What’s Next For Police?

imagesMoving forward today will require bold leadership from the police. Outsiders simply cannot improve them — only they can do it.

This year and the next, with the President’s Task Force recommendations and the Police Executive Research Forum’s “30 Guidelines” on use of deadly force, will be critical years for American policing.

The following is an excerpt about leading change from Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police.

“IT IS POSSIBLE to bring sound and lasting change to the police so they reinforce and uphold the traditions and values of our society. It isn’t only possible, but essential, to change the direction they are going today. We need moral police organizations, staffed by men and women who reflect the community they serve, and see their function as community leaders in blue. They will become not only the police we want, but the police we deserve as they work to overcome the historical obstacles I mentioned earlier: anti-intellectualism, violence, corruption, and discourtesy.

“[My] experience has made me even more confident that these obstacles can not only be overcome on a broader scale, but be sustained beyond the tenure of an individual police chief or political entity. Through a solid commitment to education and collaboration with the academic community, police will no longer be seen as narrow-minded and bigoted technicians. When police officers are trained in the proper use of physical force, the community will no longer view them as out-of-control and untrustworthy…

“Corruption and other illegal behaviors have, as I documented earlier, been with us throughout police history… That said, when the overwhelming majority of officers in a department are stalwartly committed to obeying the law while they enforce it, and sanctioning those who don’t, a culture of honesty and candor will prevail.

“Finally, courtesy and civility can be trained and maintained even in an organization in which the core of its role is the capacity to use force. Even physical force can be used in a civil manner if it becomes a professional tenet in the police ranks and officers believe that all people are worthy of being treated with dignity…

“I have attempted to illustrate the vital role that leadership plays. The chief must have vision, passion, education, and tenacity; and those on the front line, the same things—vision, passion, education, and tenacity. Developing leaders in all ranks, from the top to the bottom of the organization, will assure that a quality police department will be sustainable…

“My life as a chief would have been easier if I had learned and practiced the following earlier in my career:

  • Listening more, speaking less,
  • Managing by walking around,
  • Working more closely with the police union,
  • Knowing more about the personal lives of my employees…

“In my own case, my survival depended on maintaining my physical health, exercise, balancing work and family, and having social, recreational and intellectual interests outside the police. This is because the subculture of police is very powerful and can easily subvert the finest intentions—even the moral structure—of its practitioners, if it isn’t recognized and controlled.

“It is my hope that the seven steps I described in this book will be discussed, shared, and put into practice, not only by the police, but in their communities as well. I’m not suggesting here anything that police are not able to do.

“Transformation isn’t an exercise in capital, but in brainpower. It doesn’t cost money to cast a bold vision, or to raise the hiring standards, or to internally train officers and their leaders with existing resources. It doesn’t cost money to listen, and it doesn’t cost money to continuously upgrade the systems in which we work. It may cost some dollars to do outside research, but in the meantime, police chiefs can do their own surveying just like we did. And it doesn’t cost money to sustain an outstanding, community-oriented police department because with the changes I am suggesting comes trust, cooperation, and community support—things no money can buy.

“But, it will take time. It will require bold leadership from the police themselves. It can’t begin in the squad room; it has to begin with the chief. A mayor cannot do it, nor can a city council…

“If police are to realize their potential as Constitutional officers, their leaders will have to take and be the first step…”

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