Steven Pacheco, a 34-year veteran of the Lakeland Police Department, was promoted from captain to assistant chief in a ceremony Tuesday that also marked several other promotions in the department.
Pacheco, 55, started at LPD on June 1, 1987, but he began his career in law enforcement at the age of 19, working for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for two years as a corrections officer at the Polk County Jail.
Law enforcement wasn’t his original career plan. Pacheco studied carpentry in high school. A friend encouraged him to apply for a job as a corrections officer.
In his new role as assistant chief of police, Pacheco will command the Neighborhood Services Bureau, which includes the Uniform Patrol Division, the largest area of the department.
“When I first started my career, I never dreamed of rising to the level of captain or chief,” Pacheco said. “I appreciate Chief (Ruben) Garcia in having trust in my abilities to lead this division. It is a great opportunity to guide younger officers to be better police officers.”
He joins two other assistant police chiefs: Sam Taylor and Hans Lehman.
Pacheco said he looks forward to having more interaction with the community and front-line officers. One of his priorities is instilling good customer service skills. Prior to his promotion, Pacheco was the captain over the Community Services Division, supervising the School Resource, Community Service, and Victim Services units as well as the Lakeland Police Athletic League.
Before that, he served as captain over the Special Operations Division, which also included the narcotics, traffic and K-9 units. Prior to that, he oversaw the department’s Internal Affairs Unit. He has also served as an intelligence detective and a sworn Federal Task Force agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Tampa.
One of his main goals is to hire more officers. Pacheco said the department is down several officers and he hopes to fill the gaps.
Another trend in law enforcement that Pacheco said he remains “neutral” on is allowing officers to have beards. Lakeland Police doesn’t allow officers to have beards except for medical reasons. When asked about the policy, he said it will be reviewed when all of the policies are reviewed annually. Pacheco admitted he’s seen more officers from other agencies with beards than ever before.
When it comes to whether Lakeland officers should wear body cameras, he called it a “staff level and City Commission decision that’ll have to be made.”
“The biggest challenge is cost, the cost to maintain them, storing the videos and the public records issues that may arise,” Pacheco said.
He said the car dashboard cameras the department already uses are somewhat of a benefit but come with challenges.
Pacheco is looking forward to helping more officers monitor their mental health. He teaches the First Responder Mental Health and Wellness course offered to every newly hired officer and public safety aide and their families.
“I’m a big proponent of officers taking care of themselves physically and psychologically,” Pacheco said.
He wants officers to engage in healthy lifestyles and have time to process and discuss traumatic incidents, and seek help if needed. He said the department already has a peer support team that assists with this.
According to the department’s website, Assistant Chief Pacheco said that one of the most rewarding experiences he’s had with the Lakeland Police Department was leading two of the agency’s non-profit organizations, the Lakeland Police Foundation and the Police Athletic League of Lakeland. Pacheco said Captain Marvin Tarver will take over overseeing the Police Athletic League, but he will remain on the board.
According to department officials, the other Lakeland Police Department promotions include:
- Lieutenant Tye Thompson promoted to Captain and assigned to the Special Operations Division Command.
- Sergeant LeRon Strong promoted to lieutenant and the officer in charge position of the Office of Professional Standards.
- Detectives Laura Dunn and Matt Linton promoted to the rank of sergeant and assume supervisory duties in the Uniformed Patrol Division.
- Communications Supervisor Shanna Lucas promoted to assistant manager of the Emergency Communications Center.
“Each of the members has established themselves well in their past roles within the agency where they have displayed leadership and commitment to the city of Lakeland and the citizens we serve,” Chief Garcia said on the department’s Facebook page.
Combined, the group of law enforcement professionals has more than 160 years of experience, according to the release.