Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to The Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.
Abdul Pridgen is the past president of the California Police Chiefs Association and represents them on the board. He was appointed chief of the San Leandro Police Department in 2021 after serving as police chief in Seaside for three and a half years. His career began with the Fort Worth Police Department, where he promoted through the ranks to become their first Black assistant chief. He’s known for his effectiveness and employing evidence to drive organizational change and his principled approach, promoting ethical policing and fostering a culture of Answerability. Abdul is renowned for his authentic leadership and unwavering commitment to community engagement and trust building.
He is passionate about volunteering to improve community outcomes at the national, state and local level. He is a senior advisor for Measures for Justice, a member of the Executive Committee for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Monterey County, and President of the Institute for Transparent and Accountable Policing. Chief Pridgen holds a Master of Arts in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. He’s a graduate of the Southern Police Institute, FBI National Academy, FBI National Executive Institute, and Harvard Kennedy School, senior executives in state and local government. And he went on to receive an executive certificate in public leadership from Harvard.
All right, so this week I am so, so excited to have Chief Abdul Pridgen with me from San Leandro. Thank you so much for joining me.
Abdul Pridgen: Thank you for having me, Melyssa.
Melyssa Barrett: So I was looking up some statistics and I know that there are probably less than 10% of police chiefs in the United States that are Black or African-American. So the first question I really want to ask you is what was your life like? How did you even get here? Did you want to be a police chief? How did this come about and what do you have to have in order to actually make it there?
Abdul Pridgen: Wow, that’s a great question, Melissa, and I’ll take your listeners on a little journey, not a but it’s important to understand where I came from to really appreciate where I am and how I got here. The one thing I’ll say before I go into that is the one thing that is the most important aspect is you have to be resilient. You have got to be resilient. So I was born and raised in the Bronx, New York at a time when hip hop was being born, so to speak, I thought I was going to be a rapper and I wasn’t very good. I froze up on the mic and I said, okay, well, this isn’t going to be my career. And I wanted to actually go into the medical field and be a psychologist or psychiatrist because in my estimation when I was young, I thought they made a lot of money.
I was like, well, if I do that, then I can make money because like many who backgrounds like I do, you come from a low socioeconomic neighborhood, mother working two jobs, try to raise three boys on one salary and try to do the best she could to make our lives better. So put us in private school, which I think helped me in a lot of ways, but I would say the most critical juncture in my life. Now, I never thought about going into law enforcement at any point in my entire life. My dad actually retired from NYPD, but he and my mother divorced when I was seven. So it wasn’t like, hey, I sure want to be like my dad. It never even crossed my mind. I saw him on holidays and birthdays, but that was about it. So between my junior and senior year of high school, my mother moved us to LA and it was at the time me, my middle brother and my younger sister who was born when I was about 14 years old and I was a built-in babysitter.
So we were in LA for about a year and I worked the most difficult job I ever worked in my life. I worked at McDonald’s for two weeks, flipping burgers on the lunch shift, and I said, this is not the life I want to live. So we happened to live close to a military recruiting station, and I thought about traveling the world, seeing different places, and the first thing that popped in my mind is the Navy. Well, you’re on a ship, you go to different places. So I decided to join the Navy and actually became a crypto logic technician maintenance. Essentially what that means is I repaired computers with a top secret SCI clearance, and I did that for about six years. Thought I was going to make a ton of money working for, and I’m going to date myself because these are companies that probably don’t exist anymore, but like Bell or Raytheon, companies like that.
And so when I got out, I happened to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I was working as a satellite communications technician and an acquaintance, not even someone I knew very well said, “Hey, the police department at Fort Worth is hiring.” The first thing that went through my head is how much are they getting paid? I asked that question and she told me it was way more than I was making. And then I thought, I’m pretty even keel. I’m not easy to anger. I think that’s a job I can do. So back in 1992, I started the police Academy of Fort Worth and I spent 25 and a half years there. Never really thought about being a chief. I was just really competitive so I didn’t want somebody from my class to promote faster than I did, so I was always the first detective and sergeant, lieutenant and captain. So I just didn’t want them to be first.
