Author

I strongly believe in formal education for police. I worked nights on the Minneapolis Police Department tactical squad while he attended classes at the University of Minnesota. As chief of police in Burnsville (MN), the department become one of the first in the nation to require a four-year college degree for police officers. In Madison, I became a disciple of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s methods of quality improvement and applied them to the police. Of all the things I did during my twenty plus years as chief of police in Madison, the most important were to bring peace to the streets of the city, integrate the department, and gain new respect for Madison police officers — respect that had been lost during street battles with anti-war protestors before I came to Madison.

CE0C16IUIAAcgvS.jpg-largeI hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College. Over the years, I have written many articles and led many seminars calling for police improvement. I wrote How To Rate Your Local Police, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience, and The New Quality Leadership Work Book for Police with my wife Sabine. My latest books are the second edition of Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police (2017) and Telling It Like It Is: Couper on Cops (2017).

After retiring from the police department, I attended seminary and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. At the present time, I serve at St. Peter’s, a small Episcopal church in North Lake (WI). I am married to Sabine Lobitz (also a former police officer). Together, we have nine adult children, eleven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. I continue an active life as a writer, poet, priest, cyclist and cross-country skier – and, yes, “police observer-commentator!”

I currently teach in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin in Platteville.

You can contact me at davidccouper@gmail.com.

 

51 Comments

  1. David, I’m delighted to note that you have now registered your genius & modelling by giving us a textbook for turning “Law Enforcement” into “Law Empowerment.” You & Sabine are a remarkable team in this inspired movement! I’m thankful, with many others that you have also taken this enlightment into organized religion, where I am working for similar phoenix emergence. Hallelujah…!
    Lloyd Rediger

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  2. Am very much enjoying listening to you on WPR. Impressed that you’re now part of the clergy. I’m very interested in issues related to justice.

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  3. David,
    I am certain that this book will become a must read in many training facilities and class rooms everywhere. Your keen insight and ability to express the research and thoughts has improved over the years, succinct .interesting,and timely. Thanks for sharing with us even when we are retired “from the job” as we say in the east.

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    1. Michael, thanks for sharing this tragic story. This sadly is an example of “unintended consequences.” But compassion requires us to take action. What can be done in such a situation? How can the officer now be helped? What about future situations in which the present policy should NOT be followed?

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  4. Hello,

    I work for a training and advocacy organization called Strategies for Youth, which works to improve police/youth interactions and reduce disproportionate minority contact. I stumbled upon this blog and am very interested in learning more about your experiences and insights, as well as telling you a little bit about Strategies for Youth. Given my quick read of your blog, I think you’d find our work interesting. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this further. Thank you, and I hope to hear from you soon!

    Best, Paige

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  5. Mr. Couper,
    I am not surprised that police officers or former police officers do not support outside review of complaints about police. My experience concerning internal review has changed the way I look at police. I had a police officer lie in court to protect someone that assaulted me… That the police should be allowed to self-investigate is absolutely adverse to the rights of citizens to have fair government. I have seen many good police officers and have seen bad police officers… I had a local police officer, who had 20 years on the force, tell me that it is usual for officers to lie in court. To all good police officers, I want to thank you for your loyal service to the community and our country.
    God Bless America

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      1. I agree. But some do. I unfortunately worked with them in my early years on the street. We knew who they were and we tried to avoid them. Sadly, the mistakes of the 5% are the ones our citizens remember.

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  6. I received an email about ordering your book for the holidays but I received the following error code: “The following discount code(s) did not apply and must be removed: PVGUDCW4”. HELP! I would love to have this book for me and my command staff. 🙂

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    1. Jim, thanks for this. I will take the liberty of quoting a piece from your conclusion to your important article: A disciplined commitment to team analysis of error can lay the foundation in criminal justice or realizing the new ideal of continuous quality improvement that is transforming the culture of contemporary medicine.” And that’s what this blog is mostly all about — “continuous quality improvement.”

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  7. Read your response to article on Policeone.com. You can see my comments there in response. At first I thought you were trolling but after coming to your website believe that you were trying to start the road to problem solving. Your bio is interesting I really appreciate you going into the ministry. Going from a minister of justice to a minister for men. I believe in police and mayoral accountability.

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  8. Please. Excuse me. Thank you. 99% human relations can result in just 1% enforcement or inversely only 1% human relations results in a potential militarized “police state”
    Swap some squad cars for footwear, live in the neighborhoods you patrol and among many other things please recruit those who will serve and repel those who see law enforcement as a sanctuary for abuse and or bullying. Please measure their character ; and not just their braun / brains.

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  9. I hope that you are the author af the Fish and chips and the other adventures book. I have read this book for my ENG class and I have to write about you like when and where you were born and I can´t find this informations. Can you please answer me?

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  10. here’s a great video where ex cop eric potts addresses fb police academy graduates who think they understand police procedure. he addresses the texas pool party incident .

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    1. I would not call this a great video in terms of how police should behave. I would be calling Mr Potts in for some counseling if he worked for me. This is ONE way of policing that he suggests. It unfortunately works, but there is a better way and that is what I am prescribing on this blogsite. A little too much for me and not the style of policing I once train others to follow and which I led…

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  11. I’m so glad I found your wordpress and that you’re leading a panel at La Casa de Maria in January in Santa Barbara, CA. I became heavily involved in the Baltimore riots as some of my friends were advocating violence and I was trying to dialogue between minorities and police so that both could achieve their objectives peacefully as much as possible. My “adopted Dad” is a retired LAPD police officer and I worked closely with police when I worked in residence life for Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles, CA. I was very concerned about the issues minorities were facing and the backlash against police departments that occurred during the riots and afterwards. There has to be a better way! I think you have it. After that experience, I gradually discerned a call to enter Catholic religious life after recovering from anxiety and depression due to workplace bullying. I am beginning two years of volunteer corps service with the Catholic Sisters in San Antonio, Texas, before entering my religious community in CA. I hope to become a police chaplain so that I can provide spiritual care to the public involved in emergencies and to police officers who might talk to a chaplain but may be unwilling to talk to psych. I’m also on the board for a new non-profit, Boots Up! that will provide additional services to veterans re-entering civilian life and the workforce, and I look forward to becoming a peer advocate for people with mental health issues through NAMI. I have an MA degree in Ethics from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA, and I’m also a disability advocate who has a disability and mental health issues. I look forward to learning more about your work!

