Former Park Forest Police Officer Installed as 73rd President of Illinois Chiefs’ Assoc.

Chief Mitchell R. Davis III, chief of police of the Hazel Crest Police Department, is the first Black president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. Chief Davis began his career in law enforcement in Park Forest.
Chief Mitchell R. Davis III, chief of police of the Hazel Crest Police Department, is the first Black president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. Chief Davis began his career in law enforcement in Park Forest. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Chief Davis is the Association’s First Black President

Chief Mitchell R. Davis III, chief of police of the Hazel Crest Police Department, was installed Friday, April 30, 2021, as president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. The ceremony occurred at Homewood-Flossmoor High School with family members and other chiefs from the south suburbs as special guests. Attendance was limited due to the pandemic.

Davis is the association’s 73rd president in its 80-year history, and he succeeds Chief James R. Black of Crystal Lake. Davis will serve a term of one year after being elected by association members and serving the previous three years as a vice president.

Conducting the oath of office was Davis’s cousin, Judge Toya Harvey. Also sworn in were the eight other members of the ILACP Board of Officers, the association’s governing board. They oversee a 1,200-member organization that advocates for law enforcement and provides professional development to chiefs and police departments’ command staff.

“This historic presidency as the first person of color is both a blessing and an assignment that I don’t take lightly,” Davis said, referring to the fact that he is the association’s first Black president. “My election speaks volumes about the inclusivity of our organization. For our membership to entrust me as their leader is humbling. In providing leadership for our statewide membership through the perspective of my lens, I pray to continue to promote equitably support and resources to all departments and the communities that we proudly serve.”

Davis began his law enforcement career in 1991 with the Park Forest Police Department, serving with the PFPD from 1991 to 2001. In that time, Davis served as a patrol officer, community policing officer, detective, and corporal, spending time as a homicide investigator on the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, as a special operations team leader, and earning the title of Officer of the Year in 1998.

“Davis’ stellar rise in the department enable him to have the opportunity to leave the Park Forest Police Department to become the Chief of Police of the Dixmoor Police Department,” the PFPD said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of Chief Mitchell Davis’ numerous contributions to law enforcement in the Chicago-area and throughout Illinois, and are proud to say that he wore the Park Forest Police Department patch for the first decade of his law enforcement career.”

Following his tenure with the Village of Dixmoor, Davis would go on to serve as the Chief of Police of the Robbins Police Department, as an adjunct professor at Westwood College, and as an instructor for Nike Corporation, teaching life skills to future basketball players, before being appointed to his current position as Chief of Police of the Hazel Crest Police Department.

Davis is a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, holds a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice, is a board member of the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police, and is past president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives-Chicago Metro Chapter.

After his tenure with Robbins, Davis went on to Hazel Crest. He was recognized as the 2018 Police Chief of the Year by the Illinois State Crime Commission, and in 2019 he received his high school’s Jefferson Award for Lifetime Achievement in Public Service. He served as s subject-matter expert for the evaluation of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department after the death of Breonna Taylor.

Davis was appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker to serve on the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) and was elected by other board members to serve as its current chair. He is on the Executive Board for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and is a member of its Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Committee. He is the Immediate Past President of the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police (SSACOP) and chairman of the Training Committee.

Chief Davis was the National Recording Secretary for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) from 2017 to 2020 and is still a member of the National Education and Training Committee.  He is also a Past Chapter President and current Executive Board member of the Chicagoland Metropolitan Chapter of NOBLE.

He is an Executive Board Member of Illinois Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which advocates for early childhood education, and he was recently appointed to its National Leadership Council. He serves as the chairman for the Southland Juvenile Justice Council, which seeks to divert juveniles in south suburban Cook County from the criminal justice system. He is a member of the NBC 5 Community Action Board.

Chief Davis is currently completing his doctoral dissertation on “The Effect of Police Culture on Their Relationship with the Black Community” for his PhD in Organizational Leadership at Concordia University of Chicago. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Governors State University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command, class #182.

Chief Davis is married and has four adult children and four grandchildren. He says he is led by his faith in God in all aspects of his life. In his free time, he is an avid boater, and he loves to travel. He is also a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

His remarks following his swearing-in follow:

Greetings! I want to thank Superintendent Dr. Mansfield, Principal Dr. Anderson, Assistant Principal Gail Smith, and all my friends here at HF for hosting us. I want to give the greatest thanks to God for choosing me for this blessing and assignment on my life. There are many angels that have been placed in my life for this journey; here are a few. I want to thank Chief Pat O’Conner for recommending that I embark on this quest for president and for guiding me along the way. I sincerely thank you Chief, and hopefully after this year people won’t be blaming you.

I also want to thank people like Jim Kruger, Frank Kaminski, Dave Wiegand, and Steve Casstevens that have opened doors for me. Thanks to Mentors like Greg Baker and Eugene Williams that continue to guide and inspire me to grow.

My prayers go out to President Jim Black and his family on the loss of his mother. He was there for me when I lost my dad. I want to thank President Black for his leadership and friendship over this past year. God knew what He was doing when He placed him at the helm as absolutely the right person to see us through challenging times.

