Still Speaking to Police


“Closer to the people, quality from the inside out.”

This was my vision statement when I led the Madison, Wisc. police. It came out of perfecting a way to properly and democratically respond to the protests which were almost a daily event early in my tenure.

We found that closer to the protesters was better and safer. Closeness invited dialogue and personalized those of us who were there to protect their right to disagree and petition the government. The “closeness” led to more peaceful interactions and less damage to me and my officers. In a very short time, we were perceived to be helpers and not enemies.

Yesterday, I wrote about how two negative police incidents had, within a matter of minutes, become a national events on the internet. Without an investigation, without explanation, and almost instantaneously, judgments were solidly made by most of those millions of people who had seen those videos. I would venture to say that few minds were changed, those who support the police and those who hate them turned off their browsers confirmed in their prior opinions about police. Suspicions confirmed!

These are scary times in our nation because a lot of our beliefs are based on emotions and not through evaluation. I maintain that police must act quickly today in response to an inflammatory event in their community.

I have written in the past about the long term need to shift from warrior to guardian and concentrate on always being respectful, highly controlled in use of force, and being open and transparent in their actions. These and other important characteristics of policing a free society have been recently recommended this week by Pres. Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force .

Above all, the vision of today’s police must still be — “closer to the people, quality from the inside out.” That means close and intensive community-oriented policing beginning at the neighborhood level; eyeball to eyeball policing. Being there. Listening. Helping. Solving the problems people bring forward. Personalized policing.

And it is doing these things with quality — the best we can — continually improving and developing and sharing the best known methods of policing. Innovation and creativity can be encouraged by the kind of leadership I call, “Quality Leadership.” It is the new leadership for police which promotes listening to and encouraging officers in the ranks. Let’s face it, a command staff that does not listen to and respect rank and file officers will never be able to train and lead officers who listen to and respect citizens.

A high-quality police organization walks its community talk from the inside first. And then when it goes outside to the community its operations are fair, effective, and of high-quality. That’s just the way it is.

Now all that i have said will take time. But we don’t have much time, do we? So we had better start now.

  • Ask  yourself, what is the one thing I could do to rebuild trust in the community where I work? Then do it.