On the day that the 1992 L.A. Riots began, Jeff Halstead, a Phoenix police officer at the time, saw his son delivered into a chaotic world. As Halstead watched the city of Los Angeles unravel in brutal violence, looting, and an estimated billion dollars in property damage, following a controversial court decision, he worried for his child and his future.
“What kind of country is my son going to see,” Halstead remembers thinking.
It was also the day that his vision of a non-profit organization, which would one day become HOPE4BLUE, first came into focus.
Halstead is now retired after advancing quickly through the professional ranks of two big city police forces for 26 years, culminating as the Chief of Police in Fort Worth, Texas. The big city chief led a force of 1,500 officers who watched over an expansive community of more than 833,000 residents.
The mostly-urban populace of the fifth largest city in Texas is diverse in both racial and economic makeup, and it is a complicated beat, but Halstead’s sound leadership and progressive ideas kept the streets safe, reducing the crime rate in ever year of his six years as the police chief.
When he retired in 2015, Chief Halstead’s commitment to the women and men in blue and their neighborhoods had only just begun. As the founder of HOPE4BLUE, he continues to provide support for police officers by pushing for advancements in police technology and shaping positive relationships between community leaders, police officers, and the public.
“I can honestly say we are in some of the most challenging times in law enforcement,” Halstead says. “We need to find creative ways to support our personnel and keep our officers motivated.”
Chief Halstead is a pioneer in police gear advancements and transparency. Under his watch, Fort Worth became the first major city to implement body-warn cameras across the force. His department put more than 600 devices into service, recording the interactions of the public and the police, and keeping all accountable.
Shortly after retiring, Halstead began traveling the globe, visiting more than 500 police agencies in six countries in an effort to provide them consultation through his newly-established consulting firm, “The Halstead Group, LLC”. He came to a startling conclusion during his travels; police forces around the world were not keeping pace with emerging technologies.
He fine-tuned his goals in those moments on the road. He wanted every officer in America to have advanced equipment for safety, effectiveness, and efficiency. He also wanted additional support for every officer critically injured performing her or his duties, as well as “Line of Duty Death” (LODD) benefits for family members.
“When I retired, I knew I needed to do something and give back to this honorable profession,” he says.
In addition, Chief Halstead also wants every officer to have advanced training with a focus on today’s varying and difficult social climate, which continues to boil over 25 years after the L.A. Riots affected the chief so greatly. The alarm bell that was the riots was a war on the streets that required the California Army National Guard, regular Army, and the Marines to assist police officers on the ground. According to NBC Los Angeles, 53 people died during the riots, 2,383 people were injured, there was more than a $1 billion in material losses, and the police and military arrested 12,111 people, after a jury acquitted four officers in their role in the beating of motorist Rodney King.
Today, police and community relationships are still difficult and tense in many areas. Riots continue to be commonplace in places where communities feel oppressed by police officers, and officers have become the targets of random acts of violence. America’s police forces are the first line of protection in our communities, but department budgets are low and morale is even lower in some instances. Dallas, the neighbor of Halstead’s old post at the Fort Worth police department, was the location of an ambush on five police officers on July 7, 2016, during a peaceful protest march, and according to NPR, 135 officers died in the line of duty last year.
Halstead experienced numerous community issues while Chief in Fort Worth, and he saw a lack of community support for officers. Therefore, he wanted to engage community leaders to become involved in this matter. As Chief, Halstead began working with local clergy, pastors, and ministers; and using their churches as meeting grounds, officers and the communities they supported could advance a common agenda. It was a successful project, so he implemented those ideas when creating HOPE4BLUE, continuing to use faith-based community leaders and their churches to spread hope, goodwill, and the common goal of safe and peaceful neighborhoods, and solid, meaningful relationships between officers and the people they are sworn to protect.
“We need to improve the morale of our profession so they can serve with optimism and hope,” he says. “We need our community’s support now more than ever before.”
With the help of his non-profit, HOPE4BLUE, which Halstead started with his own funding, he is pushing for this support. The goal is simple, according to the chief: America needs to unite in its efforts to make our nation strong and our communities safe, and to show our police professionals that our citizens support them. Halstead strongly believes that an “us versus them” relationship should not divide the United States. This is a “we” partnership, he says, and he stands by the idea that “we” as a nation need to talk about police force and community issues in a productive manner and not let media sound bites divide us as a nation.
“We need to engage our Faith-based leaders to assist us in our missions,” he says, “as well as provide needed technology to increase the public trust in Policing and improve our community partnerships.”
Chief Halstead and his solid convictions are leading this charge, and it is one of the reasons why Augmented Publishing Group chose HOPE4BLUE to be the featured non-profit in a new book they are publishing called “Helping Heroes: Setting You Up To Live The Life You Desire Now And In Retirement”. HOPE4BLUE will receive 100% of the retail royalties from the book.
Lisa Williams, president of APG, said,” When I learned about HOPE4BLUE, their mission, and Chief Halstead’s commitment to helping law enforcement professionals, I knew HOPE4BLUE was a perfect fit for this project.”
The lead contributor of the book, Andrea Steward, also a police force retiree, and currently a realtor, was thrilled to learn that HOPE4Blue would receive the retail royalties of the book.
“Chief Halstead and his mission are so important,” she says, “and I am honored to work side by side with him to get this book in the hands of heroes everywhere.”
To learn more about HOPE4BLUE visit www.hope4blue.org.