Tom Dailey didn’t ask for it – tried to nip it in the bud, in fact – but his first recommendation for police chief came from one of the highest possible sources.

Last Thursday, the Independence police chief and 36-year law enforcement officer received the Clarence M. Kelley Award from the Kansas City Crime Commission during its annual law enforcement appreciation luncheon. The award is named after a former Kansas City Police Chief and the second Director of the FBI, and was created to recognize an active law enforcement administrator in the metro area.

The next day, Dailey recalled a meeting with Louis Quijas, who had worked with Dailey in the Kansas City Police Department and had become assistant FBI director. Dailey had been putting together an educational presentation and wanted to ask Quijas, with whom he served on the executive board of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, to shoot an opening for it.

During their discussion, Dailey said, Quijas asked “What are you still doing here? You need to be a police chief,” and promptly pulled out his phone and started making calls as Dailey frantically tried to wave him off.

Dailey turned down a couple opportunities but eventually became a police chief in 2008, succeeding Fred Mills as leader of the Independence force.

“It’s not something you plan,” Dailey said of his rise through the police ranks, “but my superiors pushed me a lot to take promotional tests.

“I love being a policeman. I’ve loved waking up on the side of right every day. When you have a passion for something, you’ll do well in the field.”

Dailey earned his bachelor’s in education at the University of Central Missouri (and hoped to be a coach, as well), “but when I got out of college you couldn’t buy a job in teaching,” he said. Instead, answering an ad, he became a department store detective for the Jones Store – “the most fun job I ever had,” he said – and considered joining the police force after taking part in a ride-along.

He joined the North Kansas City Police Department in 1979 and then the Kansas City force in December 1980 and was promoted to sergeant in 1985, captain in 1991 and major in 2001. He holds master’s degrees from Park University and the Naval Postgraduate School.

During his time as Independence’s chief, he has worked to reduce crime through departmentwide initiatives CORE – Crime Overview Response and Evaluation – and its follow-up COPS – Community Oriented Problem Solving – as well as several other initiatives to improve the department and its service to the community.

What Dailey said he’s most proud of, though, can’t exactly be documented on paper.

“The most satisfying thing is being able to develop an atmosphere in the Police Department where everybody works together and is doing his job for the right reasons – not just for his own benefit,” he said, attributing his career award to longevity and persistence. “I’ve never had an idea where officers and sergeants didn’t make it better.

“I’ve said, ‘Just because I wear the eagles (uniform patch indicative of his rank as chief) doesn’t make me any smarter than everybody else.’”