Seven Steps For Ferguson

There is a tested way to stand up and move forward...
There is a tested way to stand up and move forward…

If the people of Ferguson, Mo. are going to recover and move forward they will have to follow seven necessary steps within their police department.

It is a prescription for making a transformation.

It will not be easy, it will be costly in terms of entrenched attitudes and tax dollars. It will also take both time and persistence.

But the only way out is forward together.

Many of the large cities in America went through these changes a number of years ago. Some did better than others. And some of the changes have been eroded away during the last decades.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that cities like Ferguson can change.

They can improve if they work together. Each of the necessary steps are listed below followed by some description from my book, “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off...”

Here are the seven necessary steps that MUST be taken:

images1. ENVISION: The community must cast a bold and breathtaking vision to ensure a distinguished future for policing in their city. A modern police department today is staffed with educated, well-trained officers who are committed to control in their use of force, honesty above reproach, respectful of every citizen, and willing to work within the community and uphold the principles of our Constitution.

  • “A GOOD VISION statement should be short, bold (even breathtaking), and those hearing it for the first time should be able to clearly remember it the next day. One quickly learns, however, that this is the easiest step. In order for a vision to work, it must be shared with others whom it affects. But having something shared with you is much different than having your vision become theirs.“For leaders to have their visions become owned by others takes time and commitment. They must also have passion and persistence… If we ever learned anything about people in organizations is that to change anything takes time and commitment, passion and persistence…“If a vision is going to be sustainable and last beyond the leader who casts it, the process is as important as the product. First, police leaders are needed who are not only monomaniacs with a mission, but who are willing to stay around long enough and to suffer through the pain that inevitably comes with an organization in the process of change.“Second, there needs to be constant and on-going support by the community including elected officials—those outside the organization—to help make the vision a reality. Leaders must cast their vision outside the department as much as they do inside of it.“Third, those within the organization must know their leader is willing to engage in a process with them to develop the vision. They, too, must be willing to participate in the work to make the vision become a reality and do all that they can to operate under its direction.”

    images-12. SELECT: The city must encourage, be willing to compensate, and select the finest and the brightest to serve as their police officers. They must take immediate steps to diversify the department in terms of both race and gender.

    “IN THE NOT-SO-DISTANT past, nepotism was rampant within police departments. This was a protective response by police to make sure that those who joined them were just like them—reinforcing the subculture and the status quo. Police encouraged their friends and relatives who held the same worldview as they did to join their ranks.

    “The goal today is to continue to staff the ranks of the police with persons who reflect the community served. To a large extent, that has happened in our nation’s bigger cities. But it didn’t happen overnight. In most instances, it didn’t happen through police leadership, but by the changing color and gender of the electorate in our nation’s cities…

    “Removing the stigma of police work wasn’t easy. It took time and persistence. Other police departments can learn from this—it isn’t impossible to repair the damaged image of a police department. But it must be substantive and not just public relations work. And once it happens, the value of the effort will become clear: citizens and police both benefit from a competent, ethical, well-run police organization. There are superior relations with the community, effective problem-solving, openness, good operational decisions, and a sense of safety and well-being permeates the city.

    “A police department in America should be, at a minimum, as good as our nation’s most successful business organizations. It should develop a workplace that encourages good ideas, listens well, and is willing to receive input from both insiders and outsiders. A professional organization values diversity of its personnel and considers its diversity to be a strength, not a weakness. A department like this has little trouble attracting good people to join their ranks.”

    Unknown-23. LISTEN: Police leaders, and especially the chief, must intently listen to what their officers and members of the community are saying. And answer the question: How can we work together to build a safe, trusting, and respectful community?

    “[I held] a number of employee meetings in which I would be there not to talk, but to listen. I did so and asked each and every member of the department in these groups what they thought the biggest problem facing the department was. The answer was clear, direct, and unanimous—me. I was the problem, along with a lack of communication department-wide.

    “Those small group meetings with every employee of the department were brutal, but absolutely necessary. If I had not done it, I never would have seen my vision come to fruition. And without this scanning and listening to employees, the changes I implemented never would have lasted beyond my tenure.

    “I began to follow-up on what I had learned. I began responding to the communication problem. I did that by establishing an Officer’s Advisory Council (OAC). I committed to meeting with the council once a month and thoroughly discuss with them the things they identified as important. It was to be a 10-person council with members elected throughout the department to represent both officer and civilian ranks…

    “The OAC came to play a major role in the leadership and administration of the police department. Its members were given the responsibility for deciding issues like uniforms, types of weaponry, and criteria for the purchase of new patrol vehicles. Today, the OAC continues as a vital player in the Madison Police Department, and it will soon celebrate its 30th year of existence…”

    “When I started to understand what I was being told, I realized that I must be the first person to be this kind of leader – to change myself and how I acted. Then, I had to help other leaders in the department to do the same thing. I knew that we were all creatures of habit, and that changing to this new way wasn’t going to be easy—it would take time and would require a lot of training, patience, and hands-on coaching. It would also be, at times, painful.