So then at some point I thought, well, if I ever thought about being a chief, it makes sense to attend some of the courses that they recommend that you have in order to be a chief. So I went to the FBI National Academy, the Southern Police Institute, and again, at no point did I think about becoming a chief actually, and this is going to be kind of funny, I thought when it’s all said and done, I’m going to go live in LA, be the extra in some movie set or television set and just tell war stories about being a cop and then make a hundred bucks a day and be good with that. But everything changed in 2015. I used to travel a lot and wound up traveling to Turkey where I met my current wife and she happened to be living in California, and that’s what I was serious about. If I want to move to California and be with her, I probably need to be a chief because it’s pretty expensive to live there.
Yes. So I was blessed to be given an opportunity to be the chief of police in Seaside, California in 2018. I was the chief there for three and a half years, didn’t think about going anywhere else, and we had our first child. My wife wanted to be closer to Sacramento where her family is, and then San Leandro opened up as an opportunity. And so again, blessed to be serving here in San Leandro. It’ll be two years next month and just incredibly blessed. But the one thing, you have to be resilient. You have to be resilient, you have to be resilient, you have to be able to take failure and build off that to be successful.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. Oh, this is awesome. Well, I was born in the Bronx, so we have that in common.
Abdul Pridgen: I did not know that, BX.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes, but I heard you were also quite the dancer, I think. I saw somewhere that you’re quite a dancer, so growing up in hip hop.
Abdul Pridgen: So it’s been said, yes. Electric Boogie and that kind of stuff and actually won a contest doing the Electric Boogie with another person. So I could do a little bit of it now, but I’ve got to put on some Bengay in advance.
Melyssa Barrett: Right, we might have to get you out there. Awesome, awesome. All right. So I know you said you left Seaside in 2021 and you’ve been here now a couple of years, but I also know that you also protested with Black Lives Matter, when it was kind of the height of all of that happening. And one of the things that you talked about was the profession of policing needing to change, and I think you mentioned pioneering some sort of contemporary policing model that you wanted others to emulate. So what did you mean by that and what does that actually look like for you?
Abdul Pridgen: So it’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s treating everybody with dignity and respect. And in our profession, culturally, we have become accepting of talking to people a certain way. And I’ve always been a big believer. And at the end of the day, some people, all they have is their dignity and don’t take that away from them. And even if they’re suspected of doing something, treat them with dignity and respect. And so procedural justice is at the core of everything that I think needs to be celebrated and policing, treating people with dignity and respect, giving them a voice, being trustworthy and neutral in your decision making.
And so by incorporating that and more importantly, looking for organic opportunities to engage with members of the community, because if you are serving people that you don’t know, don’t understand, don’t have a relationship with, you can’t be as effective as you can if you actually know them and you understand that they’re no different than you are, they have the same fears, the same hopes and dreams and passions, and they just happen to be living in a certain location that might deprive them of some of the privileges that you might’ve had. I think once you can have that connection with people, and it works both ways, they see that police officers aren’t out there just to harm people and to put people in jail, but they actually care about their communities.
And then police officers see, these people are no different than I am. They have their fears and concerns and passions. And I think it makes for a more meaningful relationship between police, community and ultimately you build trust and cooperation. And in my experience, I’ve had the good fortune of doing a lot of engagement with the community in various, and I would say uncharacteristic ways. Like we had Party with a Cop, it was a ’70s theme party where people wore bell bottom pads and afros and just said, “Hey, let’s just have fun and get to know one another.” And through the course of doing things like that, we increased trust in communities where historically trust had been low.
So it’s doing those things and getting to know one another that I think are incredibly important. Being vulnerable, being able as a police officer to say, yeah, I have two kids, one of them is in fifth grade and they love doing this and that and the other. And you see, you have so much in common with other people, but I think as a profession we’re hesitant to share that because we’re like, hey, somebody’s going to kidnap my kid from the school, and it may happen in a movie, but in real life those things don’t happen. It doesn’t mean that the fear isn’t real, but we’ve got to overcome that and understand that people just want to get to know who you are and understand you’re not a robot who unplugs when you come to work and plugs in to get charged when you go to bed at night.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, that’s great, I love that. Party with a Cop, I love it.
