Standing room only left a line of officers and staff lining the back wall of the Rose Center ballroom during a swearing-in ceremony for Westminster Police Chief Mark Lauderback.
Family, friends, and police and city staff members filled the clear plastic chairs to watch as Lauderback, formerly the interim police chief, became the official police chief.
Lauderback was sworn in on Jan. 8 after becoming acting chief nearly a year ago, interim chief in June, then officially being named to the position in October. Now, he’s the city’s top cop.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be a police chief,” Lauderback told the audience. “A truck driver, a football player, a fireman, yeah, but a cop, no.”
Professional Standards Unit Commander Cameron Knauerhaze described his friend, the new chief, in the terms of “authentic leadership,” saying leaders with that distinction “are mission driven and lead with their heart. But it does not mean they are soft.”
Knauerhaze extolled a few of the highlights of Lauderback’s 25-year career with the Westminster Police Department, including the fact he still holds the department record for making 200 DUI arrests.
And how he organized a fundraiser that raised more than $40,000 to pay for the funeral expenses of 12-year-old Vivian Nguyen, killed in a car crash in 2014 by a motorist evading police.
“He was already thinking like a chief,” Knauerhaze said.
But it was also proof of a long-running theme to Lauderback’s career: People matter.
“I will be there for you. I will support you and be your biggest advocate,” he said. “I want you to focus on taking care of one another,” emphasizing his desire to make his department a happy and healthy workplace, starting with himself. “I will always care for each and every one of you. Together we serve our community in the most noble profession and I pray for your safety every single day.”
It’s a theme he believes comes from his grandparents, who raised him.
“I wouldn’t say they were strict, but they were firm in treating people right, thinking about others and they always instilled that there’s something bigger than just me out there,” he said.
One of the new chief’s first priorities was getting the department fully staffed. He has supported any ideas by staff to recruit new officers, and by the end of January the department will be fully staffed for the first time in years. That has a ripple effect, Lauderback said.
“I want to come to work and have fun. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to deliver a great product,” he said. “Our product is community service. It’s providing safety. It’s being there when we’re needed, regardless of what type of call, or how big or how small it is. You can’t deliver that service if you don’t have enough people. If you barely have enough to get by, you’re going to burn people out. You’re going to make people disgruntled because they don’t have any opportunity to do anything else.
“Now we have the opportunity to do more things,” he said. “We can go out and engage the community in a more positive aspect, instead of just going call to call. We can actually stop and hang out at the schools and play basketball with the kids.”
And now that Lauderback is officially the police chief, he can relax a bit. And look ahead.
“What I’m going to do now is enjoy myself. I’m going to enjoy the journey. Enjoy the fact that I now get to be the decision maker,” he said. “I’ve always looked out for what’s best for the organization. I want my legacy to be I brought this organization back from a dark place to a place people want to come to. I want people leaving other organizations to come here. It’s tough to do, but it starts with people.”