Reimagining Blue

[Editor’s Note: While I am sort of retired from commenting on the state of policing in our nation, I will, from time to time post what a believe to be a necessary blog. This is one of those times.]


Reimagining Blue: Thoughts on Life, Leadership, and a New Way Forward in Policing

A New Book by Chief Kristen Ziman (Ret.)

This deeply moving memoir is a story of resilience and perseverance in policing—and in life. It’s a raw and candid portrayal told by a flawed human about a noble profession suffering an identity crisis. Reimagining Blue is an urgent call to find a way forward, not because the system is broken, but because it can always be better.” 


The above preface comes from Kristen Ziman’s book, “Reimagining Blue.” It’s a good intro. But I would add more – much more.

From my decades-long perspective, Ziman is the kind of woman I sought to hire throughout my career. And her book gives pages and pages of reasons why our nation’s police ranks need to be balanced in terms of both race and gender. 

It took me 20 years (1972-1993) for me to move the number of uniformed women in the Madison (Wisc) Police Department from zero to 25 percent. Looking back, the number of women in our ranks was the major factor in improving police services in the city. 

Let me put this bluntly — women make better cops! While I do not advocate the removal of men from policing (though it would significantly reduce incidences of excessive force) I do propose a 60/40 gender distribution – 60 percent women and 40 percent men!

After I retired, the department continued to hire women and finally reached 35 percent – I would propose they, and other departments, need to move on into higher numbers. 

What Ziman (with whom I am professionally acquainted) achieved was far more difficult than my progression in policing. While I was young, educated, and was on the forefront of developing Community-Oriented Policing, Ziman had to rise up, shine, and be recognized in a virtually all-male organization and exposed not only to the usual anti-female attitudes in all-male organizations, but also overcome her youth, size, advanced education, progressive ideas, and eventually, sexual orientation.

Whew! I thought I had it rough!

She was and is a strong survivor who refused to take on male leadership models of the day as some women leaders are prone to do (such as ‘My way or the highway!” or “Do as I say, not as I do!”). Instead, Ziman modelled and practiced “Servant Leadership;” a leadership style necessary to achieve excellence in any organization (especially police) because it helps people you are privileged to lead to grow and thrive. 

Servant Leadership asks more questions than dictates answers, “How can I help you become more effective and successful in your job?” 

Today’s leaders need to practice this more than traditional styles of coercive-based management (I won’t call this style “leadership!”)

I urge young leaders (and more malleable older ones) to read Ziman’s book. Learn how she survived and thrived to the point that she was recently one of four finalists for the position of Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Then, while you are at it, take a look at what I had written a decade ago. Two generations of police leaders – same conclusions and recommendations on the way forward!

You will also find in these pages a woman leader who was able to juggle raising a family with her career, married a fellow officer, then divorced him, and re-married another officer who is a woman. 

She knows very well about the allies, mentors, “haters” and roadblocks she encountered along the path of her career. Read her book. I greatly enjoyed and learned from it.

I say “hats off” to you Kristen. Press on. Continue to boldly tell your story… follow your dream!

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