Steve Strong recently celebrated his two-year anniversary as Cape Girardeau's police chief, which nearly coincided with an astounding tribute: He was named Police Chief of the Year by Missouri Police Chiefs' Association.
But things weren't always so delightful for Strong. In the weeks before he took over the police department, a troublesome study of that department was released. The evaluation, based on departmental records, site visits and hours of police interviews, reported that morale was seriously marred by out-of-touch management, a lack of trust and poor internal communication.
While police service never seemed to deteriorate, there seemed to be some internal problems not clear to the general public.
Flash forward to two years later. The award, celebrated by the men and women on his force, is proof that Strong has made great strides in turning the department around.
According to the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, which hands out the honor, the award goes to a police chief who has shown a strong dedication to enhancing the law enforcement profession. A police chief must also show a commitment to ensuring the safety of the citizens of his community.
Strong clearly has met both of those requirements.
He was nominated for the award by city manager Doug Leslie, who raved about Strong's performance. He noted that Strong has a dynamic ability to mentor young officers as well as keeping officers at the forefront.
Leslie called Strong an "officers chief," leading to what is perhaps Strong's most amazing accomplishment. Leslie said Strong has raised morale at a department that sorely needed uplifting.
Raising morale has been an important goal, but Strong has been a good leader on several fronts. Strong apparently has also been a good fiscal manager, Leslie said.
Leslie said that Strong has managed to find creative revenue sources to meet the growing demand for public safety services. Cape Girardeau has been financially strapped, so the police department is lucky Strong has been so fiscally creative.
Strong also has shown himself to be a humble leader.
When it was announced he was to receive the award, he thanked his officers first, saying it was their hard work that made him look good.
He is a 25-year veteran of the force who was a captain and assistance police chief until his promotion.
From the outset, he has said he leads by example.
"Not every city would give someone who started their career winding parking meters the opportunity to work their way through the ranks and become police chief," Strong said.
The department and all of Cape Girardeau residents should be grateful Strong was given the job. His leadership clearly has made a difference in turning around a struggling department.