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    1. Bless you, julia, for the course your life is taking you — service to others! We have some major issues to overcome in this country with regard to our police. It will take passionate and committed men and women to bring about the changes that are needed. Happy to know you are part of the solution. Press on!

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  12. Hi, My name is Leah Leone. I have an online radio show entitled Life, Love, No Chaser. You can look up the show on blogtalkradio.com/lifelovenochaser to get a feel for the type of shows we do. It’s a relationship show but we also deal with topics of the day to inform and enlighten society.

    On this Wednesday at 3 pm were doing a show called “Police Lives Matter”. We need at least one or two police officers, active or retired, to come on the show and talk about what a police officer’s life is like in the streets. We want to hear about your dangerous situations and encounters, how some officers do experience ptsd and trauma, are not always racist or being harassing. We want you to share what your perspective or feelings are when dealing with the public at large. This show is meant to restore understanding, to show police in another much more positive light and to restore relations and respect on the side of the officer and the public.

    If you or someone you know would be willing to do the interview on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 at 3 pm eastern, 12 noon pacific. It’s a call in remote interview via phone. Please write me back. You can speak anonymously if you prefer.

    Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

    Leah

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  13. I applaud you for the excellent work you are doing here! Please consider adding a link to my petition on your blog. ipetition.com/city-of-midland-police-need-better-training! Thank you. Together we can create better communities!

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    1. Thanks, Becky, the correct link is: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/city-of-midland-police-need-better-training/?utm_medium=social
      After reading the petition it could be used in most communities. See what the St Louis County (M0) county exec is doing about standardization of police services (especially in light of the Missouri law restricting the amount of revenue municipalities can extract from traffic fines! These two sites are worth perusing:

      http://www.callnewspapers.com/Articles-Our-Town-i-2015-10-21-280173.112112-Stenger-proposes-minimum-police-standards-legislation.html
      http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2015/10/20/3713968/ferguson-charlack-police-consolidation/

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  14. I grew up in Madison WI. And I will forever hold the highest professional and personal respects. For this man. And his tenor as Chief of the Madison police dept.
    Thank you, David.
    Peter B. Wyoming.

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  15. Chief,
    I just finished your book. What really touched me is how much I have said many of the same things, and yet am often ostracized and criticized for amongst some of my peers for my views. I entered law enforcement 22 years ago. I had a majority of my college degree (in the liberal arts field of history none the ness) by the time I entered the force. I needed to go back and finish my undergrad degree while on the job. Which was an absolutely wonderful experience. At that time, I was policing the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the Ohio State University at night and sitting in a classroom with students during the day. I still remember the looks I got when I walked into class after attending court, still in my uniform, from both the professor and the students. That experience forced them to see me in a different light, just as I was seeing them differently as a student also.
    Fast forward 20- years. I am a defensive tactics instructor, a field training officer and recruit level instructor for my department. All of these experiences reinforce my belief that the four year college degree is one of the most critical parts of a resume we need to look for when recruit new officers. I get the argument all the time, what about a guy who isn’t cut out for college and goes into the military instead. Of course, what I want to say is that if college wasn’t for you, what makes you think being a police office will be. My reply, however, was that I understand that, but military and college are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, I paid for my college through enlisting in the Army Reserves and served throughout my college career. The other side is that in the military, especially the combat arms, the us versus them mentality starts. When we rely too much on military experience then law enforcement becomes poisoned with that mentality.
    I also recently completed my maters degree in criminal justice where I learned to look at policing in a new light. I now find myself asking, what empirical studies were conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of law enforcement policies? If none were done, then either we shouldn’t do this or better yet let’s study it to see if it really is effective.
    I am now awaiting my imminent promotion to sergeant ( yes….after over 20 years on the department and leaving a cushy high school resource job on first shift and weekends off). I am grabbing everything I can find about leadership and new ways of doing police work. I would like to thank you for your book. I don’t feel like I’m out there with my thinking of how to develop progressive policing for the future. I plan on utilizing what I learned to move forward with the next part of my career.

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    1. Frederick, thanks for the comments and best wished on moving into formal leadership (you already know about informal leadership!). We have a major struggle out there and unless we move beyond those four obstacles I mention (anti-intellectualism, violence, corruption and disrespect) we will continue to wallow in the swamp lands. Press on. I encourage you to become the leader with whom your heart is very familiar). Let me know how it goes.

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    1. Glad you like the site. I am sure the gift ideas on this link would be very helpful to late Santas, but probably not in keeping with the direction of this blog. Thanks and have a happy Holiday!

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  16. Please consider the importance of a schooled citizenry. Our worst 3% are responsible for the trouble, and they are the school drop-outs. We need Charter Schools of study cells where the defiant truant bullies can self-train from video academics, counseling and career choices, 24/7, beginning at age 10, 5th grade.

    May I send you a copy of ‘School and Prison Reform’? (mailing address?) Len, Ph.D. retired chemist

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  17. Hello! I am writing a research paper on the external and internal influences that police officers have to face. I was hoping to ask you a few questions. I have sent a survey to my parents police departments but I am looking for a wider array of information. My email is Catie.elam36@gmail.com

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