Over the last 30 years or so, the police industry has been very buzzword driven. Every buzzword represents a new program or policy initiative to bring about some change in policing that is usually a reaction to police behavior that has come to light in the media and drawn the criticism of the public. Programs, trends, and fads that have cycled through the police world in the last 30 years include: problem-oriented policing, community-oriented policing, community relations, Use of Force continuums, defensive tactics training, verbal judo, diversity training, sensitivity training, critical incident training, geographic policing, bike patrol, Citizens on Patrol, citizens police academy, police sub-stations, neighborhood watch, SARA, intelligence-based policing, CompStat, crisis intervention training, constitutional policing, and so on.
And yet, in spite of all of these efforts and all of this training, never has policing been less understood, less appreciated, less respected, perhaps less deserving of respect (at least in the eyes of some), and less able to attract and retain quality applicants. (Alexander, 2016:184) You can argue that historically, the police industry has never been more professional, better educated, better equipped, or more responsive to the community than we are today, and I would agree. The images of the police from the 1950s and 1960s with only revolvers in swivel holsters, handcuffs, and long night sticks gives me the shakes. But after all the advancements of the last half century, why is the President of the United States impaneling a commission to study problems with policing in America? The answer is that police attitudes and behaviors are still a problem, despite decades of evolution.
Chapter One: The Current Political Context
Chapter Two: Understanding Culture and Climate
Chapter Three: Re-thinking the Patrol Function
Chapter Four: Targeting Appropriate Police Behavior
Chapter Five: The Motivation Challenge
Chapter Six: Recommendations
PREFACE to Second Printing
When I wrote "Officer Up!" I had not heard the term "peer intervention," but that's exactly what I had in mind. We needed a tool that could prevent or correct misconduct, not only within the day-to-day climate of police work, but in the heat of the moment. That tool needed to be easily understood, easily accessible, and easily adoptable. The result is the LEGiT® model. LEGiT® is a double acrostic that targets appropriate police behavior by communicating fundamental principles in one breath, for those trained to use it. "Keep it LEGiT®" or "that's not LEGiT®" could be enough to keep a fellow officer, or oneself, from going over the line and creating the kind of trouble we have become all to acquainted with lately.
Peer intervention programs are in the works. Each will be tailored to the needs and desires of the individual department. My suggestion is that, in conjunction with these programs, we need peer intervention interoperability. We work with other agencies (city, county, state, federal) and other disciplines (fire, EMS, medical, corrections) all the time. The next step is to have an interoperability tool so that these agencies and disciplines can "cross-talk" to one another. If all the agencies in my county shared a common intervention language, the city cop who comes to back me, a county deputy, could intervene on my behalf quickly and effectively. That's what the LEGiT® model is designed to do.
Small agencies and rural departments provide cross-agency assistance and mutual aid regularly. These days, large departments are dotted with other police agencies such as university, hospital, and transit police, etc. The ability to effectively do peer intervention intra-agency is great but the next logical step is to have the capability to do that inter-agency. Modeled after the FEMA definition of interoperability, my definition of peer intervention interoperability is "the ability of personnel to give and receive intervention from other personnel and other agencies in a manner capable of preventing or correcting potential misconduct. Allows police service personnel and their affiliated organizations to communicate within and across agencies and jurisdictions using common concepts and terminology." Broad acceptance and utilization of the LEGiT® program could give us that capability.
PREFACE to First Printing
All around me are television screens blasting the images of the events that happened in Dallas on July 7, 2016. This is another day that will be counted among the infamous in American policing history. As I sit here, less than 20 miles away from that unbelievable scene, I cannot help but think, as so many are commenting in the media, that we have crossed into some strange alien territory that is totally unfamiliar and foreign to anything we have known before. What is to be done?
Two days ago, two more black men were shot and killed by white officers in Louisiana and Minnesota while video captured the incidents and their immediate aftermath. The protest in Dallas that was interrupted by sniper fire was in direct response to these and other recent occurrences. We are facing a national emergency. What is to be done?
In January 2016, I attended a month long school for police supervisors. One of the instructors at the school was on the commission that investigated the Ferguson Police Department after the Michael Brown Jr. shooting. His insights into that investigation and the results published in the report launched me on the journey that produced this book. For months we have been reviewing critical incidents during our patrol briefings. If it was not a police shooting, it was a terrorist incident at home or abroad. We would conduct a “roll call training” based on the details of the incident, as we knew them, adapted to our local situation. I began to wonder, what could I teach my troops that could help them remember and act on the values and principles we embrace, even in a stressful situation? What tool did I have to correct an officer’s behavior or restore his composure quickly? I didn’t have one.
I began reflecting on the Ferguson report, and others I had seen, as well as what I heard in the supervisors’ school about legitimacy in policing. That reminded me of the popular term my sons liked to use, “legit.” I’ve always been good with alliteration and words started coming to mind using legit as an acrostic. The result of that process is the LEGiT® program.
Throughout my 30 years of police service, I have been in patrol briefing rooms, squad rooms, and on the street listening to how we talk to ourselves and about ourselves. It became clear to me that we needed to address the internal culture and climate from which we operate. As I worked on the LEGiT® concept, I started to look deeper into the issues of climate and culture in the workplace. I became convinced that not only did we need to start doing something, but we need to stop doing something as well. We need to start consistently training, affirming, and reminding officers of the principles and priorities that define legitimate police behavior. And we need to stop the internal shop talk that poisons our work climate and de-legitimizes our work product.
How often have you greeted a fellow officer and received a sarcastic remark in return like; one day at a time, just livin’ the dream, ask me in eight hours, or same crap, different day? Do you listen to the comments they make or the stories they tell or the jokes they laugh at huddled around the de-briefing tables or at their desks or in the parking lot? What we say to and about and among ourselves matters. What we think about what we do and how we do it matters. The way we view our jobs, especially the patrol job, and understanding how to motivate officers to aspire to be the kind of officers the community wants and deserves is essential to developing and preserving legitimacy.
We as a profession, as an industry, as the police community must step up and respond quickly, measurably, and effectively to these concerns. There are a number of recent works, some of which are referenced in the bibliography, that are addressing larger themes and issues regarding cultural change, and social and political impact, but that is not my intent here. I am presenting a method or a program which can be quickly adopted and implemented to address how we, as officers of the law, can react and respond to dynamic situations appropriately and effectively not only within the scope of our authority but within the reasonable expectations of our departments, our communities, and ourselves.
From time to time I will be responding to or referencing something mentioned in the recently published Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. One of the many conclusions and recommendations from the report was this statement:
“To achieve legitimacy, mitigating implicit bias should be a part of training at all levels of a law enforcement organization to increase awareness and ensure respectful encounters both inside the organization and with communities.” (Final Report, 11)
This book is an attempt to speak to that concern and offer a concrete way to implement an aspect of that kind of training in policing organizations. There is no “silver bullet” approach or program or method that will solve this crisis; however, what I am proposing here is a quick, easy, reasonable, and affordable idea to move us in that direction.
The premise of this book is that we, as a police profession, have to make changes and find options to improve the way we conduct our business. I offer a simple idea to augment other efforts to achieve that goal. What this book is not, is an argument for or against any particular police action in the past. Those incidents are referenced in some detail, but only as they set the historical context from which this book arises. I am making the general observation that police officers and supervisors need to be intentional about how they think and talk about police work within their own ranks. The program I’m outlining offers a framework for doing that appropriately, as well as a tool for reminding and encouraging officers to act appropriately under duress. In the chapters to follow, I offer one way in which we as a profession can “Officer Up!” to the challenges of the day, foster appropriate police behavior, and reduce incidents of police misconduct.