The Servant Officer (Part 4): The Proactive Path Forward for Law EnforcementMar 04, 2022
Last Friday, we hosted a really special webinar that was live-streamed on YouTube. You can watch it now on our lhlnetwork channel. It was a great discussion among current law enforcement chief executives who really are in the midst of an opportunity to forge a proactive path forward - and they know it and are embracing it. The discussion goes for about 1 hour and we really covered the relevant and dynamic topics facing law enforcement today: how to recruit and retain officers; how to reignite the original "fire" and "excitement" that officers had on day 1; how to re-engage our communities to serve them better and for them to truly support us better.
During the course of the discussion, we had about 100 professionals from across the country on the call. They participated via chat. Many expressed the concern they have for not having enough staffing; others were very upset about the "lost" narrative to a press determined to report only the negative about police AND protesters and political activists with agendas.
However, the most interesting theme of the comments both among the panelists as well as our participants, was that leadership is failing the rank and file. They are paralyzed as to what to do and how. That leaders often are not leading but rather reacting to the situations in which they find themselves. Sadly, and often, it means the officers are the ones who pay the price.
The webinar is and will be part of our efforts at LHLN to help law enforcement forge a proactive path forward and to reclaim the narrative - that we are all servants at heart and want what is best for our communities and the people we serve. To be a cop is not unlike being a pastor - one must be "called" to serve and be willing to put their own life at risk to help and save others. Most cops I've worked with and my own personal story include being "called" to serve as an officer of the law. I loved what I did almost every day I served as a uniformed officer. Even as a leader, I was excited most every day (political issues of the job aside) to enjoy the profession I had chosen. Let's face it, most who become cops do NOT do it for the money, the pension or the benefits. They just don't and if they do, those are the cops that aren't cops after 10 years.
The servant officer program creates a proactive path forward for our leaders to see how they can do two things: onboard new and re-engage long-standing officers with a new mindset - what I call a cultural mindshift that must occur to achieve success AND to reclaim the narrative at the same time. Let's take a look at each.
Creating a New Mindset for Law enforcement - fighting crime at the "fear-of-crime" level: the servant officer is one who understands what is to be both an officer ready to act AND a citizen who is within the community. The Servant Officer, whether they live in the community they serve or not (I do encourage officers to live where they serve but that's another topic for a blog), needs to be able to actively listen to and engage the citizens they serve. Forge partnerships with them, get out of their squad cars and meet with all ages and demographics within your community. Really understand the problems from their perspective so that we can fight crime at the Fear-of-Crime level not just the crime level. What does that mean? Well, simply put one is proactive and the other is reactive. The Servant Officer seeks to always be proactive by understanding the community's "fears of crime" issues and concerns. By doing so, the Servant Officer gets the opportunity to "partner" with the community and to fight crime hopefully before it occurs at the "fear-of-crime" level. By doing this, I believe two things will occur. One is that the community will respond positively to cops and begin to see them as the heroes not the villains. Secondly, I believe that cops will see what positive impact they are having as that "calling" and not just a "job."
Reclaiming the Narrative: The core values and skills of the Servant Officer; the balancing of the warrior mindset with the servant's heart are the keys to reclaiming the narrative. Will it happen overnight? No, but I do believe that as more and more departments adopt the Servant officer program, they will begin to see real results both within the communities they serve through lower crime, but also in their relationship with the community. As more and more citizens see the positive that the servant officer is doing by fighting crime at the fear-of-crime level rather than just responding to calls once a crime as occurred, I truly believe that the community's will see cops and law enforcement as their "partner" for a better future and community and NOT the villain to be avoided. But this is just one aspect.
Cops and law enforcement agencies must change their unwillingness to tell the good stories that their cops do every day! This means using the available platforms to tell that story - social media!
I often will ask when teaching how many of my students (mostly law enforcement) are allowed to post directly to social media. The answer is an overwhelming "no." Folks, that has to change! I get the angst out there - I can hear it and feel it. I will admit I was likely there myself when I was still a chief. However, times have changed!!! Social media is where most people are getting their news! This is especially true for the Millennial and iGen generations! They tend to look at Instagram or TikTok and think they are caught up on the relevant news. So, when I hear that most of our departments' leaders are still operating from a very paternalistic approach to conveying information and controlling the social media posts, I ask this simple question, "Why do you NOT trust your officer to post to social media, but you'll give them a gun and a badge?"
We are in a transitionary time in law enforcement. It calls for visionary leadership and visionary thought. Don't get caught in the mindset of "oh it's just a phase" or "the pendulum will swing back to our favor" It may or it may not - I do know one thing the future is created by leaders who see the current difficult situation and create a more positive future; not by managers who wait for the situation to get easier so they don't have to make the hard decisions. Trust me, it won't get easier. Yes, defunding the police may be the dumbest thing ever, but those who actively seek to defame and demote the police won't go away. Question is do you want to forge the future or do you want them to do so?
One thing LHLN is committed to doing is to tell the good that cops do everyday. To advance that we are encouraging all departments to submit your servant officer stories. You can do so here on our website. Starting next week we will talk more about that and feature a new servant officer weekly.
Be proactive as a leader. Seek the future by finding solutions that really work for your community. I believe the servant officer is that future for law enforcement and I hope to help bring it to your department soon.
Dean Crisp is founder of Leaders Helping Leaders Network. He is a leadership influencer and a prolific writer and creator of leadership content. His servant officer program is just the latest specific to law enforcement and related professions. You can learn more about Dean and LHLN at www.lhln.org
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