In August, Branville G. Bard, Jr., took command of the Cambridge Police Department, and he recently spoke with THE CAMBRIDGE LIFE to share his thoughts on policing and getting to know the Cambridge community.
What made you want to become a Police Officer?
There was no single event or specific thing that made me want to become a police officer. It’s true that as a young boy and man I looked at police, particularly those portrayed on television, with admiration, but it wasn’t until a couple of years after high school that I seriously considered it as a full-time profession. I am so glad that I did.
In your mind, what is the most fulfilling aspect of working in policing?
For me, the most fulfilling aspect of working in policing has been in the building of meaningful working relationships with members of the communities where I have served.
To be meaningful, a relationship must be built on trust; for me, this has always meant that we as police must continually show that we are worthy of the public’s trust. I have found that as long as we continually show that we are trustworthy, the public will strongly support us.
What are you going to miss the most about Philadelphia?
Everything and nothing. By ‘everything’ I mean family, friends and the comfort that comes with familiarity of a known environment. By ‘nothing,’ I mean that the world has shrunk. I can fly to Philadelphia in less than an hour and video conferencing allows me to see my family and friends in real time. Philadelphia is a great city that I am proud to call home. But, I’ll be trading in cheesesteaks and hoagies for chowder and oysters.
I’m really looking forward to making Cambridge my new home.
What are you most excited about living and working in Cambridge?
Cambridge is a vibrant place and I look forward to experiencing the City’s rich culture!
Yet, I must say I am most excited about having the opportunity to continue with and advance the progressive nature of policing that has become synonymous with the Cambridge Police Department. I am thrilled about the opportunity to work with my team members at CPD as well as Cambridge stakeholders to strengthen the innovative social service programs that assist and protect vulnerable populations.
How are you planning on getting to know or building relationships with the community and in the police department?
I’m a big believer in the contact hypothesis. In my experience, the best way to establish relationships is through constant contact.
I plan on being highly visible in the community and throughout the department. Moreover, it is my practice to be accessible to all members of the community as well as to members of the department. Doing so allows individuals to become comfortable with you through interactions.
In addition to staying in constant contact and being accessible, I will also have to ensure that I do what I say I am going to do, while remaining fair and consistent throughout. I have built a strong reputation for doing these things and I do not plan on shedding these habits here in Cambridge.
Our community hears a lot about 21st century policing, but many are probably not sure what this means. What does it mean to you?
21st Century Policing is about establishing policies and practices in policing that foster trust among citizens of its police. In order for police to gain (and maintain) a community’s trust, it must enforce legitimate laws in a legitimate manner—here legitimate refers to being ‘Socially Just’ or widely acceptable—so both the laws and practices must be legitimate.
It is the reopening of Society’s contract with its law enforcement agencies; the renegotiation of terms that are conducive to establishing trust, while protecting the most endeared needs and rights of all involved (both the police and community).
To borrow a sporting analogy, it is law enforcement’s acknowledgement that in this “League,” Society are the Owners, Coaches and Fans, and that as players we must adhere to the rules or framework set by the Owners, put the wise counsel of our Coaches into action and strive to please our Fans every time we take the field. It is an acknowledgement that the Players must be well cared for both mentally and physically if they are expected to perform optimally.
What advice would you give to any young person thinking of becoming a police officer?
I continually encourage young individuals to enter the law enforcement profession; I think it is among the noblest of professions. Few professions afford you the opportunity to actually impact situations and lives the way policing does.
The personal satisfaction derived from effecting positive change in another person’s life is a driving force that keeps many officers dedicated and resolved to community service.
I encourage young officers to remember to utilize common sense and compassion on every single incident they handle and during every citizen encounter. I feel it is important to understand that we meet good people during their worst times; therefore, we must govern ourselves accordingly and be cognizant of our responsibility to contribute to their relief when we encounter them during those most difficult times.
What are your favorite novels, TV shows and foods?
My favorite novels are The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) and A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole). As it pertains to television and movies, I usually gravitate towards sci-fi and comedy. Food-wise, I love anything that my mother or mother-in-law cooks and I’ll never turn down a good steak!
About Commissioner Bard
Branville Bard was sworn-in as the Cambridge Police Commissioner on August 21, 2017. Previously, he served as Chief of Police and the Director of Public Safety for the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Police Department. Prior to this, he served in numerous positions for the Philadelphia Police Department, including Police Inspector, and Police Captain for the 22nd District. Bard holds a Doctorate in Public Administration from Valdosta State University