build a new, nine-county transit police agency and eventually worked as manager of investigations. He went on to join AC Transit as chief of Protective Services/Investigations, where, again, he focused on building new inter-agency patrol programs. Lacy later worked with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board as the Transit Security administrator for the trolley and bus system and then joined the U.S. Marshals Service as a court security officer before joining the Long Beach Community College District Police Department as a police lieutenant. In 2000, he was hired as the Chief of Police/Director of Safety for the Marin Community College District Police Department. He earned a Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training certificate for Executive Development and a lifetime California Vocational Educational Teaching credential.
At College of Marin, part of Lacy’s legacy includes the implementation of an automated records information system and computer-assisted dispatching as well as an upgraded, eco-friendly patrol vehicle fleet. The automation of police records has improved the allocation of resources. As he winds down his tasks, he is working to ensure that computerized mobile data computers are soon available in the campus police fleet. The department includes eight sworn officers, one non-sworn full-time police service assistant and two cadets.
“Chief Lacy has been instrumental in moving the department into the 21st century,” said Superintendent/President A. J. Harrison II. “His dedication to community policing and his focus on prevention has ensured a safer and more productive educational environment for everyone on campus. He will be missed greatly.”
The most difficult thing to leave behind will be the people, Lacy said. It is a sentiment that seems to link to his philosophy that effective policing is about building community relationships. At College of Marin, Lacy worked to ensure that officers maintained a visible presence on the campus so they can build relationships with students, faculty and staff and serve as a preventative influence.
Changes didn’t come overnight, Lacy said. “The biggest thing is building community. I was able to get our officers out of the car and have them being seen, walking around, being helpful to the students and being easy to talk to — to students and staff. The best thing I could hear was, ‘I see your police officers around a lot.’ That means we’re visible. I wanted people to be very comfortable talking with my officers. We do listen.”
The world of policing is dramatically different from what it was when he first put on a uniform, Lacy said. Officers are much better trained to understand racial and cultural diversity and to do proactive policing, to work within a community and prevent problems.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” Lacy said. “I’ve seen a tremendous change in law enforcement attitude and in how you serve your community. We’re held to a much higher standard now. The role of law enforcement is to prevent crime. When crime occurs, we’ve failed. We’re accountable to the citizens that we serve. We’re able to respond and handle little things so they don’t turn into big thins. Our role is to put ourselves out of business. That’s what we strive for: zero crime.”
Lacy also has served as president of the Marin County Chief’s Association and as a member of several regional committees including the Marin County Disaster Council, the Disaster Resistance California Community Colleges Task Force, the F.B.I. Counterterrorism Executive Board, and numerous professional advisory boards.
“Chief Lacy has provided the College of Marin with the professionalism, honor and service expected from the finest sworn police officers,” said Linda Beam, Executive Dean of Human Resources & Labor Relations. “But, even more impressively, he has modeled the most important leadership traits of patience, generosity, humility and humor. Chuck will be greatly missed, but we wish him the very best as he enters this exciting chapter of retirement. I expect that he will hone his cooking and honey-do skills with great enthusiasm.”
Lacy plans to retire to Savannah, Georgia with his wife Carol, who is leaving a long career in nursing that included most recently a seven- year span as coordinator for the College of Marin Medical Assisting Program. He intends to enjoy the mild Savannah winters, practice golf, fish, travel and work part-time as a consultant. Lacy has plans to trade his police beat for a musical beat mentioning that there’s a piano waiting for him at his new home in Georgia. A jazz enthusiast who used to play drums, he may just start learning how to play that piano. “I would have to start with the basics,” he said.