Thanks to my Chicago Metropolitan Chapter and National NOBLE family, also President Mike Jones and my South Suburban Chiefs family. A special thanks goes to Mayor Vernard Alsberry, Hazel Crest Elected Officials, and Village Manager Dante Sawyer for allowing me to do all the things that I do and carry the Hazel Crest name across the state and country. Of course I want to thank my amazing staff at the Hazel Crest Police Department I would not be able to participate all these things without them either. They deserve all the credit for our successes in the Village of Hazel Crest.

I also thank all the friends and citizens that love and support me in my many endeavors. I finally want to thank my biggest cheering section; my family. My aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and all the rest. I lost my father a little over a year ago, but I know that he is smiling down on me today. Thanks to my mother who has always encouraged us to strive for greatness and I am so happy that she is here to witness this day.

Thanks to my 4 kids and 4 grandkids who bring joy to my life and I love them for that. The final person that I want to thank is the person that is the recipient of all of the good, bad, and ugly that I have to offer in life; my wife Carla. She is the one that gets left in the shadows and quite often neglected while I am wearing all the hats that I wear. She is the one that sees me come home exhausted at the end of the day when I’m too tired or thoughtless to engage her in conversation. She is the one who sacrifices and her schedule revolves around mine. She is also the one that continues to keep me grounded as my solid foundation in spite of all that gets dumped on her as my spouse. I thank God for you and I know that I would not be the man that I am without you. Thanks for loving me in spite of me.

I started by sharing with you that I look at this as both a blessing and an assignment. For those of you that don’t know, being the police was never part of my thought process. I went to an engineering university and was a computer programmer prior to starting my law enforcement career.

I began working for the Park Forest Police Department in 1991 after losing my job as a computer programmer and found them while handing out resumes at a MINORITY job fair at DePaul University. (That is a free recruitment suggestion for you.)

Now, 30 years later I am being sworn in as the 1st Black President for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police in its 80-year history, while also serving as the Chairman of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board as well as a member of the Board of Directors for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and having recently completed a term as President of the South Suburban Association of Chief of Police and 3-terms as a National Executive Board Member for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, all while sitting as Chief of Police for my 3rd police department.

For all this to come to fruition during a pandemic and during this time of racial reckoning in our country through demands for criminal justice reform is no coincidence. These are all tremendous blessings, but I consider them confirmation of my assignment in this place from God. This is His plan.

I’m sure that some people keep wondering why I keep emphasizing that I am the 1st Black President of this organization in its 80-year history. It is not about me. It’s about two things.

The first thing is the association. This association of almost 1,300 law enforcement executives saw fit to elect me a its leader as a professional. That’s inclusivity. It is my hope that other people of color will be encouraged that they can be leaders on a stage larger than just their immediate jurisdictions.

The other thing is diversity. Diversity offers differing viewpoints and opinions that are based on differing life experiences. Those life differences result in a different lens by which we see the world and our profession. It is my prayer that my lens can offer a view that will make people consider realities other than the one that they are familiar or comfortable with.

Many of you have heard me say that I am a “glass half-full” guy. I don’t know anyone that would argue the fact that law enforcement has been faced with many challenges on many different fronts lately. Challenges are a part of life and while I can’t always control the challenges that I am presented with, I can control how I respond to them. Instead of dwelling on the challenge at hand, I choose to look for the opportunities that present themselves as a result of the challenge. I guess this goes back to my faith.

I often have people tell me that they are sorry for what our profession is going through right now. While I know that their hearts are in the right place, I don’t see it that way. I choose to see the challenges that we are faced with as opportunity for our profession to grow to heights that we have never seen before. Change can be uncomfortable, but it does not have to be bad.

Inclusivity and diversity in our profession and in our hiring are two elements that I will focus on over the next year as we also continue efforts such legislative advocacy and the promotion of our 10 Shared Principles, but I will also be focusing on legislative implementation, community and youth relations, and gun violence and safety. Though I am sharing these with you, I am not going to talk about specific initiatives today. I want to take just a few minutes to remind myself and may a few others why we do this job.

Every day that we put on our badges we literally hold the legal power of life and death, and the authority to take away a person’s freedom in our hands. No one else in our society has this power! We must constantly remind ourselves that possessing such power and authority comes with great responsibility. In the Bible, Luke 12:48 states, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Or in more basic terms, “to whom much is given, much is required.”

There are 4 things that I believe that we as a profession have to remember to help us properly wield this authority and power entrusted with us: humility, service, respect, and empathy.

Humility. Remember what we learned about driving when we took driver’s education? “Driving is not a right, it’s a privilege.” The same applies to the profession of law enforcement. We must always remember that it is a blessing to be able to do what we do. But we must also remember is that just because we have been entrusted to do what we do, it makes us no better than ANYONE that we deal with during the course of our duties. No matter what they have done. No matter where they live or their socioeconomic status. No matter what their race, color, or creed. No matter what their religion. No matter what their sexual orientation or preference. This not only pertains to our interactions with citizens, but also with our interactions with other officers.

