“Building Unity in the Community” — Traveling the World Collecting Knowledge; Helps Better Serve Our Communities Here at Home
By Sheriff Leon Lott
My belief is that no matter how old you are education comes before success – at your Sheriff’s Department this holds very true. Additionally, because of the diversity that is Richland County we must constantly strive to stay informed on the different cultures and beliefs that exist in our communities.
Therefore, as your Sheriff, I live by the adage that knowledge is power, and that the best way to build the strongest Sheriff’s Department is to collect as much knowledge as possible from all areas of the world. I see the importance in also sharing what we’re doing right here in Richland County, with other law enforcement agencies and governments; to help them implement successful strategies and procedures. I have a vision and passion for creating the best communities — we can only do this by constantly striving to improve.
For years we have been exchanging knowledge and expertise with other law enforcement agencies in the United States and beyond. Sharing information, resources and ideas with places like Israel, Germany, Iraq, Australia, Sweden, England, India and Korea. During these travels (which are more often than not, are without expense to our taxpayers) myself, and Sheriff’s Department personnel, share our philosophies and operations and how we continue to create “Unity in the Community”. We also gain a vast understanding of just how small the world really is and how important it is to stay in tune with our diverse citizens here at home. I am proud to say that many of the procedures we follow in areas including public relations, crime prevention, and investigation are due in part to the exchanges with other areas of the world.
Sheriff’s Department personnel have made 15 trips to overseas communities – with groups like Rotary International paying for some, while others are paid for by the participating exchange agencies or private citizens.
Recently, I partnered with the Rheinland Polizei, Germany and the local South Carolina United FC soccer club to do a cultural, youth athletic and police exchange with Captain Chris Cowan. Captain Cowan is no stranger to oversea trips – having shared knowledge and gained expertise in exchanges to England, Australia and Germany.
“The world is a small place and the things we are doing right here in Richland County are being noticed as setting high standards, across the globe. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there are always things you can learn and share toward making our own communities safer” says Captain Chris Cowan. “Every time I’ve gone, we have brought back valuable information and ideas,” says Captain Chris Cowan, a 20 year veteran of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. “From policy and procedures - to new, innovative ideas the Sheriff has been able to meld those ideas into his current vision for the Department.”
Captain Cowan states that the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, under Sheriff Lott’s leadership, has grown to be known world wide as a leader in developing partnerships, supporting our youth and in having a high standard of professionalism and accountability. Captain Cowan added that the recent exchange with Germany allowed us to show our day to day involvement in building character and success for our youth on the athletic field and in life — while the exchange allowed the Department to connect with the German Police in areas of operational command and media relations.
As your Sheriff, I understand that there are people all over the world doing things we can learn from and that knowledge is not only obtained during a trip to visit another agency. That’s why, during these trips, we are staying in people’s homes - spending time learning about them and their culture. Richland County is a very diverse place and through these experiences we are able to provide specified services to all of the different ethnicities and demographics within our communities here in Richland County.
For example, last summer the Queensland Police Service paid for Captain Cowan to travel to Australia and teach our mission, vision and operating procedures of Professional Accountability, Coordination and Teamwork to public safety professionals from all over the Pacific Rim. In turn, we learned about programs never done in the USA – for example, a new procedural justice study that centered on surveying citizens on officer’s performance as they interact with citizens during driver’s safety checkpoints. “The procedural justice program asks for citizens input and opinions about their communities,” says Cowan. “The citizens report back to a neutral third party – in our case the University of South Carolina.”
Another example of the benefit of these exchanges was during my recent trip to Iraq; where the Iraqi Police were astounded by the elevated status and efficiency of women in the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. The exchange allowed me to observe first hand the beliefs and cultures of the Muslim community (of which we have a tremendously growing population) and also to better understand the issues facing our world today.
As your Sheriff, I see these exchanges as a way for my vision, commitment and passion for Richland County to grow. As I work every day to better serve you, I will strive to create “Unity in every Community” by providing well-trained officers that will be able to help everyone in this diverse County and around the world. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department will “Build Unity in the Community through Professionalism, Passion, Vision and Commitment”.