A fundamental principle of Leadership is that leaders ask the right questions, at the right time, the right way and for the right reasons that will inspire and challenge others to be and do more than they thought possible. Another fundamental principle of Leadership is that leaders DO the right thing, at the right time, the right way and for the right reasons. Both principles apply to the police-community relations dialogue.
Danger. Duty. Distrust. These are three words that accurately describe the everyday life of a cop: on and off duty. The danger and duty of protecting and serving seems to come with the job. Many people told me over my 26 year career, “I could never be a cop.” I attributed that sentiment to the fact they never heard the call to live a life of danger and duty that comes with being a law enforcement officer. For others, it is an inherent distrust, almost hatred, of police officers. The Us versus Them attitude is very real, and sadly, many times a two way street.
Warrior, Servant, Leader. Three words citizens do not typically associate with cops. You hear the word COP and most people picture a guy in uniform, gun, badge, and handcuffs arresting someone or racing down the street with lights and siren screaming, “get out of my way!” If you are stopped by a cop, you secretly say to yourself, “Why is he harassing me?” If you need a cop, one is never around. If you are a cop, some days you wish “being stupid” was a crime so you could take everyone you meet to jail. Us versus Them.
Cops are dying at the hands of citizens. Officer involved shootings and pursuits are resulting in the deaths of citizens. Citizens are afraid, confused or at least numb to the state of police-community relations. Cops are circling the wagons and hunkering down from the onslaught of criticism, law suits and attacks from many corners of society that they have sworn to protect and serve.
Everyone wants, even wishes, things to be better. Us versus Them stands in the way. What can one agency, one community, one person do? Frankly, they can do a lot. And it all begins with with asking the right
questions and doing the right things - at the right time, the right way and for the right reasons.