This past week, it was reported that a Lakeland, Florida Police Chief (Winter Haven Police Department) was forced to resign his job over a tongue–in-cheek, memo he had distributed to his staff. (CNN November 2, 2006) The controversy began when the Chief, Paul Goward, unhappy with the physical condition of some of his officers, sent out the memo to the general membership of his Department, and in it stated “are you a Jelly Belly?” The memo then went on to mention the health benefits of proper weight control, healthy diet, and limiting the use of alcohol or tobacco. In most Law Enforcement agencies, an issue such as this, would at most, raise some eyebrows or generate a chuckle or two – but not in Lakeland. Several officers in this Department apparently, when their feelings were hurt, sent anonymous letters to their local City Manager, and the issue suddenly hit the national media. Initial reports of the incident indicated that the Chief was being judged harshly over the incident, he subsequently ended up being forced to resign.

This story cast a huge spotlight on this Police Department. I’m sure it is not the kind of media attention that its City Government anticipated. When a Municipalities Police agency garners national attention, its leaders should hope it is about that “Big Case”, the Department solved, or about how officers rescued a person from a “Burning Building”. Public officials in this City, just received a tough lesson in how small town politics, can rapidly escape the back meeting room and run straight for the hills of national attention. Municipal Managers and leaders must constantly remind themselves that their decisions must be made in the best interests of the community, and the many – not the few. Taxpayers expect a great deal from their public servants, and deservedly so, they also should expect that decisions made by their leaders are not based on anonymous complaints, or politics.


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