A Sergeant’s Briefing

Ed. Note: I was recently asked with regard to some questionable behavior from a group of police officers what I would say to them given my experience in the ranks. I thought back to my early days as a first-line leader and what I would say in response to this kind of behavior to my officers.

[For example, I actually did this in response to the beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers in 1991. In fact, it was my officers who wanted me to go public and tell our community that this behavior was not condoned in any way by our department.]

A Sergeant’s Briefing (Leadership 101)

Before we go out on the street, I have a few things I’d like to say

Y’all might have seen the Phoenix video

If not, here it is.

A doll shoplifted by 4 year old

A pregnant mom holding a baby

Listen to the language used, guns pointed

There’s simply been too many bad-cop videos out there

Cops over-reacting, making bad press

Alienating folks we are to protect and serve

I call these events trust-busters and hate-seeders

We gotta be cool out there

We are the police

Many times the only adults present

We have the power to radically change people’s lives

For good and bad

We gotta be able to ratchet things down when folks are losing it

That’s our job

And if you think you’re part of an urban combat team

I suggest you leave us and join the army or marines

Our job is keep the peace

Calm things down

When everyone else is out of control we stay in control

We control words – I don’t want to hear “asshole” or “fuck you” out there

I want you to treat folks you contact with respect

Work to preserve their dignity during undignified times

Yes, just as you or your family wish to be treated

Like stops, frisks, and inquires

Long ago a guy named Peel wrote some principles

They were for the first public police

We’re gonna go over the nine principles this week

Here’s some teasers to think about

(And, by the way, it’s what I expect from you)

Police effectiveness depends on public approval

Our job is to get willing cooperation

But cooperation diminishes when we have to use force

Use it carefully, trustfully

Use it only when “persuasion, advice or warning” doesn’t work

I want us to discuss these principles this week

My expectation is that you will be respectful to every person you meet

And work to persuade, advise and warn before you use force

Be your brother and sister officer’s keeper

Take care of each other

We’re to be a team

When your partner is losing it, it’s time for you to cool it

Don’t let a fellow officer do something we all will are be sorry for

Things got out of control in Phoenix

And no cop stepped in to cool things down

Peacekeepers and problem-solvers

 That’s what we are

And those officers on YouTube didn’t do that

So don’t let it happen to us

Remember, our job is to help not harm

We’re respected when we are respectful

Any questions?

Now go out there and do a great job

As I know you can.


This is the chief’s response to the incident. I wish she had given the “sergeant’s briefing” from above! Here is more information on the incident from a local media source, KTAR News.

There will be those of you who will say, aha, they threw stolen underwear out of the vehicle, the driver did not have a valid license, and they were disrespectful! But that frequently is the case. Folks who have the most contact with police often are engaged in some kind of illegal or bad behavior.

Nevertheless, ALL persons deserve respectful treatment from police. Everyone – no exceptions. Because I know, and most other police officers know too, that a situation like this can be unraveled and processed by treating all persons with dignity and respect – even if a suspect’s  behavior is disrespectful. That comes with the job. It is why policing a free and diverse society such as ours is difficult and only to be given to the “best and brightest” among us.

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