I want to send a message to you frontline guardians. Stay Strong. The community needs you. The community wants to trust in you. That is why they are so upset. There is a great emotional turmoil in them, wanting to completely believe law enforcement is there to protect them, and witnessing the exact opposite in event after event. It is like watching a parent who is 99% wonderful, caring, attentive, and providing, then 1% extremely abusive.
You all know you took the oath of office to do what is right. You also know there is an element that has infiltrated policing that does not represent the character, integrity and accountability that are the cornerstones of policing. You also know that those people are difficult to remove, because of many cumbersome policies and constraints. I would tell you all to stay strong in your efforts and convictions, you see the success of your efforts in your communities You see it in the people who do wave at you with all fingers, who do tell you how much they appreciate you. I would also like to offer a couple suggestions to help increase that number. It is no more effort than you put in each day; just perhaps in a different way of interacting.
Think of a group or demographic of your community who you do not interact with, except in enforcement situations. You only speak or communicate with this/these groups when investigating a crime, writing a ticket, some sort of enforcement action. Or pick a group you are not comfortable being around. Maybe you just don’t feel you have anything in common or you perceive they do not like you, because or your job. Now make a conscious effort to communicate with those groups in a routine, purely social manner. Even a small gesture like saying hi and starting a quick conversation over something important to them, could be the opening to a change of mind, attitude, and heart by both of you.
When we interact with each other as humans, we activate our instinctive need for connection and socialization. We are social creatures. If we were not, we wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have marriages, unions, or partnerships. We wouldn’t live in communities. We desire to have positive interaction and relationships with others. We just often have a hard time because of our deep seeded fear of rejection or judgement. Think of hoe you go into interactions with strangers who you perceive see police in a negative light. If you go in totally open and without a measure of guarding, you are very enlightened and need to market your skills and knowledge. I know I had trouble being open and not assuming a defensive posture when I thought someone was going to be negative to me.
Be willing to have a tough conversation with someone. If you come across someone who is obviously antipolice, talk to them. And don’t argue, ask questions. Ask them why they believe what they do. Most likely it is because of a lack of interaction, or self-created negative interactions that become self-fulfilling prophecies. I used to think to myself that I would not give a cop hater the satisfaction of proving them right in assuming I was an ass and would be rude to them. I know what I am and what I am not, and won’t allow myself to be defined by anyone, let alone a person of inadequate social interaction skills. I own my interactions.
I know you are professionals. I know the quality of people you are. Most of you I have had direct contact with during schools and trainings. I want the public to know what kind of humans, day and night, are out there standing guard over them as they sleep, watch their children play sports, and live a life carefree of rampant personal violence. But I cannot be everywhere.
I give you these little tips to help you promote yourself. I learned early in my career that nobody was really going to sing my praises or do my public relations for me. I had to do them myself. If I made a mistake, everyone would let me know and happily drag my name through the mud. But I had to promote the good. I learned how to do it in small amounts, like eating an elephant; one bite at a time.
The elephant in the room today is bad policing. It is there, it is overwhelming, and it is not going anywhere on its own. We must get rid of it by reminding the public of the quality concern and service provided by the vast majority of police officers. We must consume that elephant through our appetite for community steward and guardianship.
If each of us each takes one small bite the elephant will gone in no time.
Train smart, stay safe, be better