One on One with …Chief Mark Marshall

 Chief Mark A. Marshall is the Chief of Police in Smithfield, Virginia and the new president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.  In anticipation of his formal swearing in at the 2010 IACP Annual Conference, Dispatch Associate Editor Calvin Hodnett caught up with Chief Marshall about the future of IACP and the advancement of community policing.

portrait of Chief Mark MarshallCP Dispatch: What role do you believe membership organizations like IACP have to play in advancing community policing?

Chief Marshall: We definitely play a critical role in helping link leaders to one another and facilitate communication through our conference, our magazine, and our website—our members are constantly discussing innovative and successful approaches with their peers. IACP also publishes extensive research material and model policies that tackle news and emerging issues and promote ‘evidenced based’ policing and leadership. Community policing is about outreach to those we have the privilege of serving. As we move forward, we will be expanding the use of new social mediums such as Facebook and Twitter to ensure that we are connected.

CP Dispatch: You’ve been the chief in Smithfield, VA, for a number of years now. Most of our readers probably know nothing of Smithfield except for its hams. What can you tell us about the community? Do you think that your experience there will influence your term as IACP president, and if so, in what ways?

Chief Marshall: One of Smithfield’s proudest accomplishments is being one of 20 communities designated as a Preserve America Community (2004). The Preserve America initiative is a White House effort to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of America’s priceless cultural and natural heritage. Smithfield pride’s itself in having a small-town atmosphere, a good school system, affordable housing, and a historic downtown. It exemplifies “Main Street” America.

Smithfield is in area of the country known as Hampton Roads, which is a metropolitan area of approximately 2 million people, including the world’s largest naval base. There are over 12 municipalities that comprise this area. Smithfield is obviously one of the smallest. In terms of policing, we have the “big-city” problems without the “big-city” resources…and an expectation by our residents to deliver the highest quality law enforcement services. It requires that we have strong partnerships both internally and externally. In Smithfield, engaging the community at many different levels is the only way we maintain the quality of life residents know and expect. Our mission statement and letterhead clearly state “a community partnership.” It’s more than a slogan for us…it is our call to action. Our outreach programs are many and varied, with much citizen involvement.

Externally, we have developed long-standing relationships with all law enforcement agencies in the region. All of us realize the benefit of collaboration and the pooling of resources. Large or small, all of us in the region recognize that together we are a force multiplier. As one example, I have had the honor of chairing a large statewide information sharing project called LINx since 2004. It brings together computerized records from over 140 agencies and makes that information available to the officers on the street with just a few keystrokes. Cases are solved every day because of this system. Each of the member agencies have put aside the petty politics of jurisdiction for the larger picture of enhanced operational effectiveness at all levels. I am extremely proud of all the chiefs, sheriff’s, and SAC’s who demonstrate in real time the power of partnership with this collaborative project.

Lastly, Smithfield shares a trait of most of our communities in the United States: being small to mid-sized in nature. Smithfield has a population of approximately 7,500 and our police department has 22 sworn officers. Most of the 18,000 police departments in the United States are similar in size. Regardless of size however, the value of partnership and relationship building is the true key to our success and as president of the IACP I intend to continue to promote this trait that has worked so well in our community.

CP Dispatch: The 117th IACP annual conference and expo is coming up later this month. What is crucial to the success of this event and what keeps law enforcement executives coming back year after year?

Chief Marshall:  The IACP annual conference is the world’s largest law enforcement expo and consistently provides the answers, skills, and technology our leaders need for their agencies. This year we will be showcasing over 750 exhibitors and we are planning over 175 workshops, 13 different training tracks, and many informative plenary sessions. The continuing evolution of contemporary policing requires that we highlight best practices and…expose those strategies/practices that no longer work in these challenging times. The networking opportunities are endless and help to build some of those sustainable relationships I talked about earlier.


CP Dispatch: What issues and ideas do you particularly hope to address as president of the IACP?

Chief Marshall:  In these fiscally challenging times, most of us are being tasked “to do more with less.” At the same time, our missions continue to grow…..homeland security, terrorism, and immigration are but a few of those places where most of us have experienced “mission creep.” The use of technology is one of the tools that can help mitigate some of these challenges. Information sharing, the use of relevant operational products from intelligence/fusion centers, and the continued development of products like LPR will help. But technology will never replace the services that the officers/deputies on the street are required and expected to deliver. It requires professionals who are dedicated to the highest standards to truly deliver the services required in this new day.

I intend to bring the full might and muscle of our Association to focus on a number of legislative initiatives. Some of those include that we achieve true interoperability with existing and emerging digital networks. We will work this year to make sure Congress passes legislation to allocate the 700 MHz D-Block spectrum allocated to the nationwide Public Safety Broadband License. This is our one shot of being able to have adequate bandwidth specifically dedicated to public safety.

We need to continue to restore/replace funding to local law enforcement agencies. We are the backbone of this country’s ability to keep our residents safe. There is no homeland security unless our hometowns are safe. Tried and true strategies such as community policing keep us engaged with our jurisdictions and are an essential ingredient of true information sharing.

Additionally, I will be heavily focused on passing legislation to create a national criminal justice commission. The commission would be charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system and to provide the nation with a strategic plan that will guide an integrated public safety and homeland security effort in the years ahead.


CP Dispatch: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the advancement of policing today, and how do you think we can all work to mitigate that challenge?

Chief Marshall:  From a recent member survey conducted by the IACP, I can answer this with confidence and say there is no “top 5 issues” type of thing. There are hundreds of critical issues our leaders face every day—and each is important. And the ‘importance’ of a particular issue varies by type, size, and location of an agency.

However, there is a universe of issues we must continually focus on, and from the survey, our members have consistently said that these issues are the most important:

  • Leadership—how can they be better, stronger, motivational leaders?
  • Management and Administration—how can they balance so many competing priorities?
  • Training and Education—how can they keep this essential component strong in a downturn economy and shrinking training dollars?
  • Systemic Issues—how do actions in the justice, health, and educational systems in our country affect and influence law enforcement effectiveness?
  • Technology—with so much technology available, how do we prioritize what our officers and communities really need, and how much do our budgets allow us to purchase?
  • Response to Crime and Victimization—it’s our core mission. How well are we doing it, and how satisfied are our citizens—particularly those who have been victimized?
  • Emergency Preparedness—anything from natural disasters to terrorist attacks—are we ready to respond?
  • Emerging Issues—this last one is the toughest. IACP must stay out on the forefront of issues so we can alert our members to things that may not yet be on their radar screens but will be soon!

Chief Marshall has a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from Old Dominion University and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from Saint Leo University. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy (196th Session) and the Police Executive Leadership program through the University of Richmond and the Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation. Chief Marshall is the past president of the Hampton Roads Chiefs’ Association and is currently on the executive board of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. He is the IACP’s representative on the FBI Advisory Policy Board CJIS division. He has served on numerous committees and sections for IACP, including past chairman of the CJIS committee. He is involved with several initiatives involving information sharing, including the N-DEx project and the LINx program.


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