New chief focuses on the small things

WPD then-acting Chief Mark Lauderback (at right) thanks keynote speaker Pat Upstill, left, as he comes up to take the stage during Westminster PD’s Memorial Ceremony. (Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge).

By Greg Hardesty

Westminster’s new police chief is a black-and-white kind of guy.

In late 1993, when Mark Lauderback was putting himself through the police academy at Golden West College, two agencies took an interest in him.

The Westminster PD started processing him and was conducting a background investigation when a hiring freeze hit.

We’ll hire you as a reserve, the WPD told Lauderback.

But he wanted a full-time job. Luckily for him, the Chino PD also picked him up.

“So as Chino was doing a background check,” Lauderback recalls, “Westminster calls up and says, ‘Hey, guess what? We’ve got permission to hire you so we’re going to finish your background.’”

Lauderback decided to go with whatever agency finished first.

Both, however, finished the same day.

Lauderback ended up choosing the WPD, but not because he grew up in the city.

“The biggest selling point was Chino had white police cars, and Westminster had black-and- white police cars,” says Lauderback. “Police cars are black and white, fire engines are red, and I wasn’t going to work for a city that had white police cars.

“It wasn’t about pay. It wasn’t about the benefits. It wasn’t about commuting or crime or opportunity. It was about the color of the police cars.”

It’s no surprise, then, that one of the first things Lauderback did when he officially became chief of the WPD on Oct. 21, 2019, was decide to switch all the agency’s cars back to black and white.

About 15 years ago, the WPD went to all-black vehicles.

“You’d be surprised how many (police officers) are excited that we’re going back to black- and-white (vehicles),” says Lauderback, who was named acting chief of police on Jan. 30, 2019, following the departure of Chief Ralph Ornelas.

Lauderback, who has spent his entire 25 years as a cop at the WPD, was appointed interim chief of police on June 15, 2019.

Now that he’s chief, Lauderback is focusing on the relatively small things – like getting cars repainted – in an effort to build up agency morale following several rocky years of lawsuits and other challenges.

“For me, this is a fresh start,” says Lauderback, 50. “I want to focus on the department and focus on the people, because they’re our greatest asset. If people are happy in the workplace, they’re going to do a good job. And that’ll spill out into the community.

“I think we do a great job with the community – we’ve taken care of the community for a long time – but right now, we need to take care of each other and we need to make this a fun place for people to get excited to come to work.

“Because if you’re excited to be here, you’re going to be excited to go out there and work. You’re going to produce a great product. We do produce a great product, but now we need to produce a great product inside (the agency) as well.”

For more on law enforcement personalities and issues, go to http://www.behindthebadge.com .


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