Another Police Leader “Gets It!”

images-2[The guest post today is by Radley Balko who blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for “The Washington Post.” He is the author of the book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.]


Guardians, Not Warriors!

Add Lt. Chad Goeden, commander of the Alaska Department of Public Safety Training Academy, to the list of law enforcement leaders who get it.

The academy trains every Alaska State Trooper recruit and many municipal and borough police recruits before they can become certified sworn law enforcement officers.

During Lt. Goeden’s nearly 20-year tenure with the Alaska State Troopers he’s worked all over the state. When he became the academy commander he hung a sign over his office door:

“The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.”  – Sir Robert Peel, founder of modern policing

Lt. Goeden chose that quote because he’d observed some officers had lost a sense of connection to the community. He explained, “I thought it was important to remind myself, my staff and the recruits why it is we do what we do, who we serve, and who it is we are beholden to.”

Lt. Goeden rejects the notion of officers as warriors and has instructed his staff not to use the term. As he said, “If we’re warriors, who are we at war with?” Lt. Goeden prefers the guardian archetype, for which he credits a leadership training called Blue Courage. When I asked him if this was just semantics, he replied without hesitation, “Words matter.” And Lt. Goeden is making words, training and culture matter at the academy — as is his staff.

He takes the sign above his door into every ethics training with every academy class. As commander, he teaches ethics to impress upon the recruits its importance.

Make no mistake — officer safety is a high priority at the academy . . . But officer safety is not the top priority.

In training, Lt. Goeden instructs Alaska’s troopers and officers that they may hear a refrain when they leave the Academy — “The most important thing is you go home to your family at the end of your shift.” But it’s not true. If it was, they would never place themselves in harm’s way — as countless officers do every day. The most important thing — he and his staff train — is that they protect and serve the public, of which they are a part.

As Lt. Goeden explains to Alaska’s future troopers and officers, “We are Guardians — of our communities, our way of life, our democracy, the Constitution.”

Emphasis mine. We need more Chad Goedens, and fewer Jack Joneses.

Radley Balko
More from Balko can be found at


  1. Chief, I’m a little disappointed to see Radley Balko featured on your blog. Not only is he one of the most virulent anti-police extremists, but he also writes like a middle schooler, and not a particularly talented one. Several years ago, I attended a conference at which he was a discussant on a panel addressing police militarization. A sharp captain from Vegas Metro ran circles around him, and then Dave Klinger dissected him during questions from the floor.
    However, my distaste for him relates more to the way he’s twisted “warrior” in the context of policing into a pejorative, rather than something to be admired and appreciated. And we should be clear about that point. People should, and do, appreciate the courage and skill of warrior cops. The most recent example of this was the Antioch news conference. One of the victims was very emotional as he repeatedly expressed his gratitude to the officers who saved lives that day, and many of them were the very tactical officers of whom Balko is so critical.
    Further, he implies that policing must chose between between the warrior and guardian philosophies, and nothing could be further from the truth. The two are not mutually exclusive, as the true warrior IS a guardian. Those police officers who are truly warriors honorably and unselfishly live up to the highest standards. They are the cops I want serving my community and protecting my loved ones when I’m not around, and I believe you would as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ashley, I always appreciate your comments as you try to achieve some balance to the discussion. Yes, the warrior vis-a-vis guardian dichotomy is often distorted. Can warriors be guardians and guardians warriors? Of course they can. But the crisis in which we find ourselves today is one that is highly emotional as police throughout the country are portrayed as insensitive “murderers.” And as you and I know, this is not true and the majority of our officers are caring, considerate men and women. But the “bad apples” are killing us and we need to stand up and consistently let the public know who we are and what we do — the kind of policing that I am sure you and I dream of is that kind of caring, hands-on policing. Nevertheless, we must grapple with the matter of deadly force and its use and start re-thinking our policies and training (especially with regard to how we are handling stand-offs with mentally ill or disturbed people with blunt or edged weapons. To be able to reduce these deadly encounters will go a long way to restore the trust which is been lost. Good to hear from you again. Press on!


    2. I attended a presentation by Balko about 20 years ago at a conference either in Las Vegas or Phoenix. I follow this hater on Twitter now. I believe policing needs to improve but this guy is unbelievable. I worked for the LVMPD … curious as to who the captain was? Message me if you can.


      1. Not sure of your question about who the captain was?? Anyway, I have not heard Balko in person, only read his book. He has a point about militarization of our police. We should have been more careful on how we (police) were presenting themselves. Trained as a sociologist (while serving as a cop) I saw the message in how police were “presenting” themselves; that is, how they dressed affected how others perceived them.


  2. Ashley

    If the European cops can manage to defuse situations without shooting to kill, then we should be able to do it in this country. Too many cops are trained to shoot first and then sort it out later or lied about it later. You wonder what happen to all our cops who used to manage to defuse situations 50 to 40 years ago and how come they didn’t pass on their experience to the future generations of cops? I understand about cops wanting to go home at the end of the day; however, if they are unwilling to take a bullet or a knife to the body or unable to defuse a situation when they received a call, then they should not be in this line of work. Furthermore, too many cops seem to lack the communication skills so necessary to talk to the public and the academies don’t tried to reinforce it.

    You look at SWAT teams these days, it seems that too many of them don’t want to tried to outwait someone but just want to go in and get the job down. Probably explains why some of them have a medical person on their team who is just there to take care of the team members if they get shot or stabbed and never mind the person(s) who got shot by the SWAT teams. Taking care of SWAT teams if a higher priority than taking disciplinary action against the SWAT team because they raid the wrong house because they did not do their intelligence work properly that they were raiding the right place. In addition, even if they had raided the right place, it was all for nothing because the occupants in the house were actually innocent and someone had contacted the police to raid their residence just to get back at them for some minor trivia (real or faked).

    Thanks to technology these days, the American public particularly white folks are realizing how bad policing has become in this country and how they allow this to happened because they did not get involved in their communities.


  3. In his book Detective Jardine, Crimes in Honolulu, Detective Jardine stated …..”I decided I would be a “good cop.” I resolved I would try to do my duty honestly without unnecessarily pushing anyone around. To this day, I can’t think of anything more that can be expected of a police officer.”

    I think that Detective Jardine’s statement from his book should also be on Lt. Goeden’s door as well whether you are dealing with the criminal element. the law biding public, and people who are on parole or discharge from parole supervision. It seems that once you get a rap sheet whether you are a criminal, a reformed criminal, or a law biding person who got arrested because he/she was exercising his political, social, and economic rights, the police seem to treat you unfairly like if you have the Mark of Cain on you.


  4. Ashley,
    Do you know if there is any video footage available from the conference you mentioned? I would be interested in watching it.

    Officer safety was a big theme in the academy for us and while deescalation was there as well, it was not the main focus. Having worked the streets for years now, deescalation and the way you talk to people has been the single biggest officer safety tactic I’ve used. I could see it at work but it really hit home to me when I was reading Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect: Transforming Law Enforcement and Police Training. I’ve lost his book so I either need to find it or buy a new one. I really enjoyed it. It was somewhat of a tough concept to hold onto after my academy days that you are more safe when you are less focused on officer safety. Of course the authors don’t want you to abandon officer safety and awareness altogether. One of the authors is a SWAT commander.


    1. The concept of “unconditional respect” is a strong one and may be the key forward. I survived during the Civil Rights Era in Minneapolis as a beat cop in black neighboarhoods by doing just that — it works! Today, police must find a balance between safety and service. I won’t be easy making this adjustment. See the work of the Arbinger Institute (you can search it here). Some good stuff for police.


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