I believe the profession of law enforcement is a truly honorable calling.
A calling. Not a job. A calling is about service. Real service puts others over self.
In these contentious times, it seems to me, part what putting others first requires is to listen. What citizens are telling us is that there are problems. It’s that simple.
Instead of getting ourselves personally offended by their protests, and dismissing people’s experiences, maybe a better way is to begin to listen. Pointing fingers and laying blame are not working for us. They make us look petty and thin-skinned, not heroic. They continue to exacerbate tensions and increase fear and anger. The volatile mix gets cops and citizens hurt and killed. That is the only thing we should be working to change.
Policing in a democracy means that we answer to the public. Right now, minorities do not feel as if policing as a whole is working for them. Maybe not you or your department individually, but as a whole, there is a confidence gap, fear, anger, and lack of trust. Lack of trust is a critical problem that jeapordizes officer safety and effectiveness. So, why do we we keep lashing out at anyone who asks us to do some self-reflection and consider that policing might improve?
More importantly, why do we keep insisting there is no problem when the evidence to the contrary hits us between the eyes nearly every day?
The other day another racially-charged incident happened in this country. This time it was at a military school affiliated with the US Air Force Academy. The commander of the academy, Lieutenant General Jay Silveria stepped up to give a speech that is a leadership example for the ages. The general’s words made me realize that is the kind of leadership law enforcement really needs right now.
A couple of racist idiots painted racial slurs on the lockers of African American cadets. The general could have made a lame statement about how there are a few bad apples everywhere. He could have insisted that most men and women at the academy are not bigots and asked us to overlook this as an isolated incident. He could have blamed the prep school and disavowed any racist or other bigoted behaviors in the Air Force Academy or Air Force as a whole. He could have referred to their anti-discrimination policy in the terms we’ve all become accustomed to hearing. Instead he did what was necessary and right.
General Silveria said what I believe every law enforcement leader needs to start saying when an incident tinged with racist overtones or indefensible behavior occurs in their agency. It’s not enough to say you have a policy and people know the rules. Leaders need to step to the microphone and state their values in no uncertain terms to every cop and in earshot of every citizen in the community.
“So, just in case you’re unclear on where I stand on this topic: If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another gender with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.” ~ General Jay Silveria
Yes. That’s right. Get out.
We’ve got to stop sugar coating. We’ve got to stop making excuses. This has nothing to do with the job being hard. Nothing to do with danger. It’s about the integrity of the badge. It’s about service and honor. We can no longer afford to have those with questionable ethics, racist views, or any moral character deficiencies that tarnish policing. There can be no room for such people in law enforcement. Period. The public and fellow cops must all know where you stand. Say it loud and often.
The one clear agreement among community members and rank and file cops is actually this: Problem cops aren’t held accountable. That is no small coincidence. We all know it, but an unwritten rule says we shouldn’t talk about it. So, publicly, we focus on “bad apples” and “mistakes” of judgement. This weak argument is transparent to the public and keeps us from truly purging those folks from police ranks.
The general spoke directly to diversity and bias by saying, “We’d be naive to say this isn’t a problem in our ranks.” Law enforcement must take this clear-eyed, direct approach. When an incident happens and one of our own is exposed for bias, character flaws or excessive force, we should speak with equal clarity. Unfortunately, law enforcement has largely been unwilling to publicly denounce such behavior and say what needs said.
So, as the general says, there’s a better idea. Real leadership. Step up and let the world know you stand firm on the values of your profession. Right now, loud and clear.
If you cannot treat all persons with respect, then you need to get out. There is no place for you in law enforcement.
The public and good cops everywhere will stand and cheer.
I also say that if you can’t treat people of different political, social, religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds, then get out. Furthermore, if you are not going to do a thing about corporate, white collar crime, then get out. If your police union is not going to support private and public sector unions, then your unions need to get out and/or be abolished. Good cops need to get out if they are not going to do a thing about the bad cops.
Gunther, I agree. What is needed is a cultural shift and leadership that lets the good cops know they are supported and valued. It frustrates them when the knucklehead who’s always in trouble hangs around, trust me. In a related issue, we need to stop enabling bad behavior by putting an immediate end to the practice of allowing bad cops to resign and keep their certifications. This widespread practice is harming our profession. I say often, Not everyone can or should be a cop. Doesn’t make them bad people, necessarily, just not a fit for law enforcement.
Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..
Thoughtful Sarge, we also need to get rid of laws in various states that allows bad cops to leave the police force and then be allowed to join another police force. We also need a national database on bad cops so if they tried to apply for another police job in the country somewhere else, a red flag pops out of the database to warn the authorities about the bad cop. We also need to hold their superiors accountable for not telling the authorities in the other police force that they should not hire this guy/gal. Unfortunately, that is a problem due to the fact, that employers in both the private and public sectors misuse the employment laws to get rid of whistleblowers and honest workers to the point where you can get sued for not saying things favorably regarding your former employee. You can thank the bad bosses in the private and public sectors for creating the mess in the employment laws.
It frustrated me that cops won’t stand up to wealthy people and business people who created the political, social, and economic mess in the country and around the world and then they wonder why they are getting layoff or have to pay more into their pension fund.
Thoughtful Sarge, we need a cultural, social, and labor change where the workers particularly the good ones are protected from their fellow workers and more importantly from their bosses. This country has one of the worst records in the world when it comes to labor rights. Wealthy people, business people, and bad government leaders have been allowed to get away with misusing, abusing, physically assaulting, and even killing their workers and the American police have allowed themselves to be used as a private goon/death squad for wealthy Americans and corporations so they can’t complain that they are only obeying the laws that pass by their political and economic masters. Cops part a huge and important role of how American society is what it is today and I am tired of them denying that they play no role in it. About time, America gets the kind of worker laws that they have in Western and Northern Europe.
We would not be having a problem with bad cops with our judges and district attorneys would stop backing them and go after them for violating the law. The trouble is that the district attorneys and the judges need cops assistance for their cases plus their political and financial support. In addition, the good cops wouldn’t do a thing about getting rid of bad judges and district attorneys.
You seem to get it. Thanks for passing it on.