Career Spotlight: Assistant Police Chief Robert Lanning

(This post is the first of what we hope will be an on-going series profiling local folks who have taken advantage of the many higher education opportunities we have available in Waco to further their careers or pursue new opportunities.  We hope these profiles help spread the word about exciting educational and career opportunities we have here in the Waco area. Enjoy and be inspired! – ALW)

By Clinton Dennard

Have you ever thought you might like to go into police work? Assistant Police Chief Robert Lanning graduated from the Tarleton Waco Program with a Master of Criminal Justice degree in August of 2013.  In today’s career spotlight he shares some insights about a career in the police.

What is the career you are in now and what do you do?

I work in local law enforcement as an Assistant Chief of Police for the Waco Police Department.  For the last four years, I have supervised the Criminal Investigations Division, which includes all detectives and the Victim Services Unit.

Can you list some challenges and victories you have faced in this career?

The challenges have varied by position.  As a new patrol officer, I dealt with the same issues faced at some point by most officers:  Shift work, missed holidays, working under sometimes adverse conditions, and seeing people at their worst.  In my current position, I am frequently confronted with complex legal, policy, budget, and personnel decisions.  The offset to facing these difficulties is that I now have the authority to affect positive change, such as overseeing the development of our Peer Support Team, which assists employees in need.

What was the path you took to arrive here?

After graduating college with a degree in management, I initially worked in a family business; however, my interest was always in law enforcement.  In 1993, I began my career with the Waco Police Department as a patrol officer.  Over the last 24 years, I have worked as a detective, as a member of the SWAT team, and as a member of the USMS Fugitive Task Force.  In 2003, I began taking promotional tests and rising through the ranks to my current position.

What education did you need and how did you get it?

A minimum number of college hours is required by many departments, including the Waco Police Department.  Additionally, applicants for promotional tests receive bonus points for having a college degree and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to apply for the position of assistant chief (having a graduate degree is preferred).  I attended Baylor University from 1980-1984 to obtain my BBA.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The most rewarding part of this job is helping people in need.  As an officer, you have many opportunities to assist others:  Giving directions, looking for lost children, enforcing the law, etc.  As a supervisor, I find fulfillment in teaching and mentoring new officers.

What advice would you give someone interested in your line of work?

First, invest some time and find out what the job that you’re interested in (local, state, federal) is really like—do your research, talk to people in that field, and do ride outs or internships.  Next, prepare yourself for being a good candidate by obtaining as much relevant training, experience, and education as possible.  Finally, all law enforcement and licensing agencies have standards related to drug/alcohol usage and criminal activity and you should make good decisions accordingly.

What pros and cons should they be aware of?

A career in law enforcement in extremely rewarding, but it is not a good fit for everyone.  Most law enforcement positions offer the satisfaction of helping others and good benefits/retirement plans, but it can also be dangerous and involve harsh working conditions.

What kind of things do you wish you had known when first beginning?

That policing was such a great job—I would have started this career immediately after college!


If you are interested in learning more about the Master of Criminal Justice program offered at Tarleton Waco, contact the main Tarleton Waco offices at 254-299-8322 to set up your advising appointment today!


This post was written by Clinton Dennard. Clinton is a self-proclaimed poker aficionado and 90’s music trivia savant. In his free time, you can find him on one of Waco’s spectacular bodies of water doing all the aquatic things. In his professional life, you will find him oscillating between lecturing and advising undergraduate Tarleton Waco students in an effort to make their dreams a reality. Further, you can find him recruiting for the Tarleton Waco programs throughout the Greater Waco community. On most evenings, he serves a Licensed Professional Counselor at Premier Neurofeedback and Counseling Services.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

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