Abdul Pridgen: It was a lot of fun.
Melyssa Barrett: So I know there’s also a lot of organizations out there, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Association and all that, but I know you and my police chief and Tracy, shout out to Chief Millington do a lot with the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement, NOBLE, if I have the acronym correct. And so why do you think it’s important for you to support that organization? Because I know their mission is all about equity and administration of justice in the provision of public service, and so why do you think it’s so important to support NOBLE?
Abdul Pridgen: I think for a couple of reasons. One, an incredibly professional organization that looks to support everyone, but particularly those who are Black and historically have not been allowed. That’s not the case today, but weren’t allowed to join other professional organizations. So they wanted to put something together to cater to the needs of people who had a unique experience in this profession based upon their background. The reason I think it’s so important to continue to pour into NOBLE is because we have unique experiences by being Black in blue, where Black men, Black women, when we’re not in uniform, but we have a unique and I think important role to play in this uniform because we have a unique perspective that we need to share so that others understand how they can better interact with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and who may happen to look like us.
So I see it as an opportunity to pay it forward. There have been a lot of people in my career who have poured into me because they believe they saw something in me that I could be more than what I was today and a better leader than I was yesterday. And I see sharing my experiences, my journey, anything that I can do to help someone else navigate this very challenging profession, particularly if you are a person of color, I’m willing to do. And so I take every opportunity to try to give back and help what I can.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s awesome. Shout out to NOBLE because I know they have been working hard and I just so appreciate all the work that you all do as working in the profession, but also working outside of the profession to bring up other people and pour into them. So thank you and celebrate all of you for doing that. So I’m going to shift gears a little bit and just talk and let’s talk a little bit about San Leandro because I know you’ve been there a couple of years and I’ll say I moved around a lot, but I ended up in California. I was 12 years old, and so I’ve been kind of in the Bay Area for let’s just say many years. And I know San Leandro hasn’t always had the best reputation when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion historically. So would love to hear a little bit about what you’re doing now that may help to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion and how that may be portrayed in many of the initiatives that I know you have going on there.
Abdul Pridgen: I’ll start by saying I’ve always been a believer in just leveling the playing field, making it fair for everyone and not advantage a certain group of people who might have relationships or might have some understanding that others may not have. So in my career, and this is what I brought here to San Leandro, I’ve always said, okay, let’s just make the process fair. Let’s figure out how to reduce the advantages we’re giving other people and look at it objectively. And if we’ve got people that are competing for a position or for entry level and everyone is equally qualified, we need to look at how we can better represent our community. So people in the community need to see people that look like us because that engenders a sense of trust because they believe that there is a common experience that somebody can relate to. So what I’ve done since I’ve been here is try to make the promotional processes fair, meaning that everybody has an equal opportunity.
There were points that historically had been awarded for things that really had nothing to do with leadership or supervision, but maybe because somebody wanted to have an advantage, because they served in those assignments, which doesn’t necessarily mean you did good, it just means you were there. So again, just stripping away the advantages that we were giving other people to make it a fair process. And more recently, I opened up a lieutenant process to external applicants, which is something that had not been done here before, but again, we want the best and the brightest, and some might be here and some might be elsewhere. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to greatness and only the greatness that exists here. And we are also committed to the 30 by 30 initiative, which means that we hope to increase the number of women on our police department to 30% by the year 2030, and we’re, in my estimation, working very diligently to get there.
And we’re seeing some successes even in our outreach when we’re talking about recruiting and who we’re trying to target. We make sure that the language that we use is gender-neutral, gender-neutral language, and advertising attracts women and people of color without necessarily discouraging other people to apply. And we all know certain groups are going to apply no matter what, but it’s so much more difficult to get people of color and women to apply because of the historical disadvantages they face in this profession. So it’s making it known to them that we’re going to make a comfortable and I guess welcoming environment for them to be here and to succeed and to thrive in law enforcement specifically here in San Leandro. We really want to do a better job because San Leandro has a history of reaching out to the community. I think we can do more and the faith-based community, we don’t have a formal relationship with our faith-based community.
