Law enforcement is a very difficult and personally taxing career. We make it harder on ourselves, by creating problems for ourselves such as violating people’s rights, using “unreasonable and excessive force”, speeding to calls for service, and other generally stupid behavior. These behaviors cost us because the governments (federal/state) create new case law, which impacts our jobs, and impact many.
Take, for example the supposed large -cale incident LAPD Rampart Division scandal, in which Rafael Perez and his C.R.A.S.H. partners clearly violated people’s rights. The Los Angeles Police Department was forced to reduce and limit actions of the C.R.A.S.H unit. Ultimately, they had to change the unit, causing more focusing more attentionon to officers who work undercover. Specifically, there is a West Coast initiative that would require any officer working undercover to disclose personal/financial information. This behavior and actions of Rafael Perez might have occurred, but if the LAPD had strong self governance, it is doubtful.
In Dov Seidman’s How (2007) he mentions that most employers spend 98% of their time on 2% of the problem employees. Yet there are still problems from that 2%. Anecdotally supervisors say they spend 80% of their time on 20% of the people/problems. Why don’t we change that and spend 80% of our time on 80% of the people that are doing the right thing and focus 20% of our energy on working with that remaining 20%.
Spending supervisory time wisely starts off with appropriate selection and recruitment of the right person, who is going to do the “right thing at the right time for the right reasons” (Westfall). What if we could get away from managing/leading the few and focus resources appropriately on people that we trust? Do you think that Perez was one of those 2 or 20%? Do you think he was surrounded by ethical partners, who followed the core LAPD values, or who followed Peels Nine Principles? Law enforcement starts and ends with trust.
In reviewing Sir Roberts Peels Principles which date back to the 1800’sm, there were four tenets/beliefs that dealt with law enforcement and trust, they included as noted by Frazier (2007);
(1)The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions. (2) Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public. (3)Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law. (4)The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force. (p.3).
The community must trust law enforcement but, Sir Robert Peel apparently does not effectively deal with the issues of police officers “trusting” each other. The IACP created a report that states “Every day, tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel throughout the United States perform honorable and conscientious police work, but irreparable damage may be done to the entire profession from even one remote story of police misconduct or corruption” (p.3).
This report specifically deals with the chief executive on how they should manage public perceptions of trust. It goes on to suggest how to establish internal affairs policies, hiring staff, and delivery of ethics training. It goes on to further talk about “supervising” employees in a way which will build trust in the communities.
This IACP report outlines how police supervisors must “foster an environment within their departments in which ethical behavior is expected and each individual is responsible for meeting those expectations” (p.7). The IACP suggests that departments should establish more policies and procedures to regulate behavior. The IACP discusses recruiting, training, and educating officer candidates regarding ethics, integrity, and discretion. All the recommendations appear to be top down management and leadership. All of the strategies are well thought out,, however, more burden should be placed on the officers to regulate their own behavior, using peer pressure to indicate on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
ICAP created an effective report, but the author posits that organizations should limit policy development and start to “trust” the officers they hired. However the author is aware that there are potential flaws and huge problems. The culture needs change within any organization which wishes to get away from policies and procedures and move toward ethical self-governance.
Self-governance as described by Seidman (2007) “actually binds people together around stated values and the desire to accomplish common goals” (p.247). In reviewing Peels (1829) Principles , his 9th Priniciple states that “the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them”. The goal of any police department is to have an absence of crime and disorder. This is the tie that binds “us” in our duties, in our profession, and in our vocation.
In a self governance organization, the employees are trusted and allowed to conduct their duties in a professional manner. Although this is a new concept inlaw enforcement, this approach has been debated in business circles as an effective strategy for managing, leading and administering organizations. This is not the carrot and stick approach, this is employees being hired and given the ability to do their jobs effectively. Creating a trusting organization is a long process, one that will take many steps, and may be abandoned by organizations because it is hard work.
Based on an article by Steven Covey, IACP focused trusting behaviors down to 13 manageable actions. These 13 behaviors are exuded by high functioning leaders:
1. Honesty. Telling it like it is. No manipulating or hiding the facts.
2. Respect. Giving it to others and showing you care. It comes from the heart.
3. Make it simple. This goes along with honesty. Keep things open and real.
4. Make things right. When you are wrong, apologize. Don’t cover things up.
5. Loyalty. Don’t talk about others behind their backs. Give due credit to others.
6. Get results. Know what can be done and get it done. Enough said.
7. Grow. We all want to get better. Consider feedback.
8. Reality check. Get in the face of tough issues. Never hide.
9. Lay out expectations. Never assume they are known. Talk about them.
10. Be accountable. Hold yourself and others accountable for actions.
11. Listen. Don’t interrupt. Genuine listening builds understanding and trust.
12. Make and keep commitments. Say what you’re going to do and do what you’re going to say.
13. Always hold out the olive branch. Give trust freely. Never withhold it.
As we used Covey’s 13 traits within the law enforcement culture, we would have limited problems. We would have, as my FTO stated, “mistakes of the heart not mind”. With mistakes of the heart people believe they were or are doing the right thing, if people freely chose to make a mistake of the brain, then this is when we get into problems.
Society needs a paradigm shift, away from a rules-based policy organization to a trusting organizations. However, the transition will result in painful discipline and punishment of people who do not want to become part of the fold. Othere is a change, this change will last and make the organization more successful.
Learn more about this article here:
Fraizer, S. (2007). The Loss of public trust in law enforcement. Command College, retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://libcat.post.ca.gov/dbtw-wpd/documents/cc/40-frazier.pdf
IACP (n.d) Building Trust Between the Police and Citizens They Serve. US DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://www.theiacp.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=pjRkKQNvkPs%3d&tabid=87
IACP Trusting Building and Law Enforcement Essentials Skills and Traits for Police Part I. (n.d.) retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://blog.discoverpolicing.org/uncategorized/trust-and-policing/
Seidman D. (2007) how, Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything. Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey
Matt Stiehm was born and raised in Minnesota. He received an Educational Doctorate from Argosy University, where the focus of his research was campus safety and security. He has a Masters Degree of Criminal Justice from Central Missouri State University, with his final paper which focused on the investigation of child abuse and finally a Bachelors of Science from Wayne State College, Nebraska. He has served as a police officer in three states (CA, MN and NE), he keeps current on law enforcement trends. He currently is a member of ILEETA, MN Infragard, FBI LEEDS, an Associate Member of the IACP and the Midwestern Criminal Justice Association. If you would like to contact him you can send an email to email@example.com