    “I found that the way to begin was for me to get out of my office. I had always believed in an open door policy. But I thought the open door was to permit my employees to come in and talk with me. How wrong I was. The door to my office was open so that I could get out and listen to them…”

    images-44. TRAIN AND LEAD: The city must implement professional standards and community-oriented police training for the police department and establish a collaborative and respectful style of leadership within it. There is no doubt that the chief officer plays a vital and important role here. He or she must be given both the authority, tenure, and support within the community to carry out these necessary steps.

    “TO TRAIN IS to lead, and to lead is to train—the two are inextricably linked. Good leaders are good trainers and vice versa…

    “To build a quality department, commanding officers—up to and including the chief—must themselves exhibit a willingness to learn, to alter their own behavior which works against change, and begin to lead by example. Police officers must listen to and respond appropriately to their communities, but the most optimal way to learn this is by what they see going on in their own departments. They can only learn to serve their communities if their own leaders first serve them. In this respect, there is much police can learn from the private sector and the academics who work with and define successful leaders in business and industry…

    “When citizens in our society have contact with most vocational practitioners, from physicians to plumbers, they have a set of expectations. They expect the practitioners to be competent and to solve their problem to the best of their ability, and to do so at a fair and reasonable price. They also expect that practitioners will behave respectfully and competently.

    “And when it comes to police, these expectations should be no different. In fact, given the authority given to police in our society, citizens have the right to expect even more—the very highest level of respectful treatment and competent practice.

    “While the improper practice of some professions may result in inconvenience or monetary loss, improper practice on the part of police may result in not only the loss of one’s liberty, but also life. With so much at stake, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that each state have a politically independent police standards board with the authority to set minimum standards for police selection and training. Equally reasonable would be a requirement that police actually be licensed by the state and their conduct subject to review like other licensed professionals as some forward-thinking states are now doing…

    “When citizens in our society have contact with most vocational practitioners, from physicians to plumbers, they have a set of expectations. They expect the practitioners to be competent and to solve their problem to the best of their ability, and to do so at a fair and reasonable price. They also expect that practitioners will behave respectfully and competently.

    “And when it comes to police, these expectations should be no different. In fact, given the authority given to police in our society, citizens have the right to expect even more—the very highest level of respectful treatment and competent practice…

    “While the improper practice of some professions may result in inconvenience or monetary loss, improper practice on the part of police may result in not only the loss of one’s liberty, but also life…

    “This became one of my first experiments in what Tom Peters in the 1980s would call MBWA: Managing by Wandering Around. I started to make a weekly (and sometimes daily) habit to get out of my office and into the workplaces of the department. Each summer I booked a month on the street. I worked nights, in uniform, driving a marked squad car and took calls.   My job was to model the street behavior I expected from my officers and to find out what needed improving. I was beginning to learn that transformation begins at the top. Not the other way around.

    “When department leaders started listening to their officers, and avoided strong arm tactics to get work done, change started to happen. The same thing can go on within the communities police serve—listening works.”

    Together, we developed the following leadership principles:”

    The Twelve Principles of Quality Leadership

    1. — Believe in, foster, and support teamwork.

    2. — Be committed to the problem-solving process; use it and let data, not emotions, drive decisions.

    3. — Seek employees input before you make key decisions.

    4. — Believe that the most effective way to improve the quality of work or service is to ask and listen to employees who are doing the work.

    5. — Strive to develop mutual respect and trust among employees; drive out fear.

    6. — Have a customer orientation and focus toward employees and citizens.

    7. — Manage according to the behavior of 95 percent of employees and not the 5 percent who cause problems. Deal with the 5 percent promptly and fairly.

    8. — Improve systems and examine processes before blaming people.

    9. — Avoid “top-down,” power-oriented decision-making whenever possible.

    10. — Encourage creativity through risk-taking and be tolerant of honest mistakes.

    11. — Be a facilitator and coach. Develop an open atmosphere that encourages providing and accepting feedback.

    12. — With teamwork, develop with employees agreed-upon goals and a plan to achieve them.

    When department leaders started listening to their officers, and avoided strong arm tactics to get work done, change started to happen. The same thing can go on within the communities police serve—listening works.

    Unknown-15. IMPROVE CONTINUOUSLY: The city administration, the police department and its leaders must be committed to unceasingly improving the systems in which they work–everything they do. This would extend to working to assure the justice system in the city and county is fair and equitable and that trust of police in the community is building.

