A police chief, whose leadership transformed a police department, joined dozens of law enforcement officials at the White House at the end of June to talk about building trust in their communities. Chief Argatha Gilmore ’18 (School of Business & Leadership) added to the conversation with knowledge, strategies and, skills she’s acquired from her time with the Lake City, Florida Police Department and Regent University’s Doctorate of Strategic Leadership (DSL) program.
“We find out we’re not unique,” said Gilmore. “There are different faces in different cities, but the same problems and same situations. That’s why I’m very happy the White House engaged with us to hear us, our ideas and suggestions, and we were able to hear what the White House is trying to achieve as well. It was a very good experience regardless of your party and all sorts of other issues people might have. What is important is the White House opened its doors to have dialog with law enforcement officials.”
President Obama’s administration recently implemented the Data-driven Justice Committee, and Gilmore says her experience in the DSL program, doing research dealing with leadership analytics, helped her to understand its importance. She says key words from her classes were shared in the strategy sessions she attended, empowering her as she contributed to the conversation. The gathering focused on implicit bias, the police data initiative and social media, and was part of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. High-ranking officials at the White House asked how police departments are building trust with their communities, a mission Gilmore has been achieving through social media and other community outreach programs to make her department a household name.
“How do we create a road-map of building trust between communities and police?” asked Gilmore. “We looked at implicit bias and strategized how to discuss it openly and hold police and community accountable. We have to look at what we are measuring and what data we are reviewing to say we have transparency in our communities.”
When Gilmore started her career, she originally wanted to work for the FBI and joined the Tallahassee Police Department to get experience. She fell in love with policing and wanted to influence others with her faith in Christ while being involved in policymaking. She retired after 25 years of service, but when Lake City’s Police Department faced serious challenges and needed a chief, she jumped on-board and worked through resistance, trial and tough decisions to transform the department into a premier, accredited agency.
“I have a testimony of what I have gone through as a leader,” said Gilmore. “I can see now, through the things I’m learning at Regent, how God really helped me through those first three years to get me where I am and have a wonderful department. What I am learning at Regent is really sharpening and refining me even more to be able to teach from experience, in addition to research and writing and exchanging with cohorts, but my experience as a leader has been tremendous.”
Gilmore says her DSL journey is making her a better police chief, helping her to lead effectively, ask better questions, and think critically. It is affecting every area of her life and going beyond her job as police chief. For example, the Alachua Walmart Transportation Distribution Center asked her to deliver strategic foresight presentations. This began as a minor project in one of her DSL classes, to learn to read trend maps, and use that information to equip supervisors to make better preparations for external and internal conditions that will impact their organizations. A general manager of Walmart heard her presentation at the City Council retreat and asked her to present it to regional managers of the Walmart stores, as well as the next level of supervisors at Walmart district managers office.
Gilmore was initially interested in attending seminary, however, she was drawn to Regent. She wanted academics with a Christian background, and found Regent’s professors integrated faith into everything they teach. Likewise, she says business industries overlap, and law enforcement cannot function within a silo. Gilmore accounts that the DSL program is perfect, and what she is learning integrates well into the demands of the job.
“Whatever your rank is in law enforcement, it is about leadership. Whether your rank is an officer or a sergeant, people see each rank as a leader. From that perspective, each component of the syllabus of the course topics offered at Regent helps supply everything from data, servant leadership, consulting which are geared toward effective leadership strategies. We are all things to all people, and so every area Regent exposes its students can be applied to policing.”
Gilmore plans to graduate in 2018 and is looking forward to an upcoming on-campus residency with other DSL students. She is thankful for encouragement from her supportive husband and coworkers, who she says plan to charter a bus and attend her graduation.