Having recently taken the reins at Jacksonville Police Department as its interim chief, Mike Alexander said that his goals are simple: To shape leaders and to create a healthy work environment that will last long after he is gone.
“I don't intend to go back into the profession full-time, but when I get these opportunities, I go,” he explained to members present at a Rotary Club gathering held Wednesday at Jacksonville College. “Because I get a chance to get close to the officers and help them recognize who they are and what they represent. And every decision they make represents 900,000 cops nationally. So, it's really important for me to make sure that we're doing the right thing as much as we possibly can.”
Alexander was announced as the city's new interim chief during a regular Jacksonville City Council meeting in September.
When he walks into a new assignment, he told Rotarians, he employs three strategies that helps bolster that local department.
First and foremost, is to help leaders to “shape” their officers.
“SHAPE is an acronym: 'S' stands for 'strength.' I want to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of our cops as quickly as we possibly can. 'H' stands for 'heart' – I want to know my people have a heart for their people. We are public servants, coming to the aid of those in need. So, first and foremost, if we are going to be a part of this profession, we need to have a heart for the people we come in contact with (because) when we come in contact with them, they are in the worst state in their life, mostly,” he said, noting, 'that's the only time they see a police officer running from place to place, because a person is in trauma and they are looking to us to assist them with whatever they're involved in.”
“A” represents attitude, while “'P' is for personality, and “it's really important for me to understand their personality so that I can better communicate with them,” Alexander said. “It's my responsibility as their leader to understand them and where they're coming from.”
'E' is for experience, which each member of the force bring a different one to the table, “and it's my responsibility to leverage those experiences so I can better utilize them in their strengths and weaknesses,” he explained. “That's really important for leadership at every level.”
Secondly, he strives to create a healthy working environment with the department.
“Why is that important? A healthy work environment, to me, is characterized by a person's ability to speak up and speak out about the thing in which they are concerned,” he said. “See, I sit at my desk all day, every day, and I shuffle papers from one table to the next, making phone calls and dealing with different people in the community, while they are out running from call to call,” he said. “so it's really important to me to allow the space for them inside that building, for them to be who they are. Never take that away from them – I don't want them to be what they're not. Now, if they're being disrespectful to me or someone else, it is my responsibility to teach them how to treat me, and how to treat everybody else. That is what a leader's job is, so that I can train them to someday sit in the same seat in which I am currently seated.
“Lastly, is wellness: When they are in trouble, personally or professionally, it is my responsibility to go and deal with them in a very professional, compassionate way,” Alexander said.
Motioning to JPD Captain Jason Price, he added, “that's what Captain here and I deal with all day, every day. We sit in our office, and we talk about our men and women and how we can best serve them so they can best serve you.”
During the meeting, he asked members of the club for their prayers.
“I do want you to do this for me and Captain here: As much as you possibly can, pray for the men and women of the Jacksonville Police Department. But more specifically, pray for (the members) our profession nationally,” Alexander said, having earlier cited statistics of officer suicide, alcoholism rates and other problems associated with job stress and trauma.