Officer, What’s Your Future?

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I would like to hear what police officers today think about their future. What is their vision of it? How difficult will it be to attain it?

To “prime the pump” here’s how I see the future for police. One I recently wrote (2012) and the second one I wrote in 1990:

“MY VISION FOR POLICE is that they can be fair, effective and humanitarian. They can protect our civil rights, work with a variety of people, and take arrested persons into custody with a minimum amount of force…

“The way police throughout the world will be judged in the future is how well they perform as both peacekeeper and protector…

“[Therefore,] the goal in a free society is to select and train police who are educated, well-trained and led, restrained in their use of force, honest, courteous to every person, and closely in touch with the community they serve.”

(From my book “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police.”)

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The next piece was something I wrote nearly a quarter of a century ago. It still is my dream about what policing should be in our society. The first of the seven improvement steps I address in “Arrested Development” is about visioning — casting a bold vision.

As a police officer, what is your vision? Is it bold? Is it breath-taking?

What is that to which you aspire?

 A Note From a Cop in the Future

“Comparing Two Positions on the Future of American Policing” 

American Journal of Police, Vol. ix, no. 3, 1990.

“[Years ago,] the American police took some bold steps to assess what their role and relationships with the people they serve would be in the [future]… “One of their major decisions was to ‘demilitarize’ the police and decentralize them into small team-oriented work units in their city’s neighborhoods.  They identified the citizens as ‘customers’ and developed methods to listen to them and be responsive to their needs.  Over the previous 100 years, the police had become increasingly centralized, authoritarian and hierarchical.  This led to continuing problems with their communities and a major decrease in the quality of their personnel…”

“There came to be a struggle among the traditionalists who saw police work as it had always been.  They saw police work as a linear extension of the last century.

“The new police saw the need to radically change their past orientation and get closer to, and work more closely with, the communities they served… These new police were out in front of that massive change [the shift from an industrial to an information age] and were not caught unaware and unprepared to deal with the issues and conflicts that change brought.  We owe our success today to those forward-thinking police leaders…

“Our organization seems much more comfortable and effective than those I have read about in the last century.  The paramilitary ‘trappings’ of the past century have fallen by the wayside.  We have, of course, a uniform and identifiable mode of dress, but not the military style uniform.  I usually wear a blazer with department emblem… There are no rank symbols and we address each other on a first name basis, from the newest employee up to the police director…

“I read that one of the things that troubled last century’s police was the on-going tension between police with a ‘social worker’ orientation and those with a ‘crime fighter’ bent.  For the most part, that has vanished today.  We see ourselves as community workers and organizers with a variety of tools and strategies (including arrest) at our disposal.  We actively serve as mediators, negotiating settlements of all kinds and sorts of community problems.  These conflicts range from problems between people regarding lifestyles, pollution, marital property disputes and other family discord…

“Our job today is to maintain community order within a human rights framework.  I guess you could realistically call us peacekeepers and protectors of the Bill of Rights…

“What I like most about my job is the teamwork, honesty, and trust that goes on among all of the police specialists in the district and within the department (and this includes our leaders, too!).  We brainstorm solutions and select the best known method to do business.  We are committed to constant, continuous improvement — forever.  I feel that I am doing an extremely important job and my neighborhood appreciates it.  I guess you could call it keeping the peace in [my city] with a maximum amount of problem solving and a minimum amount force…” (492 words)

[“Comparing Two Positions on the Future of American Policing,” American Journal of Police, Vol. ix, no. 3, 1990, p. 165-69.]

These are the primary elements of my vision for police:

Close to the community, community collaboration, community worker and organizer, continuous improver, controlled in the use of force, decentralized, unconditionally honest, deep listener, peacekeeper, protector, personally responsible, problem-solver, respectful, responsive, and trusting and supportive work atmosphere.

What’s your dream for policing?

— Please take some time and comment on this blog.

— (And try to keep your response under 500 words).

(Remember, Mark Twain once apologized for writing a long letter because he did not have time to write a shorter one!)