How many rank and file police officers sent commentaries into the 21st Century Task Force on Policing? No, I’m not talking about big city chiefs or those who head police associations or forums. I’m talking about young officers who will be the next generation of police leaders; those who have a college education, a passion for justice, and 5 to 7 years in the ranks.
American policing is at a crossroads and the old men who have been running the show for all these years need to listen to you. They need to listen because American policing is at a point where one of two possible narratives will prevail.
Narrative 1: We are the police and we have a tough job out there fighting crime and criminals. Would want to do what we do day in and day out? We need more hardware, more technology, and more firepower. We need bullet-proof glass in our patrol vehicles. We need to be constantly on alert for home-grown terrorists. We’re not racists. Just tell those criminals to quit committing crimes, running away and resisting us. We are crime-fighting warriors. We make America safe.
Narrative 2: We are the police and our job is to work with you to establish peaceful and law-abiding communities. While we are law enforcement officers we are also peace officers and protectors of the Constitution. Our job is to uphold the rights of individuals, reinforce the democratic values of our nation, protect those who cannot care for themselves, and do so in an honest and respectful way no matter who you are. The use of non-negotiable force is a public trust. We are committed to using it wisely and sparingly — the minimum amount needed. We want to work closely with you in your neighborhoods, listen to what you have to say, identify the problems you feel are important and solve them with your help. We are guardians of rights, problem-solvers, and community workers. We pledge to be fair, honest and color-blind.
If you are new to policing, you need to speak out and choose your future. You need to do this because the field of policing is about to go one way or the other. But beware, the direction today seems to be more towards Narrative 1, but a turn towards Narrative 2 is still possible. It’s really up to you.
Stand up. Speak out! Continue your formal education, be tactically and relationally proficient, live a balanced life. Be ready to practice the New Leadership. When they ask, “Who will lead us?” Stand up and say, “I will, with your help!”