Sheriff Chitwood honored with prestigious 2023 Leadership Award.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communication News
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of law enforcement and his unwavering commitment to the highest principles of policing, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood was honored with the 2023 Leadership Award by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) during their Annual Meeting held in New York City.
The Police Executive Research Forum, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a national membership organization comprised of police executives from major city, county, and state law enforcement agencies. Dedicated to enhancing policing and advancing professionalism through research and active participation in public policy debates, PERF continues to be at the forefront of shaping modern law enforcement practices.
The annual PERF Leadership Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities in law enforcement nationally. Sheriff Chitwood, who assumed office in 2016 and was reelected in 2020, earned this distinction through his transformative approach to policing and his dedication to fostering a culture of accountability and community service within his agency.
Drawing from his extensive background in law enforcement, which included roles as chief of police in Daytona Beach, FL, and Shawnee, OK, as well as an impressive 18-year tenure in the Philadelphia Police Department, Chitwood took the helm as Volusia County Sheriff with a clear vision for change.
One of his primary objectives was reassessing the agency's practices and organizational culture, particularly regarding using force. Implementing a series of progressive measures, Chitwood emphasized the role of law enforcement officers as guardians of the community, placing quality on the sanctity of human life.
Notably, under his leadership, Volusia County became an early adopter of the ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics) de-escalation training program. The county established its training academy to instill the principles of ICAT from the very start of recruits' careers, thereby promoting a culture of professionalism and compassionate policing.
The results of Chitwood's transformative efforts have been remarkable. Between 2016 and 2022, the total number of use-of-force incidents involving Volusia County deputies declined by almost two-thirds, even as the volume of calls for service remained relatively steady. Most impressively, deadly force incidents plummeted to zero in 2022, signifying a substantial shift in law enforcement practices.
Beyond his exceptional approach to policing, Sheriff Chitwood demonstrated extraordinary courage and leadership in adversity. Earlier this year, when Volusia County faced a series of antisemitic attacks, Chitwood responded by organizing a press conference in collaboration with diverse community organizations. He publicly condemned the extremist hate group behind the attacks and fearlessly stood with his Jewish friends, despite personal threats directed at him.
“Mike Chitwood has distinguished himself throughout his career,” said PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler. “In Philadelphia, then-Police Commissioner John Timoney called Chitwood the absolute best cop he had ever known for his tenacious and relentless ability to solve crimes. When he came to Volusia County, Chitwood set about to change the culture and reduce police use of force. Through careful study and new training, Volusia County has seen a major drop in incidents and is now a model for other agencies to replicate. And finally, when citizens were terrorized by antisemitic threats, Sheriff Chitwood stood tall and defended them.”
Accepting the Leadership Award, Sheriff Chitwood delivered a poignant speech, urging his fellow law enforcement professionals to confront extremism and defend their communities from any form of violence or hatred.
The PERF Leadership Award stands as the organization's highest honor. Among the esteemed recipients are Charles H. Ramsey, former police chief in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.; Bill Bratton, former police chief in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles; Pinellas County, FL Sheriff Bob Gualtieri; and Police Chief Roxana Kennedy from Chula Vista, CA.
For additional information about the Police Executive Research Forum, visit www.policeforum.org.
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