Zachary makes history by electing first black police chief

Former assistant police chief says he wants to continue building on important community relationships in his new role

“People may not always be happy with what we have to say, but the people will have enough confidence in us to know that what we’re saying is true.”

Zachary Police Chief Daryl Lawrence

When Daryl Lawrence was elected as the Zachary police chief, it was significant in more than one way.

It’s significant because his victory meant he was not only the next leader of the Zachary Police Department, but he would also be the first black person in the city’s history to lead the department.

“I really feel law enforcement needs people like myself who do this job for a reason because it’s who I am. Deep down inside, I am a protector. Not only my family, being a police officer means I can protect my city and my community and that means a lot to me. With this being such a young department and young supervisors and young officers, they needed someone who’s been around for a while to help guide them,” said Chief Lawrence. “I’m here for the right reasons. You know you’re not going to get rich doing this job. I believe in the “protect and serve.” I think we sometimes forget as officers because we have so much authority that we’re actually servants of the community we work in.”

Lawrence defeated Justin Nevels in the Dec. 10 runoff election with 53% of the vote. Lawrence was sworn into office on Jan. 9, 2023.

He replaced David McDavid, who served as chief for 11 years. McDavid was elected as mayor the same night Lawrence became police chief.

“I think it shows a lot about the city of Zachary and how the city has changed,” Lawrence said. “There was a point in time when people didn’t believe the city of Zachary would elect a black man as the chief of police. So it shows that we have progressed and the people saw who was the most qualified individual and that just happened to be a guy who was black.”

“In fact, I was born in Independence, Louisiana. It was the only place black people could go to deliver babies at the time in 1962. My entire family lived in Zachary so after I was born, we came back to Zachary. I’m a lifelong Zachary resident with the exception of the six years I spent in the Marine Corp. I’ve been to different places. In those six years, nothing else compared to home. Zachary has changed over the years. When I was growing up as a kid, there were certain places I couldn’t go or only go to certain places with my grandfather. To show you the change, I now actually live in one of those neighborhoods. Zachary has changed and the people have changed. They’re so welcoming. I like it here and I love the people,” explained Chief Lawrence.

History on the job

The new chief was born and raised in Zachary and has been in law enforcement for the past 35 years. He joined the Zachary Police Department in 1989 as a volunteer officer.

Lawrence served as the assistant police chief, which he credits for helping him prepare to lead the department.

“Being assistant chief and being involved in the day-to-day running of the department, made it somewhat easier for me knowing the basic running of the department,” he said. “It made it easier coming in. Of course there are things that the chief did that I didn’t do that I had to catch up on, but the basics of running it, I already knew. That was a good thing.”

The chief said his administration is in the process of getting new policies and procedures in place.

“We want to get it pushed to our guys to let them know that this department will be one that’s run professionally,” Lawrence said. “We will be accountable to our public and that integrity will be involved at all times. People may not always be happy with what we have to say, but the people will have enough confidence in us to know that what we’re saying is true.”

Lawrence said reaching out to ministers in the community, civic organizations, businesses and schools for feedback on concerns is what they want to do to continue to grow relationships and try to alleviate any concerns those groups may have.

“We just want to say thank you to the citizens of Zachary for going out and voting and considering the person who was the most qualified guy,” he said. “We want to thank them for their continued support during this time. We’ll be asking questions and hopefully, we’ll be having some frank discussions so that we can keep the city as safe as possible.”

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