By Jaimee Lynn Fletcher
Flipping through the hand-written list on a pad stacked among three piles of employee rosters, Westminster Interim Police Chief Roy Campos notes the number: 106.
That’s the number of police employees Campos has logged face time with at the end of his first five weeks as the department’s new leader.
He met employees over coffee, out in the field, in the parking garage or sometimes in his office. On occasion, he also would stop employees in the hallway on his way to an early-morning, pre-shift workout.
However it happens, Campos said he needs to know every employee at the Westminster PD.
“To me, it’s essential,” he said. “If I’m going to be the leader of the department, believe me it’s an honor and I’m so proud to be asked to lead the Westminster PD, but I’ve got to know our people. I’m not doing it to just cross names off a list.”
Demonstrative with a casual cadence to his speech, Campos said he wants to make policing personal — the crux of a law enforcement philosophy the chief has forged in his nearly 40 years in law enforcement.
“We need to treat people with respect and dignity,” Campos said. “If we’re tight here, ultimately when we go to the community to do our work, that’s going to be healthier. We’re more apt to have empathy, to have patience. If we truly care about what we’re doing, it’s hard to muck it up.”
Campos said this ideology was ingrained in him long before he wore a badge.
Born in Compton as the second youngest of nine children, Campos said his parents instilled in him a strong work ethic and the importance of respect.
Serving the family name was a source of pride in the Campos home, and the chief carried that through his years in law enforcement.
“There are so many reasons we choose to do the right thing,” he said. “We have our police department to represent and our profession, but our family name is just as important. Whoever it was in our lives — our parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, coaches, teachers — we can’t let them down.”
Campos was attending Cerritos College when he saw a handwritten job posting on a 3×5 card soliciting for a police student worker with the Los Angeles Police Department.
The teen was hired to perform clerical duties in his role, including working in the office of police chief and law enforcement icon, Daryl F. Gates.
Gates, founder of the D.A.R.E. program and co-creator of SWAT, always would make sure to acknowledge Campos in the office — a small and simple gesture that resonated in a big way with the young Campos.
“That was my first exposure to the importance of treating people well in the workplace,” Campos said. “Here I was an 18-year-old kid and he calls me by my first name. I could barely even respond and just said, ‘Hello, sir.’”
That six-month internship with LAPD hooked Campos into a career as a peace officer.
He was hired in 1978 by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked for about a year before lateraling to the Downey Police Department.
He served more than 30 years with Downey PD, and was tapped as the city’s eighth police chief in 2005. Campos led the department four years until he retired in 2009.
But the job continued to call to him.
Westminster PD marks Campos’ fourth assignment as an interim police chief in California.
“I feel it right here,” Campos said pointing to his chest. “There’s a buzz, there’s an excitement, there’s an energy when I get a call to serve as a chief of police. I’m proud of the outlook and philosophy I’ve developed through the years and I want to share it.”
Jaimee Lynn Fletcher is a senior staff writer for Behind the Badge OC, a website devoted to coverage of Orange County law enforcement news, issues and personalities. Go to http://behindthebadgeoc.com .