A Broken Culture in Need of Repair

brokenWhen I was a young Marine, the old-timers used to tell us we were in the “new corps” (which was, of course, not as good as the “old corps” in which they served).

As a member of the “old corps of cops,” I want to tell you that things were NOT better in the past. In fact, in a lot of areas they were worse. But what troubles me today that in spite of significant improvements over the past half-century, some things have not changed and it has to do with the culture of policing. It hasn’t changed and it quickly needs to!

So, I was relieved when I read a recent article on PoliceOne.com by police trainer Brian Willis, the Deputy Executive Director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). He also serves as C.E.O. of Winning Mind Training. Brian served as a full time police officer with the Calgary Police serving from 1979 to 2004 and continues today in his role as a professional police trainer and consultant.

Brian, like me, has spent a good share of his life in the policing. I am long past training and consulting. Instead, call me a police philosopher!

Brain was Law Officer Trainer of the Year for 2011 and the editor of W.I.N.: Critical Issues in Training and Leading Warriors , W.I.N. 2: Insights Into Training and Leading Warriors, and If I Knew Then: Life Lessons From Cops on the Street.

While I retired in 1993, Brian actively continues into the present age — I just philosophize. But what Willis says about police culture is something every leader needs to know and work to change.

So I hope (and pray) that today’s police leaders (and those to come) will be committed to improving things to the point that the culture supports (and maintains) excellence and incorporate Brian’s suggested solutions.

Here are the seven reasons why Willis (and I) believe today’s police culture is broken and in need of repair:

  1. We fail to provide leadership training, and then wonder why we have a leadership void.
  2. Law enforcement in North America still operates on the mindset that the only time you get called into the boss’s office is when you are in trouble. We have a culture where we do not celebrate our daily successes and justify it by saying, “I am not going to pat you on the back for doing your job.”
  3. We will risk our lives to save a fellow officer while at the same time ignoring dangerous behaviors like driving too fast, not wearing the seatbelt, not wearing the body armor, not calling for backup and not waiting for backup.
  4. Officers are too quick to ‘eat our own’ — we tend to be highly critical of other officers’ decisions and actions with limited information.
  5. Many academies still have a culture where they believe the way to teach new recruits’ respect is to yell and scream at them and punish them with pushups or other physical activity every time they do something wrong.
  6. Trainers tend to think the key to effective training is stress. As a result, the goal of many drills is to create stress and push people outside their comfort zone.
  7. Asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness and officers are told, “If you can’t handle the stress of the job, get out of the profession.” We still sell the lie that big boys and big girls don’t cry so suck it up

How would YOU go about fixing this?

You can read about Brian’s solutions HERE.

Willis’s seven, like the four “obstacles” I mention in my book, are what ails police. Whether it is the “old” police or the “new” police — these are the cultural factors that keep policing, year after year, from being trusted and respected guardians who model the values of our society, and are, essentially, the “glue” that holds it together.

As Brian says, “It is time for the law enforcement profession to think, act, train, prepare, lead, and live differently.”


[Brian can be contacted at brian.willis@policeone.com or on his website.]