On June 8, Sergeant Rob Pride (CA Class of 1991), participated in a roundtable discussion regarding police reform with the President and other members of the administration. As the elected chairman of trustees for the National Fraternal Order of Police, he represents law enforcement officers at the highest level. The reforms discussed at the June 8 meeting were included in an Executive Order signed by the President on June 16.
Pride was awarded the Campion Academy Alumni Association Alumnus of the Year Award during Alumni Weekend 2019 for his outstanding support of the Loveland community. Pride has donated many hours to community service, including to his alma mater. After graduating from Campion, he returned in 1993 as a task force dean and student teacher as part of his studies at Union College. During that time, Pride had the opportunity to attend the Weld County police academy as a volunteer reserve deputy. This led to a change in his career path and he was hired by the Louisville, CO police department in September of 1994. Pride holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Emergency Management from Columbia Southern University. Hired by the Loveland Police Department in 1998, he has served Loveland for the past 21 years and currently holds the rank of Sergeant.
During his time at the Loveland Police Department his has served in the gang unit, as a detective in the drug task force, a detective in the criminal investigations unit, team leader for the SWAT Hostage Negotiations team and the coordinator for the Field Training Unit which trains new officers on the department and prepares them for a career in police work. Pride has been actively involved in advocating for those in the police profession and leading efforts for awareness in the areas of PTSD and police suicide prevention. He has held various local and state leadership positions.
Pride has volunteered at Campion over the years as an assistant girls’ basketball coach, basketball game announcer, and given talks during chapel and other events to students on various topics. While receiving the Alumnus of the Year Award, Pride said he attributes much of his career and life success to the relationships, spiritual lessons, and mentorship he developed from the faculty and staff at Campion Academy.
As a Campion alumnus, he sat down to talk with me about the issues of racism and policing that have been vibrating across the world in recent times.
As a black man and a police officer, Sgt. Pride had some important messages for our community. He emphasized:
Watch the video of the interview and read the full transcript of Sgt. Pride’s remarks.
Jill Harlow, Communication Director
Jill Harlow (JH): I know last week, we were so proud that you were able to meet at the White House with President Trump, Vice-President Pence and of course other law enforcement officers and chiefs to discuss responsible police reform in the wake of recent events. Here at Campion, of course, you are very highly respected in our community and well known, but we are seeing that now at a much higher level. How did it come about that you were chosen to speak at this roundtable?
Sergeant Rob Pride (RP): I serve in the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) as our National Trustee for Colorado. What that means is that my job is to take the voice of the Colorado members to the national level and vote on their behalf and provide input on their behalf. At the national level, each state has a trustee. Like I do in Colorado, each state has a trustee that represents them at the board meetings. Among those trustees they choose a chairman to serve on the national executive board. There are only seven people on the national executive board for the FOP and that is of a membership of over 350,000. Almost three years ago, I was blessed with being elected to represent the trustees as the chairman of the board.
So that is how these visits to the White House have come about for me; it’s in my duties to represent the members of the National FOP. Since I’ve been elected to that position, we’ve actually been to the White House before. I think this was our fourth time discussing issues of policing and matters of importance to us with the president and his staff. This just happened to be the only one that was in the media. The media hasn’t been present for the other meetings that we’ve had. So, that’s how it came about.
It’s funny, all those times I spent on that campus behind you, running around with my buddies and all the things we did, never in a million years would I have believed it if someone would have told me I would be sitting next to the president at the White House discussing important issues like police reform. I would have thought they were crazy, and I’m sure many of the staff at Campion would have thought they were crazy too.
JH: Well, we’re glad you’re there. You are an important voice in the conversation. So, it seems that as an African American and a police officer, it puts you squarely in the middle of the conversation on racism and policing. What would you say, in summary, are the important points that both sides need to understand?
RP: I think the big thing that I’ve seen come out is that both sides need to listen. We as the law enforcement community need to hear what those in the black community and other minority communities are telling us about their experiences. On one hand, I hope the message has been out there that the vast majority of police officers in this country, including myself, do this job to help their communities and do the right thing. They are not racist and they do not promote police brutality, and they do not do some of the horrible things that we are seeing in the media. It’s just the few officers out there that are involved in misconduct and brutality that make us all look bad.
