Alumnus Tackles Race Relations as Presidential Scholar

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Webster Chief Danny Presley was named a Presidential Leadership Scholar for his project to enhance dialogue between police and the communities they serve.

Webster Police Chief Danny Presley wants to jump-start the dialogue between police and minority communities across the country, and he has U.S. Presidents, cabinet members, and business leaders to help him on his way.

Chief Presley is one of 60 national trailblazers selected for the 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, which is designed to gather forerunners from diverse backgrounds to address some of the greatest challenges facing today’s society. Presley is using the program to develop the Law Enforcement Ambassadors for Dialogue (LEAD), a program designed to rebuild trust and resolve conflict between police and minority communities.

“We want to establish sustainable partnerships that will help meet the challenges unique to each city,” said Presley.

For his project, Presley assembled an advisory group, which includes U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, criminal justice professionals and attorneys from the Houston area, to develop curriculum for the training sessions. Some of the topics that will be addressed are implicit bias, procedural justice, police legitimacy, and leadership skills in the community to address issues in constructive ways.

“We want to talk about the complex interrelationship between government, police and minority citizens,” said Presley.

The Presidential Leadership Scholars Program draws on the expertise of four Presidential Centers – those dedicated to Republicans George W. and George H. W. Bush and Democrats William J. Clinton and Lyndon B. Johnson. The program gives participants a behind-the-scene look at key decisions made during their administrations from Presidential appointees and even Presidents themselves.

Presley, the only law enforcement representative on the 2017 roster, will work alongside prominent doctors, attorneys, corporate executives, and non-profit leaders to build leadership skills and fine-tune their proposals. Each participant brings his or her own projects to the table, including such issues as child hunger, illiteracy, underserved populations, and substance abuse, to name a few.

“It is designed not only to teach leadership, but how to build public-private partnership to make sure our projects come to fruition,” Presley said. “It’s all about service and serving others and developing our leadership.”

During 2017, Presley will visit Washington, D. C. as well as each of the Presidential Centers, located in College Station, Dallas, Austin and Little Rock, AR. During his most recent session in College Station, Presley met former President George H. W. Bush and his wife, First Lady Barbara Bush, as well as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Among the speakers who presented at the first session in Washington, D.C. were:

  • Donna Shalala -- Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration
  • Keith Hennessey -- Professor, Stanford University; Chief Economic Advisor to President George W. Bush
  • Valerie Jarret – Advisor to President Obama
  • David Rubenstein – Billionaire and Washington, D.C. Philanthropist
  • Richard Norton – Presidential Historian and Author

Presley began his leadership training in 2005 at the Leadership Command College at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, and he is expected to graduate from Sam Houston State University in August with his master’s degree in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management. He also graduated as Class President of his FBI National Academy class, which provided an opportunity to give the commencement address and meet FBI Director James Comey. To get into the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, Presley had to go through a rigorous, five month approval process, which including a background check and interviews with Presidential Center staff.

“Chief Presley is a true servant leader. The opportunity to participate in this important program will benefit not just the people of Texas but the country as well. Danny is a selfless, methodical, and principled leader. He will work hard for all of us with his research and products resulting in being a presidential scholar.”

Presley thanked the City Council in Webster as well as William Wells and Dennis Longmire, professors in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at SHSU and Rita Watkins, executive director at LEMIT, for their help in the process.

“One of the mantra of the program is ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’” said Presley. “ I want that to be my mantra in public service. Everything I do should be about serving others and giving back.”

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