My Struggle

imgresThis morning I will begin to teach a new course on campus — “Police Leadership in Changing Times.” It is for upper division criminal justice students here on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Designing this new course has been enriching and challenging. I have attempted to pull together the past and present (with a glimpse of the future) for these aspiring criminal justice leaders.

My experience with leadership spans half a century: from being a sergeant in the Marines, to developing department-wide training in crowd control while I was still a police officer, being engaged in police reform as a chief of police for over 25 years, as a church leader for two decades and now as a university teacher.

The problem is this. And its about this year’s presidential election. The problem is, for the most part, Donald Trump will not fit into what I have learned about leadership or my paradigm for it.

He now is one of the most visible leaders in the world and his behavior does not comport to my vision, experience, and current study with regard to the practice of leadership.

I say this because I think, more than ever, good leaders today need to stand up and give voice to what’s right; to praise good leadership practices and to critique those which are below standard.

Many of us have learned there is a “best way” to lead people in a free and democratic society over the course of our 200+ year history — I hope President Trump can learn what that is and with humility and patience, practice it. Old dogs can be taught new tricks.

And when we don’t see and experience leadership practices which help people grow and thrive, we must speak out just as the little child did in the well-known story by Hans Christian Anderson about pretense and truth.

imagesThe Emperor’s New Clothes: An Excerpt

“‘But he hasn’t got anything on,’ a little child said.

“‘Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?’ said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, ‘He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.’

“‘But he hasn’t got anything on!’ the whole town cried out at last.

“The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.’ So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.” [The End.]


  1. One of my favorite stories for children to learn about the importance of trusting their own eyes (and ears). Notice that it took a child to say what they saw. Why didn’t the adults speak up? The begining of the story tells about how 2 tailors convince the emperor to buy their “new style” of clothes. That is also a good lesson about consumerism and the promises is makes to get our money at the lowest possible cost to them. The tailors leave the country btw.

    As for never having taught DT’s style of leadership. If you taught the American Revolutionary War, then you know about that style. It was the Abusive and Uncaring King of England who pushed the Americans into revolutionary fervor.

    Actually Pres. Trump is showing us how others in power, Like the Congress, are also derelict in their duty. After all they are supposed to be a “check” on the President and not be a cheerleading team for him. We shall see if this form of governmnet can survive a dictator who would be king taking office. We will see how so much of Congress’s power has been “given away to thePresident” like war powers. Like secret armies in the CIA and like Private Armies (like Blackwater).

    You have your hands full, but then if you teach the entire USA CONSTITUTION, you will have the answers to what will happen to Trump.


  2. Why do you make this type of assumption? Donald Trump may be one of the worst presidents ever. He may also be the best president ever. It is to soon to know. Police leadership translates into screaming, lying, and ends up with do what I say or I will arrest, cage, or shoot you. Having actual reason for any police demand is irrelevant. I would go so far as to say police by their nature violate the constitution. They are above the law and treated differently than other classes are. That violates the equal protection clause.

    We already had a dictator. How else do you explain Obama? Trump is the obvious solution for people to choose after dealing with a dictator.

    What is leadership? Follow me and my orders or else? I do not need that type of leadership from anyone including police officers.


    1. I guess we both will have to wait and see. While I am often critical of the practices of some of our police, I believe police are necessary in our society and that they should be guardians of our Constitution and practitioners of the values and principles that make America great. I remain hopeful.


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