We have all thought it. “Why didn’t the suspect/subject/innocent person just comply with the officer’s orders or commands?

If people would just do what the officers says…”

When we have this belief, we are doing some things that create problems in our effective resolution and interaction with people in high stress situations. When we express disbelief and incredulity, we put unreasonable expectations on people and remove accountability from the most accountable people in the scenario; the police officer.

Accountability

It should be no stretch to presume that police officers are, or should be, the most accountable people in any situation they find themselves. By virtue of their role in society, they must hold themselves accountable before they can effectively hold others accountable to their actions. If the embodiment of our laws, criminal justice, and judicial system can’t operate with an almost unimpeachable level of accountability, how can they adequately serve as role models for, and administrators of, our justice system?

I don’t say this in some sanctimonious, holier-than-thou way. I say this in all honesty. LEOs must require utmost accountability from themselves. And really, we can stop there. We don’t need to expect accountability from anyone else. When we have the expectations that the people we deal with daily or repetitively, will hold themselves accountable, or make solid positive decisions and live according to society’s mores and customs, we start to not make sense.

Expectations

Law enforcement exists, literally, because some people cannot abide by the law. Some people cannot make good decisions that contribute to the smooth functioning of society. Why, then, do we expect drug addicted, intoxicated, mentally unstable people to make the same quality of decisions we make?

Too often we put our belief system, our values, experiences, and knowledge on others. This is our mistake. We expect that everyone has, or should have, the same perspective we do. This condition has been amplified by social media. We also determine that if people do not think exactly the way we do, they are different. And different now means wrong, or not as worthy.

This sense of superiority causes us to place more responsibility for being accountable on the other person than we put on ourselves. We place higher expectations for good decision making and appropriate action on a drunk, stoned, mentally unbalanced, career bad decision maker than we place on ourselves. And we are the ones who have been raised, been trained, and work continuously to be great decision makers.

We see this dysfunctional paradigm show itself when police officers use obviously inappropriate or excessive force, and then others in law enforcement try to defend the poor actions. If we change the way we view ourselves, and those who we interact with, we will increase our safety (physical, emotional, and financially) while improving our performance, and building and strengthening public trust.

What to Do

First, we must hold only ourselves accountable. We do not and cannot know the value system or morals of anyone else. We also can only be models for accountability, not judges. In any instance, I can only show, illustrate, and demonstrate what accountability looks like.

Second, we need to stop expecting people who cannot manage their own lives, or who think victimizing others is acceptable to make good decisions that benefit society. They will not. They cannot. This is why we have jobs.

When we can realize and acknowledge that a portion of the people we deal with do not know how to make good decisions, be accountable, or act responsibly, we will stop having expectations of them. This is when we will better utilize our values, experiences, skills, and abilities to motivate them into good decision making. Even if it is only for the moment when they realize it is better to “just comply with the officer”.