System Improvement: Can it be for Police?


The old saying, there’s “nothing new under the sun,” might be true in some areas of life, but it is certainly true when it comes to policing. Change seems to terrify police and their leaders and drive them into defensive stances. After a lifetime of working in, leading, observing, and commenting on the function of police in a free and democratic society, very little seems to change besides technology and equipment.

Instead, what is needed is a change in attitude and practice. Most of the public discussion about their police over the years boils down to “us versus them;” “them” being the bad guys. There is little use of pilot projects, research on the best known methods, and use of needed experimentation around the various proposals people like me have made about improving the lot of police and restoring public trust and support in the men and women in blue. Most glaring to me, has been the continuing resistance to raising the standard as to when and how police use force and especially deadly force in carrying out their mission.

The Podcast

Listen to Tom Mosgaller as he interviews me from my farm in south-central Wisconsin. In it I share my introduction to quality principles and how they formed my approach to community policing, the new leadership, and system improvement outlined in my book “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off…

Tune into the podcast HERE.

About “Bending Granite: 30+ True Stories About Leading Change”

The Bending Granite website explores stories of positive change. It builds on the book by the same name. Each episode will visit with authors and others to reveal the building blocks for achieving excellence. Hear stories of leading change, tackling unbendable difficulties, and navigating in a changing landscape. The podcast will interest anyone, but there are lessons to encourage change practitioners, educators, students, workers, police officers, middle managers, CEOs, and community organizers. I believe you want to make a difference, but I also know, as I have learned, that doing so can sometimes feel like bending granite..

About my “unvarnished” biography written by Journalist Rob Zaleski

“When David Couper stepped down in 1993 after 21 contentious, but highly successful years as the police chief in ultra-liberal Madison, Wisconsin, David Couper was widely regarded as one of the most influential law enforcement officials in Wisconsin’s history. But little was known about his private life—or what motivated him to transform a paramilitary-type department into one that emphasized community relations; and to hire a large number of women and people of color, dramatically changing the complexion of the department. In 2020—nearly three decades after his shocking decision to resign and become an Episcopal priest—the former Marine met with award-winning columnist Rob Zaleski for a series of lively and provocative interviews that lift the veil on his private life and explain for the first time the reasons behind his many controversial decisions. He also talks about his unstable upbringing in the Twin Cities, the personal tragedies he’s endured, and his evolution into one of the most inspiring human rights activists Wisconsin has known.”

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Purchase “Beyond the Badge: Reflections of an Ex-cop” from Little Creek Press.

Listen to an online discussion of the book in Madison, Wisconsin.

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