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University of La Verne Alum Wins National Public Administration Award

A University of La Verne alumnus who works as an El Monte police captain has received a national award for implementing a social media outreach program to help reduce crime.

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) gave Christopher Williams ’15 the Alumni Spotlight Award at the NASPAA’s annual conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 13.

“Christopher’s work reveals the dedication of professionals to public service and the enormous contributions they make to their communities,” said NASPAA President Dr. Jack Meek, who is also a professor of public administration at the University of La Verne. “The award is representative of the missions of the University of La Verne and of the Master of Public Administration program. We are proud of Christopher, his achievements, and of how he represents the university.”

Williams, who has worked in law enforcement in California’s San Gabriel Valley since 1992, obtained a Master of Public Administration degree in 2015 from the University of La Verne. He has been with the El Monte Police Department since 2000, serving in a number of roles including field training and canine officer, firearms instructor, and lieutenant of the detective bureau.

Williams said the El Monte Police Department began upgrading its technology in 2000 and started using predictive policing software to help prevent and solve crimes in the last few years. The software produces crime heat maps based on historical data that illuminate potential problem areas in the community.

“I saw that if a critical incident occurred, without building social capital with the community, the community might reject predictive policing as a positive project to prevent crime,” he said.

Williams began sharing these maps and other data on Facebook and Instagram, calling on residents to keep an eye out for crime in those hot spots.

“The community not only understands what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it and they know it benefits them. This community has given a lot of support to our agency over the years – to our officers out in the field,” Williams said.

Dr. Marcia Godwin, MPA program director and professor of public administration, said Williams presented his work on social media outreach and hot spot policing as a Master of Public Administration capstone project in 2015. She nominated him for the NASPAA award based on his presentation. Godwin and other MPA faculty were not the only ones impressed with his work.

“Chris’ project was presented to graduate public affairs directors from across the United States and a number of other countries (at the NASPAA conference),” Godwin said. “Many of the directors commented on how impressed they were by Chris’ commitment to public service and his deep understanding of community engagement.”

Williams credits his education at the University of La Verne with gaining a broader understanding of his role in public service.

“It was not until I began my formal education and graduate work that I began to see the systems, processes and results of my work as a professional public administrator,” he said. “This was the change that provided me an understanding of my profession as an obligation to our future.”