Retired Police Executive Chief Jesus “Eddie” Campa is known in law enforcement as a man who cares deeply about racial equality and works hard to pull together people of all ethnicities. In particular, he has focused on developing the trust between his officers and the diverse members of their community. While immensely rewarding, it has not come without its share of challenges. We got a chance to speak to Campa and to ask him to share a story about his toughest challenge as a Chief committed to equality for everyone.
First, it is helpful to understand just how extensive Campa’s background in law enforcement actually is. He has 27 years of law enforcement experience as well as a formal education. He retired as the Chief Deputy of Law Enforcement of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. He was then appointed as Police Chief of Schools in Odessa, Texas, before going on to become Chief of a racially divided community in Marshall, Texas. Campa then worked as the Executive Director of a law enforcement agency in the racial state of Oklahoma.
His accomplishments are impressive. “I have successfully lowered the crime rate by a combined 23%, introduced new technology, rebuilt the bridge of trust with the community, and established a new outlook on community policing in an agency filled with racially driven police officers from East Texas,” he said.
Even with this background, Campa was often seen by the majority of his officers, who were white, as a Hispanic Police Chief instead of simply a Police Chief. This would cause difficulties when Campa created a new community outreach program called No Colors No Labels Initiative, which was well-received by the community but despised by the police officers. “We could have accomplished a lot more during my time there had it not been for my skin color,” Campa explained. “The officers there would have fallen in line had I been white.”
Campa stated that the men and women of the agency were not ready for a change and didn’t want true leadership. The residents, in contrast, were ready for positive change – all that was needed was the right person to come along, set the course, and force the officers to fall in line. “However, without the support of the elected city officials, it was impossible to accomplish a lot.”
Even with the challenges he faced, Campa was named the Martin Luther King Humanitarian of the Year in 2017. How was this able to happen? The answer is simple: Campa has always been a servant of the community he represents, and he believes in the Golden Rule: to treat others as you would want to be treated.
Finally, Campa believes that the foundation of a successful police agency is the community. He stated, “A leader is a person that understands the job and knows the community they serve and the employees that work for them. I have accomplished what I have not because of my skin color or because I am a minority but because I am able to overcome adversity and keep moving forward.”
As you would expect, Campa has learned a lot from his time as a minority in law enforcement. “To change the culture of a racially motivated agency, the change must be genuine, come from the top, and work its way down the chain. A culture change within an organization can only happen if the person at the top gets the buy-in from the staff. At the time, that was impossible, as the officers didn’t agree with taking orders from a Mexican, as they said.”
Campa believed that it is vital to remember that actions speak louder than words. “The culture change has nothing to do with the color of the leader’s skin and everything to do with the belief system that the leader is introducing into the culture and the leader’s ability to lead through adversity.”
Learn more about leadership by ordering Jesus Eddie Campa’s book Unmasking Leadership: What They Don’t Tell You and by visiting LeadingThroughAdversity.com or jesuseddiecampa.com.