That’s something that we will do under my leadership. It’s just making sure we have the bandwidth because there are lots of changes that we’ve got to be sensitive because that’s the most disconcerted thing with change, people are reticent to change because it’s something that they’re unaccustomed to and fearful of. So it’s making sure that the change is strategic and measured, but we’ve got to have a better relationship with our faith-based community. We need to be in communities more regularly. Right now we have events. A lot of them are here at the police department or locations where the same people. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s the same people that show up. We need to go places where we haven’t been, where people may not have the ability to travel to the other side of town and visit with them in a space where they’re comfortable. And again, just opportunities to continue to build our relationships with our community.
In particular communities that have not had the best relationship with us. And some of that may be because we don’t know one another well enough. But my experience when I was in Fort Worth, there was a survey done by the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, and I think it was 12% of the streets were responsible for like 90% of the crime. So that’s where a lot of the city resources were deployed. And so even in those neighborhoods where crime was high, the relationship with the police was not good. They still said, “We want a better relationship with the police. We want to be able to trust them.” So we need to take advantage of those opportunities and demonstrate that we’re worthy of that trust by being consistent, by being fair and by being equitable.
So big picture, that’s what I hope to achieve in order to create better relationships because we know here in San Leandro there are people that are still living that remember when they weren’t allowed to come into San Leandro unless they had business in San Leandro and where they were stopped at the border, “Hey, what you doing here? Where are you going?” Where in San Leandro, you could not buy a home if you were Black, they wouldn’t let you live here. They’d come up with reasons why you couldn’t lease or rent. And so it was only in the late ’70s that that started to change. So there are still people who live here who have those experiences, and we’ve got to overcome those experiences by demonstrating we’re worthy of their trust today by what we do day in and day out.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. That’s great. Now, and you talked about the kind of measured change because I think a lot of people when they think of diversity, equity, and inclusion, it’s like we need to get this changed right now, but it takes time. People need time to make change, so I can appreciate all of those efforts. I love 30 by 30 because I think so challenging for women and people of color to look at the law enforcement profession and feel like they belong in some cases. And so I appreciate all you’re doing there. But I also know, I think it’s in Vallejo, if I remember correctly, that they’re kind of in a state of emergency for losing officers and looking for other cities to help. What do you think cities can do to ensure that they’re protecting and serving when there’s such this challenge with recruitment?
Abdul Pridgen: That’s a great question. I think there are a couple of things, and this is not specific to Vallejo, to Central California, this is across the country. There has been a huge exodus in late 2020 and 2021. A lot of people reach retirement age, and so they decided to retire. They’re like, you know what? I’m raising the white flag. I’m done. And then it’s been difficult post pandemic and not just in policing to hire people. The unemployment rate is so low, historically low that everybody’s facing this challenge. So it’s how do we differentiate ourselves from other departments to again communicate that this is a welcoming environment where we’re going to care about you, your wellbeing, we’re going to make sure that we invest in you so that you can be successful, give you the tools and resources to do your job well and professionally.
But we also have to take advantage of partnering with our community, because not just the police department that’s responsible for community safety, it’s a much broader group of people. It’s social services, it’s the fire department, it’s members of the public. And I’m not saying go out there and patrol your neighborhoods and say, hey, what are you doing? Get out of my- What I am saying is you can be the eyes and ears, you can also serve as a deterrent. So one of the things we’re going to try to do here in the near future is we get a lot of complaints about people speeding. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a police officer out there running radar. It could be a member of your community who’s trained on how to run radar, get the license plate of the vehicle that’s speeding, provide that information to a volunteer who runs the person’s license plate, and then we as a department send them a letter on department letterhead saying, your vehicle was seen speeding through this neighborhood on this date at this time.
