At NIOT.org/COPS, we profile leaders in the law enforcement community who are working to make a difference in their towns and schools. This month we profile Sgt. Hassan Aden, the Director of the Research and Programs Division of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
By Brian Krans
Hassan Aden says an effective police chief must focus not just on what’s going on in his department, but be transparent with those outside of it.
“In order to change the culture, they have to latch onto you, believe in you,” Aden said. “The reality is that a new chief has to remain apolitical, but be politically adept.”
Aden is the Director of the Research and Programs Division of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a post he took at the beginning of the year. Prior to that, he was Chief of Police in Greenville, N.C., a post he held for two reformative years.
Greenville’s economy, Aden says, had a stark line drawn between the haves and the have-nots, and severe crime and violence affecting its 100,000 people. And to compound that, the ripple effects of Hurricane Floyd’s $1.6 billion in damages from three years earlier continued through the community.
When Aden took the chief spot in 2012, the department had “significant issues of corruption,” a lack of internal accountability, and damaged relationships wit the media and community as a whole.
He faced an uphill battle in changing the department, opening lines of communication, and focusing on inclusion when determining how the police could serve it community. His first day was split between meeting with his department, meeting with the media, and “trying to find which way was up.”
Carving Out the Bad Apples
First, Aden conducted an internal assessment to see the problems for himself.
He found there were bad cops and the good ones couldn’t speak up. So Aden changed the way the Greenville Police Department policed itself by replacing its internal affairs officers.
“I was the one who meted out the discipline,” he said. “I did it personally. It put people on notice.”
All told, his department terminated 17 employees and arrested five officer for behavior ranging from misusing data bases for stalking purposes and stealing drugs and money from dealers and evidence lockers. Those officers were decertified and prosecutors forbid them from testifying in court, measures that prevent them from working elsewhere.
“There are some great officers working in Greenville. There were the bad apples as well, so we carved them out,” Aden said. “The hard-working cops loved it. That caught the community’s attention that we weren’t above the law.”
During this shakeup, Aden hired a new media chief, a television reporter who kept police responsible. The department opened a new era of transparency by releasing news through social media.