But in that regard, what I think has happened in the law enforcement community, and I include myself in this, those of us who don’t have those thoughts and just want to go out and do a good job, I think we are sometimes dismissive of the voices in the community that say ‘Hey, this happened to me, this is how it made me feel, this is what I think motivated it’, whether it was racism or some other horrible trait that some person had. We tend to be dismissive. We tend to think, ‘Well, I don’t do the job that way, so I don’t believe that could happen, or I don’t believe that these people in this neighborhood experienced that because that’s not the way I am when I go there.’ And that doesn’t mean that that’s not true. It doesn’t mean that those same experiences haven’t happened to those people and that tragedy hasn’t happened. I think that is going to be a big cultural shift in law enforcement, and I think that changes are afoot not only here in Colorado but across the country.
But on the other side of things, we also need the community to listen to us. We are being asked to do a dangerous job. I don’t know of any other jobs where you kiss your family goodbye and you walk out the door knowing that this could be it; I might not come back. I might be asked to do something that puts me in harm’s way that could possibly get me killed. And so, we need the community to understand that, and understand the weight of that and how complex our job is.
More importantly, we have to have a conversation as a whole about the importance of complying with the police and what they ask you to do. A lot of these tragedies, and I’m not speaking of George Floyd, that was a horrific tragedy in and of itself, but a lot of these tragedies we’ve seen that happened across the country, including the one that just happened in Atlanta, that boils down to just complying. Do what the police are asking you to do. Let them do their investigation. There is a place and a time to complain later, either filing complaints at the department, fighting it in court, all of those things. So overall, it has been a very interesting journey for me in the last three weeks because, you’re right, as a Black male I have experienced racism in my life. Not to the degree that some of these others that we are hearing from have, but I’ve experienced racism from society as a whole, I experienced racism to a small degree at Campion with certain individuals, and I’ve experienced it as a young teenage black male from law enforcement. Knowing what I know now, I know that some of the contacts that I had were racially biased contacts. It’s been a turmoil of emotions from me, but I think at the end of the day, this all boils down to we need to come together at the table and we need to listen. We all need to listen to each other and understand the points of views and then figure out a way to do everything better.
JH: Well said. I listened to the introduction that you had there at the White House and you did mention also listening to ideas and that there is some room for improvement within law enforcement. What are some of those suggested improvements that were being discussed there at the White House?
RP: Great question Jill. First of all, the barring of chokeholds. And by the way, all of the things that we discussed at the White House, those were signed into executive order today (June 16), and that was a direct result of that meeting we had and from the input that we had from all the stakeholders there. That is important to know, but the first thing is the chokehold. I don’t mean some of the jiu jitsu holds that block blood flow to the brain and cause people to pass out, I’m talking about a literal chokehold where one person is choking and blocking the airway of the other person. Personally, I was shocked to learn that there were agencies that were still employing that in their use of force practices because in 27 years in three different agencies I’ve never been taught that here in Colorado. So that was a big one.
Secondly, is the database that they are working on creating so that officers who are fired for misconduct or excessive force will not have the ability to leave one state and go become a police officer in another state. Right now there is no database for tracking that, and it is really up to individual agencies to do background checks and some agencies do really good background checks and others don’t have the resources to do a really good background check. So, that is one thing that we supported one-hundred percent: the collection of data to track incidence patterns of practices and where certain agencies or officers might have ongoing issues with racially biased policing, and that is a part of this executive order. That is just an example of a few of the things that we embraced and are going to be great for law enforcement and help us do our jobs better and rebuild trust in our communities.
JH: Thanks for explaining that. So, thinking about us as a community, what can we do as regular citizens and maybe specifically as Seventh-day Adventists to support both our good law enforcement officers and the rights of people of color?
RP: First and foremost what I would say to that is, hold us accountable. Hold us accountable. If you are involved or if you hear of an incident that you believe is an incident of officer misconduct, report it. Go to that agency, file a complaint, go through that process to have that incident investigated whether it was something you went through, or something you heard someone went through. Hold us accountable.
I think right now the biggest thing that you can do for law enforcement in today’s climate is be loud about your support of them. Be just as loud as you are, as the communities are being, on the Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-racism movement. Please remember that, again, the vast majority of officers out there are just people like you who have answered a calling to serve and protect their communities. We know that the majority of citizens support us, but I think a lot of officers on the street right now are not feeling that. They are not feeling that, they are not hearing that, and they are having discussions with themselves and their families in regards to ‘why am I doing this?’ They think, ‘if everybody is going to hate me for something I had nothing to do with, why am I going to go risk my life and my safety to go do this?’ In regards to that, I think you can support law enforcement by just being loud, and showing your support on social media. Here in Loveland, it’s fantastic. I mean we’ve had so many people showing up every day at the police department with food and goodies and cards and thank yous and all kinds of stuff letting them know that ‘Hey, other people might not appreciate you right now, but we do.’ Those are the kinds of things that I think the kids and the Seventh-day Adventist community can do.
