Anthony Ambrose is having a busy year.
Months after accepting the post of chief of police at the Oak Park Police Department in August, a place he’s called home since his patrol days in 1984, he was elected president of the Columbian Club of Chicago. “Everything is kind of happening all at the same time,” he laughs, “but it’s a chance to give back to the community.”
“Community” is a word Ambrose returns to often. He has held eight positions over 33 years at the OPPD prior to his ascent to the top spot, but it’s his time as community policing commander that made the strongest mark on his work philosophy. “It gave me an opportunity to work with members of the community and go out to meetings and work together with people,” he says.
Ambrose believes community policing has benefitted Oak Park’s neighborhoods and advocates its approach. “The community policing philosophy is more concerned with quality of life issues,” he says. “Many police officers think that you have to resolve an issue by issuing a ticket or arrest, but sometimes you can accomplish tasks without writing that ticket.”
With community in mind, Ambrose has worked hard to develop non-force-based methods of conflict resolution, especially when it comes to working with people with mental illness. He received crisis intervention training over a decade ago and his department currently has over 35 individuals certified in the practice. His goal is for the entire department to be certified not only in crisis intervention, but de-escalation training as well. “It gives the officers another tool for their tool kit,” he says. “The goal is obviously to come to a successful resolution without having to use force.”
In addition to the training he has sought for his officers, Ambrose is proud that the department has been able to equip each marked car with computers and cameras. In conjunction with the community policing strategy, he’s working to provide police officers for the Oak Park elementary and middle schools.
Chief Ambrose credits the Oak Park Police Department with making his transition to chief a successful one. “The officers are highly motivated and it’s a pleasure to come to work everyday and work with officers who take the job seriously. They treat people with respect and dignity.” And while admitting that there are now a “lot more meetings to attend,” he still makes time to participate in a number of community-oriented organizations.
Ambrose spends his time out of uniform as a member of both the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and as a member of the board of directors for the Thrive Counseling Center in Oak Park. When asked when he finds time for himself, he focuses on the enjoyment he gets from his day job. “Every day is different and I enjoy making a difference,” he shrugs.
The chief acknowledges that policing is currently facing some challenging times, but he remains optimistic. “Somebody asked me recently why I would want to be a police officer right now,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to make a difference. I truly believe if you treat people with dignity and respect, you’ll get dignity and respect back.”