Where is the Chief? — An Important Response

A commentary worth posting in response to my recent post “Where is Your Police Chief.”

“I would add the word ‘alone’ to your statement, ‘… outside efforts cannot and will not improve police.’”

cropped-Consult-Hardesty-Dk-300x386“We, at Consult Hardesty interpret ‘community-based policing’ to have – at its core – a key reform element of broader public influence. Portland, Oregon has all the features you above describe: a police community relations committee, a fifteen-year history of consultants reporting to City Council, and a DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) Settlement Agreement to resolve illegal use of force. In all of these spheres of influence, police and civilian managers (the latter, actual defendants in the DOJ plea deal) are entirely too self-referential.

“The [Portland Police] Bureau determines who sits on the relations committee, training advisory council, etc. Prior to release of their report, police control who is to be notified of round-table discussion of consultants’ recommendations. In many ways police and local authority cultivate an insular environment. (Promoting a replacement Chief from within the ranks of a bureau deemed defective comes to mind.) We contend these long-term institutions have failed to change conduct (racism, failure to adhere to training and policy on de-escalation) because leadership is far too attuned to their own ‘high regard for what police must be and do in our society.’

“We have long promoted structural alliances with community resources. Calling upon local chapters of training and organizational development professional associations, to take a vital, training advisory role seems a no-brainer. We find disconnect between your goal of trust building and blanket assertion that outside influence upon police culture is unwarranted: we call for direct participation by community members in the design and roll-out of training. Should the citizen volunteers who so participate be drawn from populations of those long denied justice, should their influence be seen to take effect; we aver the community will see police responsiveness as indicators that community trust should be extended: policing has become responsive to societal expectations.

“’Policing needs men and women of passion throughout the ranks who are committed to, and have a heart for, the difficult road ahead …’ We aver that culture change becomes more likely when new recruits are assessed for reform tendencies, and then empowered with whistle-blower authority over the Old Boy network. We then offer a decades-long contract extended to the same individual, for delivery of pre-hire, psych evals and screening. The contract is perpetually re-extended by the Chief, with no contest for bid. Two recruits who brought cases against superior officers were very publicly hounded from the force.

“We are heartened by the prospect that reform is on the table, and that others consider what stymies police culture from adhering to their constitutional oath. We don’t expect culture change to be an example of ‘physician, heal thyself.’ We expect reform to come from broader cultural influence and interplay. We see as the challenge a police subculture too strongly attached to command and control decision-making. We assert dictatorial roles have not worked (our Training Unit is actually employed to contradict a Chief’s order of officer termination for cause).

“We assert there is a trust gap WITHIN police culture: that they now need to devolve authority to citizen-based oversight.

“By relying on the consent of the governed, the role of trusted public servant will be returned. What will it take for police managers to build trust in such ‘external’ leadership? Performance of cops’ public service is actually embedded in a mutually held social compact. Are The People, generally, to be feared, when in possession of direct means to provide guidance, assess for implementation and impart discipline when at variance?”