St. Charles County Police Department: Chief for the Day

The COPS Office is pleased to feature the June 2016 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest—the St. Charles County (Missouri) Police Department. Their winning photo features St. Charles County Police Chief Colonel David Todd with “Chief for the Day” Sydney Coari in October 2015.

When a St. Charles County Police Department (SCCPD) officer conducted a routine traffic stop, he met a young girl who would have a lasting impact on his life and the lives of many others at the department. Sydney Coari was riding in the car with her parents and the officer noticed how fatigued she looked. Thanks to a program called Project Backpack, the officer had a special backpack full of essential basic needs items, arts and crafts, and toys in his trunk to help cheer Sydney up.

Project Backpack is just one of many community initiatives supported by the SCCPD under Chief David Todd, who took the helm in January 2015 when the sheriff’s department transitioned to a police department. “As a 38-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, I wanted to be more proactive in the community,” he said. “I wanted to get more involved in social media and I wanted to hire a civilian to help us think outside of the box.”

Chief Todd did just that when he hired his public information officer, Val Joyner, who spearheaded the SCCPD’s involvement with Project Backpack and came up with the idea of “Chief for the Day.” Having kept in touch with her family after that traffic stop, the department was aware that Sydney was preparing for a special medical procedure that would keep her quarantined for four months. Touched by the graciousness of Sydney’s family, Todd, Joyner, and the officer who initially met Sydney wanted to do something special for her. With the assistance of local organizations, Joyner orchestrated the first-ever “Chief for the Day.” Sydney spent the entire day with the SCCPD, her favorite princess (Cinderella), and the SCCPD’s robotic K-9.

It was a meaningful day not only for Sydney and her family but also for SCCPD officers and staff. “We get bombarded with so much negativity and it makes us feel good to do this,” said Chief Todd. “We become so jaded from our work and it helps to let our guard down.”

Joyner’s innovative and creative ideas have helped the SCCPD greatly improve community relations in an area just west of St. Louis and St. Louis County. “When we were a sheriff’s department, we did the standard things. We weren’t involved in the community. We were responding, but not connecting,” said Chief Todd. “I’d been a part of the community for the past 35 years and I didn’t want to see the same things we had seen in the past.”

Joyner, who has 15 years of professional public relations experience, uses social media and community partnerships to make an impact. The SCCPD’s partnership with the health department and CVS pharmacy has helped tackle the heroin and opioid epidemic facing St. Charles County residents. The department has a medication disposal unit, sponsored by CVS, in its station lobby that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Residents are encouraged to drop off their unused prescription medications there. “We empty it two to three times a week,” said Chief Todd.

The SCCPD’s commitment to community is evident in the officers’ care and concern for the community’s most vulnerable residents. When an officer was called to the home of two young children whose mother had overdosed on heroin, he quickly observed the conditions of the home. With Joyner’s assistance, he reached out to the community for help. The initial request was for new bicycles for the children, who had relied on their old, worn bicycles for transportation. The community, however, had other ideas. Within two days, the department had received so many toys and essentials that they ended the collection drive. The children eventually went into kinship placement, and their caregiver was so grateful for all that they had received. “The officer became their guardian angel,” said Joyner.

Chief Todd’s strong emphasis on proactive community engagement and transparency is a strength of the department. The SCCPD often opens its doors to residents for open house and office tours, hosts Coffee with a Cop, sponsors “Shopping with an Officer” during the holidays, and advocates for its neediest residents through social media. “We are the public and the public is us. There are no surprises to our community about what we’re doing,” he said with passion and enthusiasm.

Joyner summed it up best when she added, “The St. Charles County Police Department is the community’s police department.”

The COPS Office congratulates the St. Charles County Police Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2016 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.

Written with contributions from St. Charles County Police Chief David Todd and Public Information Officer Val Joyner. Photo courtesy of the St. Charles County Police Department.

Najla Haywood
Special Contributor
The COPS Office

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