Blog Post: Q&A with Chief Thomas Thompson
February 12, 2024
Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Blog
Q&A with Chief Thomas Thompson (Dayton, OH) – Sinclair Community College
Chief Tom Thompson began his law enforcement career in 1995 as a patrol officer with the Miamisburg Police Department in Ohio. In 2022, Thompson became Chief of Police of the Sinclair Community College Public Safety Department. He is the founder and Executive Director of Valens Solutions, a non-profit that works to secure employment, education, ESL, health care, and other quality of life needs for the immigrant community of Miami Valley. Thompson is a veteran of the United States Air Force, holds a BA in criminal justice from Chapman University and a MPA from Wright State University. In 2023, he became an Executive Board Member on Law Enforcement Action Partnership’s Board of Directors.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background in law enforcement? I am currently the Director of Public Safety at Sinclair Community College. Prior to working at Sinclair, I was the Executive Director of Police at Kettering Health Network, and prior retired as the Assistant Chief of Police in Miamisburg, Ohio.
What is Valens Solutions and how has it impacted your outlook on policing? Valens Solutions is a 501c3 non-profit that my wife and I founded in 2019. We have a team of “Community Navigators” who meet with immigrant families who are struggling, perform a comprehensive social determinants of health assessment, and then we connect them to resources necessary for them to improve their quality of life. We also have a branch that assists with legal immigration paperwork. Because of our law enforcement and healthcare backgrounds, we provide support for immigrants entering the police academy and nursing school through mentorship and financial assistance. This work has provided proximity, increased empathy, and helped me see up close the struggles our immigrant community faces as they battle both language and culture barriers while trying to acclimate to life in the United States. I have seen how valuable our immigrant population is to our community, schools, jobs, culture and economy. I know the data; their presence is very meaningful. As a police leader, I see the need to be intentional in educating our immigrant populations and our officers so that interactions between the two have a healthy and equitable outcome. Police can make a huge positive difference in their lives.
In your opinion, what are some ways to build trust and cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities? Do you have any examples of how to increase positive police and immigrant relationships? Many in the immigrant community have had poor experiences with police in their own country, so they are not likely to approach us. To build trust and cooperation, our officers must be intentional in creating positive relationships. Once they see kindness and a heart to serve, the immigrant population is quickly won over. We must be kind, patient, understanding, respectful, and intentional. For example, several local departments will collaborate and provide public safety education in immigrant churches following their services. After the service we will stay and answer any questions they may have. We laugh, smile, educate and provide a genuine caring space to build trust. In 2023 we spoke to over 800 immigrants in a handful of churches. Another example is when police collaborated with the City of Dayton and other community stakeholders to produce the Miami Valley Community ID, an ID in which immigrants can show residence and are able to tap into resources without having a government issued ID. The ID events are held every other month and include a small amount of public safety education, introductions to area police, and community resource tables that range from jobs to ESL classes to childcare to health care to education. We bond with those who attend and again, share lots of smiles and laughs. In the last 1.5 years we have given out over 1,000 community ID’s.
How can policing become more receptive and inclusive? What kind of reforms are needed?
– By providing meaningful cultural competence education to our officers, specifically on working with immigrants, their struggles and their trauma.
– By giving our officers the tools that enable them to communicate, such as language and interpretation apps.
– By providing leadership education to our police leaders and finding new opportunities for police leaders who can’t or refuse to promote inclusive, caring cultures. This does not mean becoming soft and unsafe, we can balance compassion and open minds with courage and safety.
– By creating mechanisms or events that put your troops in contact with immigrant populations in non-enforcement capacities.
What are you most excited for / looking forward to as a new Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Member? I am excited to be a part of working professionals who are dedicated to making a positive difference in the systems and processes that impact the quality of our New American neighbors’ lives.