Maybe that’ll have an impact on that person who owns the car because it might not have been them driving. They say, hey, look, I didn’t like getting this letter from the police department. Make sure you slow down when you’re in. So that’s just one example of how we can partner to help make this community safer because it’s not just about the police, it’s about everyone playing an active role. It’s about not leaving stuff in plain view in your car. If you don’t want your car getting broken into, don’t have anything that’s visible. Now there’re going to be random instances where it happens anyway, but you’re setting yourself up as a target. If you’ve got a laptop sitting in the front seat, you’ve got a backpack, you’ve got groceries, and you’re like, oh, well I don’t feel like putting it on the trunk right now. I’m only going to be in for five minutes. It only takes 10 seconds for somebody to take stuff from your front seat.
So it’s about us communicating to the public about what the risks are and for them taking an active role in reducing those risks and then also partnering with us to make the community safer. So we certainly are doing everything that we can to make San Leandro more attractive. There’s one thing I’ll have to say because I’ve never seen this. I’ve been doing this for 31 years. Right now, I think San Leandro might be the only police department in the country where dispatchers are reimbursed up to $18. I think it’s 18, it might be 15. 15, $18 for a meal that they eat when they come to work. I don’t know if anywhere else in the country that exists.
And we partner with a company where the meals actually get delivered. So they can go online, place their order, the food gets delivered, put it in the refrigerator, all they’ve got to do is go down and warm it up. And that’s a way of us demonstrating that we care about our employees and we understand the unique challenges that they face. You might not be able to get out and go get a healthy meal. You can actually get one delivered and we’re going to pay for it.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s awesome, but I also heard that you actually have a comfort room there.
Abdul Pridgen: Yes, we have a couple of rooms where if people are tired, they’re fatigued, they can go relax, they can actually sleep. For example, if they’re working a back-to-back shift or whatever the case may be, and they don’t have enough time to travel home, they’ve got a bed that they can sleep at, they’ve got shower facilities. They’ve got everything that they would need in order to be prepared for the next day. Our dispatch center is currently being, I guess rehabbed. So it’s sort of like one of those do it yourself home shows where with some [inaudible 00:26:17] old house and you make it into this beautiful, that’s what we’re doing with our dispatch and they’re actually going to have a quiet room with massage chairs, music that they can listen to, everything that we can do to make it a less stressful experience working here is what we’re committed to doing.
Melyssa Barrett: And that brings up a good question because law enforcement, of course, you’re used to being called when people have mental health issues. And so I would like to ask you a little bit about what changes exist there or what are you all doing when it comes to mental health, but also wanted to kind of ask you what mental health resources are available to officers and law enforcement personnel, because as you said, it’s a stressful environment all the time. So how do you all deal with that?
Abdul Pridgen: It’s a great question. So the first one, we have trained everybody in our department in crisis intervention for people who might be suffering mental health crisis and also ICAT, I-C-A-T, which stands for Integrating Communications Assessment and Tactics and it’s a form of defusement where you show up to a scene and you try to develop a rapport with someone who might be suffering a mental health crisis. You don’t take action you don’t absolutely have to take. And at the end of the day, time and distance are your ally. Don’t rush into anything. Time is on your side. So we have been successful even before the training, but even afterwards of resolving situations that historically might’ve resulted in force being used. In San Leandro, we also have something called a crisis response team. We sent out a request for a proposal so that for everyone to understand that a government agency has to send out an announcement saying, we’re looking for someone that can provide this function in order to give everybody an opportunity to submit bids and say, this is how much it’ll cost you and this is the service I’ll provide.
I think we did that a couple of months ago, and it’s a combination of the Alameda County Fire Department. It’ll be a licensed nurse practitioner, and it’ll also be an emergency services technician, I believe. And it won’t be police because there are other people that are better suited to deal with people suffering a mental health crisis. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be effective in some situations, but we all know that the people that do it every single day and are trained in that area are much more effective. And sometimes a uniform can serve as an escalating factor and instead of a deescalating factor. So we’re hoping to have that up and running over the next six to nine months and then start tracking it. So when someone calls our communications and says, hey, there’s somebody out here who’s a danger to themselves or others and this is what they’re doing, or they’re not a danger to themselves or others, but they’re just behaving in a way that I think is concerning.
