Former Lakewood Police Chief dies at 78

Department mourns loss of longtime leader

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/4/21

Charles Johnston, who served 30 years on the Lakewood Police Department, 20 of those as its leader, has passed away after losing what the department called a “valiant battle with cancer.” …

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Former Lakewood Police Chief dies at 78

Department mourns loss of longtime leader

Posted

Charles Johnston, who served 30 years on the Lakewood Police Department, 20 of those as its leader, has passed away after losing what the department called a “valiant battle with cancer.”

Johnston started his career with the Lakewood PD in 1970 after a brief stint in Salinas, California. He moved through the ranks in 11 years, becoming Director of the department in 1981. 

Among the early accomplishments highlighted in the Department official press release of his death, were changing the Department’s name from the Lakewood Department of Public Safety to the Lakewood Police Department. He also changed the name of his position from director to chief.

Johnston served as chief for 20 years, ushering in a new era of professionalism and innovative programs, establishing the Department’s Speakers Bureau, Lakewood’s Neighborhood Watch and Citizen’s Police Academy.

Before becoming a police officer, Johnston served in the military. He was a Vietnam veteran whose honors included four Bronze Stars for heroism, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal for 50 helicopter missions.

According to the official release, in his 30-year career with the Lakewood Police Department, Chief Johnston headed every division and even served a two-year term as acting city manager. He was a dedicated booster of Special Olympics Colorado and was even elected to their Hall of Fame for helping to raise $200,000 for the program.

Current LPD Chief, Dan McCasky, said he first met Chief Johnston in 1986, on his first day at the academy.

“It’s funny,” he said. “Now I get that same opportunity. I remember it like it was yesterday — him coming in to speak to us.”

McCasky worked with Johnston for the next 25 years and was a sergeant when Johnston retired in 2001. He said when he was a detective in robbery/homicide, Johnston would talk about cases with him.

“It was always kind of special when the chief would show interest in the cases we were working on,” he said. “And he was really innovative at the time, when you look at the things he did for this organization.

He really set the bar high. Our three pillars — integrity, intelligence, initiative — he really focused on that. That was kind of the foundation for my career.”

McCasky said Johnston really pushed professionalism, was decisive, had a strong sense of what the department should be and wouldn’t tolerate mediocrity.

“He didn’t just sit back and let the organization go. He was leading and guiding us,” he said. “There are certain leaders that you feel comfortable with them being in control and that’s how I always felt about Chief Johnston. I was glad he was at the helm.”

McCasky said being chief is a tough job, but it’s been made easier by the solid foundation laid by his predecessors including Johnston.

Lakewood PD’s Public Information Officer, John Romero, summed things up with his release on the ex-Chief’s passing.

“Chief Johnston will be remembered as a strong leader with an incredible sense of humor who transformed the Lakewood Police Department into who we are today,” it said.

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