When I see or encounter someone that is challenged in life, there is a phrase that I say to myself to keep myself humble. “There but for the Grace of God go I!” This simply means that if just a few things in my life had gone differently, that could be me. Always remember to remain humble, because things can always change.

Service. We are the ultimate customer service agents for an industry whose customer service line never closes. 911 is our customer service number and our citizens are our clients. Some corporate customer service trainers teach their students that “the customer is always right”. Well in theory, we know that this statement in its literal form is absolutely not true, but lets look at it from a different perspective. The objective of a good customer service agent is to resolve any problem that their client may have by reaching the best possible outcome.

We want to have positive future interactions with our citizen clients, so we want to leave them with the best experience possible during every interaction. With that in mind, what if we changed the statement to “the customer should always walk away believing that they were right”. Their belief is their reality, despite what we may know to be true. Back in 1991, I had a field training officer share with me a phrase, which became more of a mindset for me that I still use to this day. “Your objective at the end of every interaction that you have with a citizen is to get a Thank You!” I thought he was crazy when he first told me this, and my response to him was, “We arrest people. Should I be trying to get them to thank me?!” He responded “YES!” As I have kept this in mind as I dealt with people throughout my career, it changed my interactions. I was making a conscious effort to treat them in the best way possible under WHATEVER circumstances that brought us together. Always remember the importance of service.

Respect. Respect, or lack thereof, can cost you your life in some cases. When I speak with groups of young people, I often ask them about respect and many times they tell me that “respect has to be earned.” I then share with them an alternative theory by which I choose to operate. I choose to give you my full respect until you show me that you are not worthy of it.

As Chief of Police of the Hazel Crest Police Department I DEMAND that my officers and staff treat EVERY person that we encounter with respect. Treating someone with respect is not the same as respecting what they have done.

Do I respect what a murderer or child molester has done, absolutely not! Will everyone I encounter treat me with respect, absolutely not! But I can still treat them with respect while dealing with them. Their lack of respect doesn’t give me permission not to act as a professional. Treating people with respect means not allowing any biases that we may have to weigh in our decision-making process or treatment of an individual.

Remember that in many cases we have the power of discretion, which may sometimes allow us to operate in the spirit of the law, instead of the letter of the law. We have to remember that just because we have the power and authority that others don’t, we don’t have to always use it. Just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we always SHOULD do it. Remember that respect is a two-way street, we have to give it in order to get it. Once again, this doesn’t only pertain to citizens, but to our fellow officers and others within the criminal justice system. Loss of respect of a police officer is often accompanied by loss of credibility and integrity, both of which are essential to our effective existence as police officers. We must remember to show respect to everyone.

Empathy. Empathy is something that our profession needs to spend more time instilling in our members. Operating in an empathetic manner automatically brings with it the other three things that I mentioned; humility, service, and respect. Empathy in its most fundamental form is simply the ability to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to gain an understanding about how they feel. The first thing that’s necessary to effectively empathize is to actually care about the other person.

Proverb 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.” Well, you may not be a person of faith, so let’s look at what author Steven Covey of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says. Habit number 5 says “Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood.” Well in case you haven’t read Covey’s book, there is a simple saying from an unknown author that states, “Before I can walk in another’s shoes, I must first remove my own.”

All 3 of these sources give us the fundamental requirements for empathy. Why is empathy important? At any given time during our workday, we may be faced with assisting someone during the worst moment of their life. Because these situations can happen frequently for us, we have to guard against becoming or appearing callas or uncaring in all interactions. Getting to know something about the circumstances of those that we interact with can give us insight. We still may not agree with or accept what they have done or said, but we may be able to understand why it happened.

Showing empathy puts us in position to exercise the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In ALL situations, we should ask ourselves before we speak or act “if this was me or one of my family members, how would I want them to be treated?” Remember to express empathy.

In closing, I want to share an encounter that I had that I believe encompasses humility, service, respect, and empathy.

We must remember that negative deeds by police officers will always be publicized. That’s just the way it is. We also know that there are police officers that do things that they shouldn’t. But we also know that most police officers do GREAT deeds EVERY day without any recognition. They do these things because they care. Good officers are the not the exception, we are the rule.

It is our responsibility as chiefs to equip our people with leadership, policy, procedure, and legislation that positions them to equitably exert humility, service, respect, and empathy with all people. In doing so, we can hold the bad exceptions accountable and saturate our profession with the good rules.

Thank you and I look forward to serving you as president over this next year!

Other ILACP officers sworn in April 30 were:

  • Chief Lou Jogmen, Highland Park, 1st Vice President
  • Chief Laura King, McHenry County Conservation District, 2nd Vice President
  • Chief Marc Maton, Lemont, 3rd Vice President
  • Chief James R. Black, Crystal Lake, Immediate Past President
  • Chief Dan Ryan, Leland Grove, Vice President at-Large, Region 1
  • Chief Dean Stiegemeier, Maple Park, Vice President at-Large, Region 2
  • Chief Shanon Gillette, Downers Grove, Vice President at-Large, Region 3
  • Chief Frank Kaminski, Park Ridge, Parliamentarian

Thank you to Mary Compton, who contributed to this story.