Gary Woodruff Is Enjoying Lawrence Police Chief Role
Writer / Renee Larr
Photographer / Robby Berry
Becoming a police officer was nothing short of fate for Lawrence Police Chief Gary Woodruff. Growing up on the east side, Woodruff knew he wanted to be an officer of the law at around 9 years old. His father spent most of his career in law enforcement and Woodruff wanted to do the same.
“I joined the U.S. Army Military Police at the age of 18 in 1983,” Woodruff says. “That’s one of the best career moves I ever made because you go from being a boy to being a man. You learn skills in the military that carry you for a lifetime.”
After basic training he was stationed in Europe for 18 months. He was then sent back to Fort Harrison in the Army Criminal Investigation Division. Once his three-year commitment to the military was complete, he started working for the Frankfort Police Department (FPD).
“My dad was a 20-year retired member of the FPD,” Woodruff says. “He was a two-term chief there and he retired in 1979. As I was getting out of the military in 1986, his influence was still felt there. The uniform I wore on my first day was the same exact uniform my dad wore on his last day there.”
In 2000 Woodruff transferred to the Lawrence Police Department (LPD). He spent time in various roles including detective in the investigations division, investigations division commander, media relations chief and deputy chief of police. Woodruff was appointed chief of police in January.
“It’s an honor to be asked to serve by our mayor,” Woodruff says. “We have an amazing leadership team here at LPD. Each one of them is staying to continue the forward movement we have maintained over the last six years. It’s a true honor.”
Woodruff is responsible for a staff of around 112 people and an almost $9 million budget, along with vehicles, buildings and technology. Woodruff says the most important investment is his staff. He’s worked hard during his tenure with the department to build relationships not just within the public safety area, but also within the community of Lawrence.
“At the end of the day it’s my responsibility to make sure our officers have the resources, tools and training they need to be successful,” Woodruff says. “Otherwise I want to let good people do what they do. Our officers do a fantastic job.”
The administration at the LPD had so much confidence in their staff, they voluntarily participated in the now-canceled show “Live PD.” Woodruff served as coordinator for the project.
“Every Friday and Saturday night for 98 episodes, we invited America on a ride-along with LPD and the other eight participating agencies,” Woodruff says. “That’s how much confidence we have in our officers. We had a very positive experience with the show during its run.”
Woodruff was instrumental in transitioning the fleet of LPD vehicles to newer models. He says the department was the first agency in Indiana to utilize body camera technology called BodyWorn by Utility. He says the department wanted to be proactive rather than reactive to precipitating events.
“We felt the cameras were an important tool for us,” Woodruff says. “It affords us the ability to investigate something immediately. If there is something we need to own or do better, we apply it.”
One of Woodruff’s goals this year is to expand the number of officers. He says the department has been historically understaffed but would like to move from 60 to 65 sworn officers. He’s hoping to add three to four officers per year for the next four to five years.
“We’re very interested in recruiting members that reflect the diversity that Lawrence enjoys,” Woodruff says. “We have a wonderfully diverse community here. We are encouraging everyone to apply. Obviously, we have to do that with fiscal responsibility in mind and manage that growth appropriately.”
Unfortunately, Woodruff’s father didn’t get to see his son’s full-circle moment of following in his footsteps as police chief. He passed away in 2021, before Woodruff’s appointment.
“He was such an inspiration to me,” Woodruff says, adding that he hopes to end his career with the LPD. “His influence is still just as profound as if he were still here. When I was appointed deputy chief for the first time in 2010, his advice to me was never to forget where I came from, and I try to remember that each day. I grew up here. I graduated from Arlington High School. When people ask me where I grew up, I say right here – these same streets LPD is working now.”
For more information or to apply, visit joinlawrencepd.com.