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It's Time To Look In The Mirror & Not The Window
I’ve had the honor for many years to teach thousands of law enforcement professionals in multiple states and countries and that interaction has given me a window into emerging trends or pending disasters that may be coming to the profession.
The chaos in the profession has come so suddenly, many cops are confused as to what happened and when.
How did this occur?
The answer I often hear is the media, politicians, or activists.
While none of those entities have been helpful to the profession, none of those are the reason many of us have seen a decline within the profession.
When I began the profession three decades ago, we had all of those elements to navigate.
The media did what they did…lie or misinform.
Politicians did what they did…lie, promise, and lie again.
And the activists did what they do today…scream, misinform, and ask for donations.
While it’s true that social media has exacerbated all of that, we are making a mistake if we keep blaming others for our issues.
Weak Leaders Blame Others While Courageous Leaders Own It!
The difference today is that those third parties entities, that have no desire to participate in our mission of crime reduction, had no power to effect disastrous change on the profession years ago because we had leadership.
Leaders would never permit the media to lie about their organization because they would recognize the damage that does to community trust and officer morale. That lie would be immediately challenged in a public fashion and that reporter, and news director (that failed to vet the lie) would no longer have a participating police department to conduct stories with unless they retracted and apologized.
Leaders would have never allowed a citizen to walk into internal affairs, make up a lie, and then put the officer through months of stress with pending discipline.
Leaders would have never let politicians use their organization for votes while publicly defaming law enforcement in order to cater to a small voting block.
Leaders would understand the important role that community activists have and they would work with them but as soon as those same activists began to lie, smear, and defame, that relationship would be over and leaders would tell the public exactly wh they are and what they represent.
The profession saw crime plummet in the 90’s and I had a front row seat to it. Unlike what the lying entities I mentioned above have said in recent years, that crime reduction had nothing to do with what they called a “racist” federal crime bill that did not apply to local law enforcement. Crime was reduced because law enforcement actually “enforced” local crime ordinances and leaders in the profession understood that their main goal was fighting crime and not placating to a bunch of liars.
Leaders focused on their actual job of crime reduction rather than dancing in the circus of reform, apology and politics.
Leaders paid attention to what mattered and that wasn’t the training flavor of the month, the fancy words that IACP wanted in a policy, or the unintelligible screams coming from a crazy person in a council meeting.
Facts took precedence over emotion.
Reducing crime outweighed some feel good program or technology.
Leaders led and law enforcement knew that they had free reign to do their job.
Cowards of the Day
Leaders can say that was then and this is now but that is also a lie. Safety is not political and regardless of who anyone votes for, citizens want a safe community and law enforcement is the only entity tasked with giving them that.
So it’s time that the silly reform games end. The law enforcement should constantly reform but if those reforms don’t improve community and officer safety, they should be thrown in the trash along with the weak and simple minded leaders behind them.
I completely understand that there is a cottage industry of weak leaders that tout their reforms and move from city to city destroying the safety of those that reside there and while that is not going away anytime soon, we, as a profession, can wholeheartedly reject that as law enforcement and call it exactly what it is.
The Tipping Point
The law enforcement profession is at a tipping point and if we don’t decide to get this right quickly, what we see across the country today will become the new normal tomorrow.
Leaders…it’s your choice. You can be part of something greater or you can be part of the same problem that got us in this current situation.
Officers…it’s also your choice. You can continue to waste your time and risk your life working for a coward, or you can find leadership that values who you are, what you do, and what you stand for.
It’s time that we stop looking out the window and blaming others for our issues and look in the mirror at what we have either done or permitted with our silence.
It’s time to lead with courage!
Dr. Travis Yates retired as a commander with a large municipal police department after 30 years of service. He is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.