You Deserve Excellence in Policing!

images-5Jokingly, an old colleague of mine, Dave Gorski, who was chief of police in nearby Appleton, Wisc., used to say,”We deserve the kind of police we have.”

I know that seems pretty negative, but think about it.

If citizens don’t care about their police and are not involved in their hiring, training and review, it is quite easy to say to them, “Well, what did you expect?”

I sense we would have better outcomes with our nation’s police if we demanded excellence. Remember great police departments are the result of caring and involved communities.

Maybe the incident in Ferguson, Mo. will get citizens thinking about their police again.

Years ago, I used a diverse group of citizens to help me screen those who wished to join our department. I wanted them to demand excellence. I remember one group early on asking me what they should look for. I thought about it and then I told what what I told every citizen group since that day.

I asked them to imagine this:

“It’s after midnight. You are at home waiting for your teenage daughter to return from a date. It’s now well past her curfew time. You are thinking about calling the police to report her missing when suddenly she bursts through the front door. She is crying and looks terrible. You notice her blouse has been torn and she has red marks on her face. Your worst fears now have been realized. She has been raped! Now think about the kind of police officer you would like to come into your home and talk with you and your daughter about what happened. That’s the kind of man or woman I would like on our police department.”

But when we really get down to it, we want men and women to serve in our nation’s police departments who come from diverse backgrounds and who are:

  • Smart.
  • Educated.
  • Well-trained.
  • Controlled in their use of force.
  • Compassionate.
  • Honest.
  • Respectful to all.
  • Intimately connected with the community they police.

As citizens, you have a RIGHT to have these kind of police in your town or city.

Let me also say that community-oriented policing is not longer an option for police — it is now mandatory. (Note: There are at least five other posts addressing community-oriented policing on this blogsite.)

It is the way in which a free and democratic society is to be policed.

There are also special requirements for those who lead police, from the chief to first-line supervisors:

These are the kind of police you should expect and demand from your elected leaders.

Accepting anything less degrades our society and we all suffer!


  1. Chief,

    First, I’d like to thank you for running a great blog here. Thank you for your attempts to change policing from the inside and the outside.

    As I read this post, I am in the middle of a lot of soul-searching. I got my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and considered a career in policing–as well as other protective services occupations–for over ten years. A few years back, I turned away in frustration. I felt that drug war policing and its associated militarism were here to stay and I would have no place in policing. I continued working in the healthcare security field, where I have spent over twelve years. I also completed EMT training and considered switching to EMS.

    Of late, some events have made me feel that I may have been a bit hasty. Colorado and Washington voted to legalize and regulate marijuana. And Ferguson –though a dark time for policing in many respects–has provoked a lot of conversation about police militarization, even in mainstream media. And yesterday, a UN commission stated that the international community should look at decriminalization/legalization/regulation instead of prohibition.

    I wonder if this is the time for people like me, who have been police applicants AND police critics, to enter the field. As an opponent of the drug war, do you think I could find a way to prosper in this field? Of course I could refuse to join the narcotics unit and I could be less nosy than some police (I would refuse to do “consent searches” for drugs, which should really be called “intimidation searches”). Also, do you think being in my mid-thirties would be a problem?

    I’m particularly interested in your take on this, because I have applied to your former department in the past. If I decide to give policing another shot, it is highly likely that I’ll apply to MPD again. Madison is likely one of the few departments I would apply to at this point. It is a department–and a community–that continues to go against the grain. The people of Madison seem to expect more from their police. They think they deserve better than we are seeing from so many departments. And that makes me think I might be able to fit in there.

    I’m interested to hear what you think. Thanks again!


    1. Dave, now more than ever! I sense there is a struggle going on between two different “camps.” Those who see policing as you and I do (a great noble calling that does good in a free society) and those who see it as a governmental mechanism to dominate and control. Let me say it again: policing today needs mature, educated men and women who belong to the first “camp.” Good luck and God bless!


      1. Thank you very much, Chief. I definitely value your opinion. I think I may give it another shot after all. And I’ll return to your blog for information and inspiration often.


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