This team would go out there to try to provide some outreach and not just on that situational basis, but long-term, partnering with the county, has so-and-so medication, that they made their last appointment, following up these people because this is not a one-time thing. Many of these people we see over and over again and they’re not getting the help that they need. So we are hoping that this crisis intervention team will be able to develop relationships because some of it is about trust. Do I trust that this person really has my best interest at heart?
And it might take years for someone to ultimately trust enough to take a different path and go get the help that they need but there has to be that support system in place that is consistent. And I think that’s what we’re creating and hopefully over time that will get more people out of the condition that they’re in and deal with whatever issues that they’re facing that is putting them in a position to, I would say, suffer that mental health crisis. So those are the few things that we’re working on here and we’re excited about that coming on board because it’s going to be very, very necessary here in San Leandro.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, fantastic. So then in terms of what officers, what resources are available to law enforcement personnel?
Abdul Pridgen: Great question. So we’ve got something that people probably heard of, it’s called Employee Assistance Program. I will tell you, in my experience, that’s something that has not been utilized to the extent that we would like. And part of it is because sometimes officers don’t feel the anonymity is there that they go to someone and that’s going to be kept confidential because they don’t want it being spread throughout the department, so they’re more reluctant to partner with a company that has a relationship with the organization that they work for. So we are bringing an application on board that’s phone-based, it’s called Cortico Wellness App and officers can literally go on there and search for resources that can help them in a time of need, and they can connect through the comfort of their own homes. And no one knows who they are, where they’re from, that kind of thing. They just get the help that they need.
The other thing that we recently introduced is there’s a company down in Newport Beach that specifically deals with trauma faced by law enforcement and public safety personnel. So we said we have a wellness team actually, that we created that was created that thinks about the wellness of our employees and what could be done to increase and enhance wellness. So they’re very trusted members of our organization. So they went down to this location in Newport Beach where they have an incredibly high success rate with bringing people back who are suffering from PTSD. And the statistics are if someone is stressed or they’re out from work for seven months, 90% of them never come back. So the goal is to get them the help that they need sooner. And just so your viewers are aware or your listeners, in California, it is incredibly difficult to get someone to deal with PTSD related to law enforcement.
There are only certain people that are qualified to do that. And so you have people that really are like, I need help, I want to get back to work, and they can’t get the appointments that they need. But this organization down in Newport Beach, it’s an inpatient program where up to 90 days, someone goes to get the treatment that they need. They’ve got an 80% success rate, which is absolutely unheard of. And one of the things that we committed to do as an agency is if we have a member who says I’m really in a position now where I need some help, and I think that that location down in Newport Beach is perfect for me. We’re willing to try to get the family down there with them, because it’s hard to do that on your own when you’ve got a family, when you’ve got loved ones, when you’ve got a support system 200 miles away.
So it’s worth investing a little bit for an Airbnb for their family, their loved ones, to be there with them during that very difficult time. And it’s worth that to get an employee back to work whole and healthy and ready to go. So those are a few of the things that we’re doing. And we’re always looking at creative ways. We are considering partnering with a company that does sort of a wellness assessment that’s going to be covered by the department, looking to bring people in periodically to provide massages for people. So any little thing that we can do to try to increase wellness. We used to have yoga available before the pandemic, but that changed everything. We’re looking to bring that back where we have yoga being available to all of our department employees, and again, that’s a stress reliever, mindfulness, that kind of thing. So we’re trying to come up with any and everything that we can to again, invest in our employees and speak and address all their wellness issues.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. Yeah, because Lord knows we need it. Everybody, law enforcement for sure, but I mean even in the corporate community, you got folks focusing on mindfulness and try and do all of those things. So I just appreciate all the things that you guys are doing. I love that it’s in San Leandro, especially based on some of the historical challenges that San Leandro has had. So it’s great to see you working in that space, and I just really am enjoying all that you’re doing. So I don’t even know what else to ask you, is there anything else you want to talk about in terms of… I know you guys also, even as police chiefs get together, at least I know you did at least once. I think Chief McFadden, shout out to Chief McFadden in Stockton, he was talking about how you guys came together after a pretty intense situation. So a lot of the Black police chiefs got together for a conversation, but feel free.
