Intergenerational Conversations in Blue #6

Continuing “Intergenerational Conversations in Blue” – No. 6 of 9

Exchanges About Police Uses of Force and Community Relationships

Dear Chief,

Thank you for taking the time to respond and also for sharing your “boat story”.  I have reviewed Seattle’s policy, as well as the semiannual reports, consent decree and DOJ findings found on the PARC’s site.  While it is clear from the findings letter that my city is not Seattle, there is nonetheless a wealth of lessons to learn in terms of best practices.  I had the opportunity to attend the PERF conference earlier this month where we heard from Captain Mike Teeter of the Seattle PD.  He described a number of changes to include enhancements to de-escalation and Crisis Intervention Training.  He also discussed the challenges of implementing so much change which generated discussion on the issues associated with lengthy and nuanced use of force policy that is difficult for officers to internalize.  We can learn a great deal from the transformation in Seattle but must also proceed with caution.  New policies alone are not the answer.

Policy, training and leadership are key.  We need to add culture to this list.  We must also ensure that training is addressed on a broad scale.  While officers must be the focus, to change culture, we must include the following in the list of those who require training:  front line supervisors, command staff, city council, community groups interested in policing practices, the general public.  This is essential.  In order for us to fulfill our citizen’s expectations in this area, they must be informed.  We must also create a culture that recognizes the human being in the uniform.  We must create a culture of learning that expects mistakes to happen.

I responded to a couple portions of your boat story.  Notes are below, within your message.

Thank you for continuing to engage.  It is appreciated.

Chief: A Note to your boat story: [Community groups] need to act in a moral way… People like you should examine… their behavior with the same critical eye you use with the police.

As an officer, my response to your boat story would be:  “Chief, I thank you for your leadership and vision.  I am willing to join you, the department and the city in this important initiative.  I want to fulfill the mission of the department and adhere to our core values.  It is important to me that you know this.  It is also important to me, to know that you will stand by me.  If I do as I was trained, and act in accordance with our policy, state law and in support of the US Constitution, I want to know that you will stand by me even when others do not.”

This has been helpful and I thank you.