I Have a Dream About Police — Do You?
Over a half century ago in the midst of racial unrest in most of our nation’s cities, I wrote an op-ed in the major newspaper of the city in which I served as a police officer. In it, I shared my dream. It is a dream I still hold and wish for today.
At the time, I had eight years on the job and was a full-time college student. Needless to say, I received a tremendous amount of “push-back” at the time from my superior officers.
My refuge (protection) was that I was the local president of a national law enforcement fraternity, Lambda Alpha Epsilon (now the American Criminal Justice Association). We thought ourselves as instruments of social change – a professional union and we were going to speak out during these tumultuous times.
Here was and is my dream as first contained in that op-ed so long ago:
As a police officer, I am a direct representative of our nation and its fundamental values embed in our nation’s Constitution.
- My fundamental duty is to serve humankind.
- I understand the historical and present struggle between police and people of color, youth, and those most vulnerable in our society. I am committed to first improving my behavior in order to build trust in and among these communities. This means I must be respectful to all persons at all time and be controlled in my use of force.
- I will stand up for those who have little voice in my community.
- As an educated police officer, I am committed to improving all that I do, remain open to new learning and incorporating the best known methods of policing into my work. Continuing education is the key to my professional competence.
- Serving our democracy, I pledge equal, fair enforcement of the law regardless of a person’s race, color, creed, social standing, or sexual orientation.
- I will not tolerate illegal or unethical behavior among my colleagues.
- I pledge to deliver high quality, compassionate police services to my community and to everyone with whom I have contact.
What’s your dream for police?
Wow, Chief, the words you wrote at that time of great unrest in our cities is so very relevant today! I my opinion, general policing has improved in terms of technology advancements such as license plate readers for patrol, available DNA samples for investigations, etc, etc. Educational requirements for the job have certainly increased in most communities. But I’m not sure if those improvements have translated to improved policing or community understanding. I think increased education in police practices, increased conversations in polarized communities and police best methods are the way to go. Sound familiar? I think you were so ahead of your time in writing that letter!
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Alan, thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated. Technologically, our nation’s police have greatly benefited and that includes higher education— but on the other hand the other hand, policing has not raised the bar as to what I call a certain negative, militaristic, them-v-us “attitude.” I tried to capture that in my book “Arrested Development” and the four obstacles which prevent police from critically assessing their method, seeking “customer” feedback, and walking the path of continuous improvement! I still have some hope, but as the years go on I am becoming less hopeful — if I had my druthers I would focus on developing a professional leadership cadre — but then who would run it?
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I have a dream that the police respect the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If I tell the police that they can’t search my car or myself without reasonable suspicion, then they back off right away. I dream of a police force where they go after white collar, corporate crime and don’t back off when getting pressure from the wealthy people and business leaders. I dream of a police force that takes white collar, corporate crimes seriously just as much as they seriously violate the rights of the general public. I dream of a police forrc that don’t hesitate to tear down the blue wall of silence.
Well said, Gunther! We need police. How they behave is up to each citizen. Vote your values. Speak out!
I recently subscribed to your news letter and have enjoyed reading them. I have been a Law Enforcement Officer in the state of Missouri for just over 29 years working narcotics for almost 20. I am also concerned with the state of affairs our country is currently in and the attitude toward our Law Enforcement community. I feel the topics in your news letters are right on target and bring up the correct core values which we need as a country and profession. Thank you for your services and dedication.
If you are ever in the Kansas City area (I work in small suburb on the NE side) I would love to get together and talk shop (I also teach at one of the local Police academies). Plus I will make sure you get the best BBQ in the area. You can always contact me through this email address or on my cell phone 816-506-8547.
In my spare time I paint and due to the encouragement of friends and family have posted some of my work on line. I would like to invite you to look at my website ( swampypete.com ). Most of my art is Christian based and I would love to hear your feedback or any ideas for future works.
Thank you for your time
Thanks for the comments, Pete. I enjoyed your art on line. Well said. Likewise, if you are ever in the Madison area do give me a shout. Peace!
Hi Chief! It’s been a while, but I still believe in your message. I’m in awe of how far ahead of the curve you have always been. I agree with others that, sadly, our increased educational standards, which were supposed to translate into higher professionalism, has continued to fall short on community interactions and greater trust. I have come to the conclusion that it is solidly tied to our failure as a country to address–truly–the root causes of racism and the effects on our society. We hear so often that police are simply a reflection of our society. Exactly. This is the challenge for our profession and country. We must have the courage to face our shameful legacy in order to move forward, once and for all. The safety of cops and citizens depends upon this. Thanks for all you do! Lisa
Lisa, you are truly a sister-in-arms! It is refreshing to find another out there who shares the important values of policing a democracy and understands the crippling legacy of racism that we so often avoid or are clues less. Press on — and thank you!
We also need to address the root cause of class warfare where wealthy people and business leaders treated the rest of the population as a bunch of nobodies and use the police to keep them under control.