    “IMPROVEMENT OF OUR nation’s police is possible, but it has got to be a constant and not sporadic occurrence. It is going to take some work from each and every one of us. It is possible to engage police officers in a pursuit of excellence, which is essentially what this is. In the long run, this commitment to improving the systems in which police work is good for them and all of us: police will have more support from their community, they will feel nobler about themselves and the work they do, and their workplaces will be more comfortable, gratifying, and engaging.

    “It will be so for citizens, too, because police themselves will be treated with dignity and worth within their own workplaces, and have leaders who respect and listen to them…

    “But one thing must be clear: whatever system [of improvement] is used in the organization, it must always exist to help them excel, and to do so incessantly. What is, isn’t good enough, because what is can and should be done better, whether it is processing traffic tickets or responding to public protest.

    “An organization that is committed to, values, and engages in making things better, is a more effective and exciting place to work. Citizens will feel safer and more in control of their problems when they have a department like this in their community.

    “Additionally, citizens will benefit by being policed by men and women who are committed to protecting their rights. There will be more ease in the minority community as many of the police officers will be, themselves, people of color. But most significant of all these characteristics, officers will treat everyone fairly and respectfully and be willing to work with community members in solving problems.

    “The reality, however, is that even if you begin today, it will take years to do this. The first place to start is in your city, county, town, or village and the time is now. For the most part, good police departments come from having people working inside of them who hold the values I have identified in this book. It is a truth that good policing, on the way to being distinguished policing, happens not so much because of the techniques, tools, or structures of a police department, but because of the values held by the men and women who do the work. Those police departments are found in communities that hold dear the basic values of our society: liberty, justice, fairness, equality, and participation…”

    Unknown6. EVALUATE: City officials and police must be able to critically assess, or have assessed, the crucial tasks and functions they are expected to perform. They must be able to answer the question, “How are we doing?” with data as a result of community surveys and focus groups.

    “MY FIRST EFFORTS to evaluate how we were doing were rudimentary. I knew I had to have frequent and on-going contact with the Madison community I was hired to serve and protect. I should say its communities because no city is just a community by itself; a city today consists of many diverse communities. But for the most part, I became the sounding board for the department. Listening was my first attempt to try and determine how we were doing in realizing our vision and staying on mission.

    “This caused me to always be willing to talk to just about any group in the city or journalist from the media and tell my story—my vision for our police department—and listen to what they had to say in response.

    “Another effort came about as we evolved into a community- oriented organization. I came to understand that I needed a more official and systematic way to find out how we were doing. To find a way beyond just listening at community meetings, receiving comments from elected officials, or reading letters to the editor in our daily newspapers. I needed to find some way to directly ask citizens as to their level of satisfaction with our services.

    “From my own experience, I knew this: citizens who have had no contact with their police tend to rate us quite high; out of sight, out of mind. Conversely, those who have had contact with us don’t rate us quite as   high as those who have not. And, disturbingly, the more contact citizens have with us, the lower they tend to rate us…

    “What I intended to do was create a survey of people who had contact with us – I called it a customer survey. A contact could be, for instance, making a verbal complaint, being the victim of a crime, or even being arrested. As it turned out, the results of this monthly survey became a valuable source of information. It helped me to more realistically evaluate how we were really doing.

    “Think about it: without an ongoing survey, how will any police department know how it is doing? In the business world, customer feedback is essential. It should be no different in a police agency. How else will police know what their citizens think of their services? But more critical, how else will police know what services or functions need to be improved?…”

    images-37. SUSTAIN: The city and its police must be able to maintain and continue the improvements and progress that are made into the future.

    “A LEADER SHOULD always be thinking ahead, scanning and listening. And this should be with the intent to sustain the good work and improvements that the organization has accomplished. It turned out that what I was developing almost unknowingly in Madison was something Peter Senge later came to identify in his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. When I first read Senge’s excellent definition of the learning organization, it made clear that what we were attempting to do was just that:

    ‘Organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where   new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to learn together.’

    “An organization that is learning to learning together can sustain itself. It is also an organization that should be practicing the new leadership because that’s what the leadership I have described in this book does. It frees people to learn together. While there are varying definitions of a learning organization, there remains a core principle in all of them.

    “They are organizations that facilitate the growth of all their members and continuously work to transform themselves.

    “My experience taught me the benefits of such an organization. This kind of organization is able to learn from its successes as well as its mistakes. It can innovate, be competitive, respond to external pressures, link and adjust its resources to meet customer needs, continue the pace of change, and bolster its image in the community; that is, to sustain itself. I can say this was our experience and that every one of the characteristics of a learning organization should be present in all the places in which we work—in factories, corporate offices, schools, churches, not just police departments.

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GOOD LUCK AND GODSPEED!

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