Why supporting the police is a must.

Is there a connection between the indictment of police officers in Baltimore and recent spikes in urban violence?  That was the gist of the question asked of me yesterday by Fox Connecticut’s news reporter, Louisa Moller.  The mere fact that the question is being asked by a television reporter tells me that the connection is being made outside of law enforcement. As I told Ms. Moller, I do not know of any direct correlation between the two. CNN, however, in a May 26th article, has sources making a connection between an alleged Baltimore police slowdown – a supposed consequence of the arrests of police officers in the Freddie Gray incident – and one of the most dangerous months in that city in nearly 15 years.

For police leaders, arguing this cause and effect, real or imagined, will not solve the issue. But leading police departments from a perspective of certainty and support can make a difference.

Let’s start with certainty. Certainty goes beyond words; it is the establishment of a clear understanding in the mind of all police employees regarding what is truly expected of them, and then using motivational principles to increase the likelihood of recurrence. Too many police departments struggle with mixed messages being delivered to line officers. Rewarding officers with preferred assignments based on their arrest productivity is an example.  This is the opposite of a slowdown, and at face value may seem desirable. It is, however, counter to the true community policing objective of preventing crimes so that arrests occur less frequently.  This mixed message can have an officer moving toward that which gets rewarded instead of that which is most desirable.

As for support, I have never known of a more complicated time in law enforcement.  Police leaders expect their officers to take risks to keep the public safe, to be stoic in the face of vocal protesters, to be empathetic to a lost child, to be strong when investigating carnage, and to be the public’s reassurance that good will prevail over evil. If you have ever worked for an unsupportive leader you know how difficult it can be to be successful without their support. Today’s police leaders must walk the tightrope of reassuring the public that their concerns are appreciated and understood while being deliberate in showing their police officers that they are also appreciated, understood, and supported.

Despite the relentless media coverage of anti-police demonstrations and countless calls for the police to build trust, the majority of U.S citizens are not discontent with their police.  As evidence, an April 2015 poll commissioned by Accenture found that 85% of Americans ‘said they are generally satisfied with their local police services”.

Simply put, police officers are not an option, because without them we will have a societal collapse. So then the proper course is to strive for professionalism. To achieve that objective police officers should receive unambiguous direction, sufficient training to meet the rapid changes and an ongoing demonstration of support for their contributions as they face adversity.

A slow down by police is unacceptable, but so is a lack of support.

 

Public Rates Police Ethics Higher than Politicians and Reporters

As it turns out, those who have been yelling the loudest for the police to build trust with the community would be well served to work on their own trust perception.  Especially when they see how the public views their professions as compared to the police profession.

The polling company Gallup has been asking a sampling of the American public to rate the honesty and ethics of numerous professions since 1976.  I will admit, the police profession took a hit in this category in late 2014 compared to late 2013, but police still fare much better than many.

Gallup asked this question of their sampling:

Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields — very high, high, average, low, or very low?

The latest “high/very high” percentages for a variety of professions are:

  • Police Officers 48%
  • Journalists 24%
  • Local Office Holders 23%
  • Lawyers 21%
  • Newspaper Reporters 21%
  • State Governors 20%
  • TV Reporters 20%
  • State Office Holders 14%
  • Senators 14%
  • Members of Congress 7%

Now 48% should not allow the police profession to rest on its laurels. But a closer look at what Gallup found showed that when you added the other honesty and ethics ratings for police: Average (31), Low (12), Very Low (8) and No Opinion (1); the negative rating in this category for the police profession is 20%. In a profession that too often encounters individuals at low points in their life and often has to make unpopular choices, a 20% negative rating is not bad.  Of course, I and many others would like to see that negative rating get to zero.  Fortunately, that distance is much closer than the media would have many believe.

Ironically, despite the police being repeatedly highlighted as the profession that needs to build trust, they are actually rated by the public as having double the honesty and ethics – arguably, a fair indicator of trustworthiness – over those professions who are demanding or reporting the need for that trust building.

Makes me wonder if we are asking the right profession to wear body cameras.

The source for this information can be found at:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx

As true today as it was 52 years ago

Proclamation 3537 – Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week

May 4, 1963

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Whereas, from the beginning of this Nation, law enforcement officers have played an important role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution and in protecting the lives and property of our citizens; and

Whereas, through constant application of new procedures and techniques, such officers are becoming more efficient in their enforcement of our laws; and

Whereas it is important that our people know and understand the problems, duties, and responsibilities of their police departments and the necessity for cooperating with them in maintaining law and order; and

Whereas it is fitting and proper that we express our gratitude for the dedicated service and courageous deeds of law enforcement officers and for the contributions they have made to the security and well-being of all our people; and

Whereas, by a joint resolution approved October 1, 1962 (76 Stat. 676), the Congress has requested the President to designate May 15 of each year as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week during which such May 15 occurs as Police Week:

Now, Therefore, I, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate May 15, 1963, and May 15 of each succeeding year, as Peace Officers Memorial Day, in honor of those peace officers who, through their courageous deeds, have lost their lives or have become disabled in the performance of duty.

I also designate the week of May 12 through May 18, 1963, and the calendar week during which May 15 occurs of each succeeding year, as Police Week, in recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, protect us through enforcement of our laws.

I invite State and local governments, patriotic, civic, and educational organizations, and the people of the United States generally, to observe Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week in this year and each succeeding year with appropriate ceremonies in which all our people may join in commemorating law enforcement officers, past and present, who by their faithful and loyal devotion to their responsibilities have rendered a dedicated service to their communities, and, in so doing, have established for themselves an enviable and enduring reputation for preserving the rights and security of all citizens.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this fourth day of May in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-seventh.

Why I post

I have been immersed in policing since birth. I lived it as the son of a NYPD police officer (and later a police sergeant), the nephew of police officers, the cousin of police officers, the neighbor of police officers and eventually as a police officer myself.  I then also lived it as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and assistant chief. I now live it as a police leadership instructor and police chief coach.

This blog is not about the ranks, it is about the cops. Regardless of the rank, there is commonality in the oath, the wearing of a badge, and the purpose of protecting and serving. The ranks exist to serve the cops, not vice versa.

In this blog I will share my thoughts and experiences on how we need to support our police officers so that they can do the incredibly difficult, often thankless, and way-too-often second-guessed job of keeping law abiding citizens safe from the depraved and violent citizens who live among us. You will see that I am unabashedly pro-cop.

My vision in creating this blog is that the words of support for police officers – words that others should also be saying but are not – are heard by those in the public, media, politics, and policing who need to hear them most.

Ultimately I want every person who chooses to put themselves in harm’s way by serving as a police officer to once again know that they are revered as “The Finest”, because they are.

God bless our police officers.

 

Welcome

To those of you who have been following Finest’s for the past 10+ years, welcome to our updated website.  In our commitment to keep current as we assist you, we have freshened the website and added new resources as we continue to help law enforcement professionals like you Lead, Influence, and Achieve.

Aside from the new look, the blog is also back.  So check back often to see what is going on in the world of law enforcement leadership.

Thanks for being a loyal follower!

-Bill Reilly