Associate Magazine-Jan/Mar 2021

Continued from "The Last One", on page 9

if they don’t always get it right. Do you get it right 100% of the time? If you aren’t perfect, don’t you want a little slack? Extend the same courtesy to others. Use the media to tell your side of the story, and don’t tell me that isn’t possible – it absolutely is possible. You are neither superheroes nor scum, and do not listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. Excessive praise is as dangerous as excessive criticism. At the core, you are simply dedicated but normal men and women trying to do a difficult and demanding job. Here is a nugget of wisdom from that three weeks of basic police training that has stayed with me for more than 50 years: Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously at all. You do important work in society, but that doesn’t make you important, special, or above others. On the flip side, adopting a bunker mentality or feeling sorry for yourself are self-defeating behaviors. The world is not arrayed against you, but the world does have high expectations for you. If you find yourself wallow- ing in self-pity, maybe it’s time to find a new occupation. Feel like you have a target on your back? For a little perspec- tive, study the history of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the Police Service of Northern Ireland) during the period of The Troubles from 1969 to 1998 and beyond. In a force about the size of Chicago PD, 300 officers were murdered in that 30 years, by IED and VBIED, military style ambushes, mortar attacks on police stations, and assassination in front of their wives and children as they left church on Sunday morning. Members did not tell their own young kids what they did for a living because of the risk of that detail leaking to the criminal element. In this era of hyper partisanship, be rigidly neutral in your public and private persona. I swore an oath to support and defend the United States Constitution, not a party, a philosophy, or a person. When law enforcement is co-opted to serve as an instrument of political power, a police state is looming. I don’t want to live in a police state, and I cannot see any difference be- tween a socialist police state (the Soviet Union) and a fascist one (Nazi Germany). Sadly, neither one could have existed without the willing cooperation of law enforcement. Protesting and rioting are not the same thing. This is a country that was founded on protest intended to be offensive and even outrageous. We wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today if it weren’t for people willing to risk everything for lofty principles, whether in the 1770’s or the 1970’s. In the beginning, I made mention of the beating of John Lewis by state troopers. If you were paying attention when he recently passed away, you saw one of the defining images of po- licing in the mid-60’s, and it was not a pretty picture. In another half-century, I fear the defining image of our profession from 2020 will be of George Floyd’s dying moments. I’m not convinced that my own teenage granddaughters don’t look at me with a little bit of skepticism, given what they have seen of policing in the last 5-10 years. It doesn’t have to be that way. Look at these trying times as an opportunity to advance and strengthen the profession of policing, just as happened during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Policing came out of that era far better than it entered, and it can and

My perspective has always been that law enforcement is first and foremost a service business. It attracts people moti- vated to help other people. Enforcement of laws is only one of a multitude of services we provide. In many communities, the emphasis may tilt toward enforcement over other services; in others, service over enforcement. In the end, though, it is largely all the same and it is why most of us were drawn to the job. Policing is under fire today, much as it was fifty years ago. Some of the criticism is way too overbroad, defining cops as the root of all social ills, but you must admit that some of that criti- cism stems from self-inflicted wounds. We have done it to our- selves. As Houston Chief Art Acevedo reminded us during the NAA virtual conference recently, the court of public opinion matters. Much of what is taken for granted in policing today is a direct result of the last generation of police reform. Education, training, diversity in the ranks, community policing, and greater accountability all owe their current state to the upheaval of a half-century ago that marked the early days of my career. For one simple example, consider the hundreds of hours of basic academy, months of field training, and annual retraining require- ments that new officers need today. How well would my three weeks of basic police training serve now? And that followed my hiring process of a written application and two interviews! We live in an era of sound bites and video everywhere. Some of that is helpful – doorbell cams and commercial security systems are wonderful tools in crime-fighting. An awful lot is shallow, short-lived, and unhelpful, even misleading. Sound bite police reform is a losing cause. “Defund the police” and “abolish the police” make great slogans, but they will not accomplish worthwhile ends. That stuff simply does not sustain itself. Conservative opinion writer David Brooks points out that lasting change comes from “radical conservatives” who don’t look to change the world overnight, but who constantly move the needle. Even the Rev. Al Sharpton said recently that defunding the police was a crazy idea! Do not let such slogans keep you awake at night. How well did CHAZ do in Seattle? Still, it was probably wise to strongly argue against it and then step back and let it occur so the cold hard reality of the experiment would show itself. Using civilians to enforce traffic laws and investigate traffic crashes will probably not work out either, with some equally tragic results, but we can only go so far in discouraging wild-eyed ideas. At the same time, are there benefits for the profession? Wouldn’t it be nice to pass off to professional social services the routine dealing with the mentally ill and the homeless, which fall into our laps because others can’t or won’t handle such prob- lems? Be open to change, not threatened by it. Not all wild-eyed ideas are without merit. Make sure you keep the moral high ground. Do not let your emotions cause you to push the envelope into even a little bit of excessive force. Do not decide to “de-police” communities where you feel unwelcome because “If they don’t want us, they deserve what’s coming to them.” Doing any such thing simply plays into negative stereotypes or worse. Most people support you and admire you for doing a job they can’t do or shouldn’t do. The community is not your enemy; the media is not your enemy even

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