Abdul Pridgen: Yeah, so we got together after George Floyd. We try to stay in communication, as you alluded to, it’s a very small network of people and just trying to provide that support, understanding what challenges everyone is facing and looking for opportunities again to get together whenever we can to talk about common themes, solutions to challenges, ideas on ways that we can improve our agencies and our own wellbeing and just really enjoy the comradery. I will say, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this, we’re hiring for police officers and for public safety dispatchers, there is no age limit. A lot of people are under the assumption that you have to be 21 and older than 30. There is no age limit. So if you can do the job, that’s the only requirement. And most recently, we became the highest paid police department in Alameda County, the highest paid dispatchers in Alameda County, and something that I’ve never seen in my career.
But again, this is a testament to the leadership by council and also the city manager. Last year when we were experiencing a really critical staffing crisis last year, might’ve been… yeah, last year, employees were eligible, police officers and also dispatchers for a $20,000 bonus, $20,000 as they’ve worked a certain number of hours, that had not been disciplined in the prior couple of years and were a good standing and a $10,000 payment came within a month of it being approved. So this was a way the department saying, we understand and acknowledge the stress, the challenging environment that you’re working under with the overtime, with the short staffing. This is just to say we hear you and we appreciate you. And so there are people that receive $20,000 inside of a year. So again, we’re trying to do everything that we can to demonstrate how much we appreciate our employees with our employee recognition program where they’re formally recognized and not just a pat on the back and a firm handshake, but money that you can spend. So our employees of the year get up to $250,000, excuse me, 250.
Melyssa Barrett: I’m about to say, oh my God- That’ll give some folks attention.
Abdul Pridgen: But $250 and then our employees of the quarter receive $100. So again, it’s just a little bit to say, we acknowledge the wonderful work that you’re doing, we appreciate you and keep it up.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, go out to dinner, do something with the family.
Abdul Pridgen: That’s right.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s awesome.
Abdul Pridgen: Absolutely.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. I love it. Well, anything else you want to say? I know you’re hiring, obviously you got me thinking about law enforcement now, my gosh.
Abdul Pridgen: It’s never too late to make a change. And law enforcement is a career. It’s not something you get into three or four years and say, hey, that was cool. Let me go do something else. Because once you start doing it, you recognize the impact, the positive impact you can have on people’s lives. And I don’t know where else you can do that. There may be other places, but we’re usually the first to identify challenging situations. And it doesn’t have to be, well, let me take this person to wherever… it could be, here’s a resource that I think you could utilize. It’s outside of the sphere of law enforcement, but I think this would be good for you and your family. Here’s the number. And we come across situations like that all the time, when people don’t know where to turn and we’re able to provide a resource to help them get the help that they need.
So it’s really rewarding, unlike really anything that I’ve experienced in my life, and I would just invite people to go to our website wearourblue.org, look at some of the things that are available. We’ve just got a great group of people because what I’m most interested in is are you a good human being? And then can you be a police officer? Not the other way around because good people with a strong moral compass are what we need, particularly in law enforcement today who don’t take things personally because people have good reason to distrust police, very good reason. What has happened historically and what continues to happen today. So people who don’t get offended by it say, you know what, I get it. I understand why, but I’m here to demonstrate and to prove that I’m different, that I’m not like everything that you’ve seen or what you’ve heard. We are a different breed and we invite the conversations, those difficult conversations about what you’ve experienced and what your perceptions of police are but I’m here to change that, by my actions, not just my words.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. Wearourblue.org?
Abdul Pridgen: Yes.
Melyssa Barrett: All right, awesome. Well, you heard it from Chief Pridgen. Again, I thank you for joining me for this fabulous conversation. I do look forward to getting all of you together at one point and maybe doing a panel discussion or something, but you guys have so many-
Abdul Pridgen: That’d be great.
Melyssa Barrett: … things to share, so I just thank you again and look forward to meeting you in person one of these days.
Abdul Pridgen: Likewise. Thank you, Melyssa, [inaudible 00:40:16].
Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on The Jali Podcast, please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.