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Citrus Heights police chief concludes term as head of influential advocacy group

Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence recently concluded his term as president of the California Police Chiefs Association. // Image courtesy, Ron Lawrence

By Mike Hazlip–
Citrus Heights Police Chief Ronald Lawrence last month concluded a year-long term as president of one of California’s top law enforcement advocacy organizations, calling it the highlight of his career.

The California Police Chiefs Association, known as Cal Chiefs, serves as the influential, non-partisan voice of more than 300 police chiefs throughout California and focuses its efforts on public safety issues. 

Lawrence said the single biggest issue he faced as president of Cal Chiefs was AB 392, a use-of-force bill that arose after the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark in 2018. Lawrence said his association worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Peace Officers Research Association of California to amend the bill in ways that he felt better protected officers as well as the communities they serve. The amendment resulted in Cal Chiefs changing its position on the bill from “oppose” to “neutral.” 

Another important issue for Cal Chiefs was an effort to amend Proposition 47, which increased the felony threshold for theft to $950. Lawrence said the bill created a “revolving door” for criminals that he believes led to an increase in theft throughout the state. Cal Chiefs is currently backing a ballot effort that would allow theft suspects to be charged with a felony on their third offence, with a lower threshold of $250.

Another controversy that emerged during Chief Lawrence’s tenure were comments made by a UC Davis English professor. The professor made public statements that called for the death of police officers. Cal Chiefs supported terminating the professor, and Chief Lawrence delivered 10,000 signatures calling for the professor’s termination. 

Although Lawrence is unaware of any disciplinary action being taken by the university against the professor, he believes his efforts had some effect. “He’s stopped his continued rhetoric,” Lawrence said of the professor.

From 2019: Citrus Heights Police Chief joins effort calling for termination of UC Davis professor

“My time as president of Cal Chiefs was absolutely the highlight of my career,” Lawrence said in a Zoom interview Thursday. “There’s no way I could have pulled that off without the support of the City Council and city manager.” 

He also thanked his former assistant chief of police, Gina Anderson, who he said “ran the police department” during his tenure as president, allowing him to dedicate more time to Cal Chiefs.  Anderson has since moved on to a new role as police chief for the city of Newark.

Related: Citrus Heights asst. chief chosen to head Newark PD

Overall, Lawrence estimates there were some 3,000 bills before the legislature during his time as president, about 500 of which were public safety related. As the key spokesman for Cal Chiefs, Lawrence said he participated in nearly 100 interviews with local and national media while serving as president.

Lawrence was selected as the 54th president to lead Cal Chiefs, and is the second police chief from Citrus Heights to have taken the position. Former Citrus Heights Police Chief Chris Boyd also served a term as president of the association in 2015.

Becoming the association’s president is a four-year process. Each president first serves one-year terms as 3rd vice president, then 2nd vice president, and finally 1st vice president before becoming president. Lawrence concluded his term as president in April, but a customary banquet honoring the outgoing president was postponed and later cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

October of last year marked 30 years in law enforcement for Chief Lawrence. He says technology has changed the way police work is done, but the most important aspect of law enforcement remains the trust of the community. 

“A police department has to have the trust of the local community (and) partner with the community to keep crime rates low,” Lawrence said. He believes the first role of law enforcement is to keep peace in the community and quoted Sir Robert Peel who said, “The police are the public and the public are the police.”

Related: ‘Big 8’ major crimes drop to record low in Citrus Heights

Focusing back on his role as Chief of Police in Citrus Heights, Lawrence said he values the relationship his department has with the community and credits that partnership with helping reduce crime to historic low levels.

“I love being the police chief of Citrus Heights.” Lawrence said. “This is a fantastic community.”  

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