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
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