On the other side, I think you should be just as loud and supportive of the movement for anti-biased policing and anti-racism in America and the various different movements that are out there, and be supportive of that. I think that the Adventist community can probably be agents of change in helping us do what we’ve always talked about: bringing race minorities and various groups together and faith-based groups together to talk about the importance of this matter from both sides, the community point of view and the law enforcement point of view, so that we understand each other better, and we understand what each is trying to accomplish.
JH: Thanks. I think a lot of people feel like you have to pick one side or the other, but it’s not just such a separation, there is some unity within that.
RP: You’re right. Yeah, I’m so glad you said that. And I want to make this point to you because it’s important that some future law enforcement officers out there in the Campion world or current law enforcement officers hear that. You know, one of the things we’ve been battling lately is a cultural thing in law enforcement. Where people think ‘if you are standing with them and you’re saying that Black lives matter, and you’re saying that all these other things matter that you are against us’ and that’s just foolhardy thinking; that’s not true. You can stand for more than one thing; you can be supportive of both groups. And just because you are standing with Black Lives Matter and holding a sign supporting anti-racism, doesn’t mean that you are anti-police, it just means that you are supporting that group too.
Just so you know, I think a problem with that is, there are radicals in the Black Lives Matter movement and some of these other movements who openly and adamantly advocate violence against the police. So for a lot of officers in our country, that’s just what they hear. They hear that these guys want to hurt us, they want to shoot us, they want to kill us, ‘so I don’t care what the overall message is of everybody else in there, I just know they want to hurt us.’ That’s unfair because in the same manner that we are asking you the community, don’t judge us by the actions of a few, don’t hold us accountable for the actions of those officers in Minnesota or horrific things. We are being hypocritical saying that, ‘oh well, if you are the Black Lives Matter movement then you support violence and killing of police,’ and that’s not true. The vast majority of people that are out there protesting and holding those signs just want accountability and equality for everybody, and that’s the part of the movement that they believe in. So, you are absolutely right and thank you so much for asking that question because I forgot that. You can support both, and you can be advocates of both and you don’t have to choose sides in this. It doesn’t have to be a divisive issue and right now it is.
JH: Agreed. So, one last question for you. In our schools and our churches and specifically at Campion, what can we do better to educate our young people to improve racial relations and to do a better job at eradicating racism in our schools?
RP: That’s a deep question and I think it goes into a lot of different areas. Please understand, I went to Campion at a different time and a different era, and so we didn’t talk about it a lot. I guess that was my experience: that there wasn’t a lot of conversation which was kind of cool because there weren’t a lot of those problems. I think that is unique to Adventist schools in that you don’t have those same problems that you do in other schools with racism and people having biases, but it does exist, and I did experience it there and I’ve experienced it in the Adventist community. So I think the number one thing you can do is just openly talk about it.
That was one thing that we never did while I was there: we didn’t talk about it. Talk to those students of color, talk to those students of various viewpoints, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, whatever it be, and have those tough conversations about what they’ve experienced and what you can do in the Adventist community, and what we all can do as just the human race to better that. Just have those tough conversations and openly talk about it. That would be the number one thing I think you could do. If you have those incidents on campus, and you have students feeling that way, as a staff you really have to evaluate, ‘ok what can we do better? What’s happening here that we need to address?’ But you can’t solve a problem if you don’t talk about it.
JH: Thank you so much for your advice. I know you are heading off to your shift tonight.
RP: Yeah, it’s going to be a long night shift tonight, but we are ready.
JH: Thank you. We are so proud to have you as a Campion Alum and thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
RP: You’re welcome. This is a super important topic; it really is. I think, like I said earlier, a change is afoot worldwide. Not just in Colorado, not just in our country, but worldwide. So I’m happy to talk about these issues anytime, and just know that I’m just as proud of all of you, and proud to say that I’m a Campion graduate. I love the work you are doing, and I believe in Campion Academy and know that it is going to continue to turn out good, productive members of society and future leaders. So thank you for what you guys do. I appreciate it.