Redefining Police Power

By Ziman, Stephen M. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Redefining Police Power


Ziman, Stephen M., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Police officers exercise their power in different ways. Sometimes they wear riot gear and carry high-powered weapons, sledgehammers, battering rams, and hooligan tools. Other times, officers may be in a nonthreatening stance in front of a once-unruly crowd, speaking in a calm manner to defuse the situation.

Some people envision positive images of law enforcement, while others visualize notions that are more negative. Diversity of opinion exists among the public, and some citizens ask whether the police always are justified in their actions. While such questions are inevitable and understandable, officers know the use of force often becomes necessary.

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Officers may encounter citizens who have little control of' their emotions, are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, suffer from mental illness, or, simply, do not want to go to jail. Police officers must consider these factors, in addition to politics, media, statistics, and bias.

Redefinition of Power

Law enforcement agencies have a duty to redefine what real might means and to use this authority to build as ideal a relationship as possible between officers and the communities they serve. Redefining police power begins with individuals who already possess the necessary tools. This capability is beneficial both on and off the job.

By employing a few critical techniques, police can use their influence most appropriately, avoid common mistakes, and, ultimately, succeed on the job. Doing the best work is a matter of following specific rules that do not change and applying those rules to any situation, anytime, and anywhere. To learn these important methods, officers must know themselves and their communities.

Change and Improvement

Police officers determine their own success, although they must remain aware of how they exercise their power. Officers commit to a cycle of self-improvement. Individuals who become law enforcement officers grow to become different people. They change, and the community changes with them. Police officers can use their power effectively. Citizens and law enforcement officers can work together to better the world.

Eager to improve, police officers often desire additional training. In fact, most officers want to learn. Like professional athletes, committed law enforcement officers expect to achieve their goals. They strive to be the best at what they do.

Understandably, there may be obstacles along this path to self-discovery and knowledge. Once officers commit to change and begin to look within, they discover a variety of emotions. These feelings exist, are real, and affect them every day. However, police officers can be taught to appropriately digest and deal with the emotional impact of the job.

Law enforcement officers learn to understand the law as well as to skillfully fire weapons, write reports, and abide by prescribed safety procedures, but they must know themselves to expand their arsenal of knowledge. Change and improvement begin with the self Police officers need to realize this and learn to be happy with who they are.

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During this process of self-examination, it is wise to adopt a personal code of honor. When honor serves as the foundation of a police officer's life, the officer is on the right path. But, what is honor? Honor may be defined as esteem or personal integrity. In other words, it means respecting oneself and, as a natural extension of that, respecting others.

Qualities of a Winner

In addition to honor, winners possess certain qualities. These include positive self-expectancy, self-image, self-control, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-motivation, self-direction, and self-discipline. (1) Officers must be confident and successful.

The habits of highly effective people "embody the essence of becoming a balanced, integrated, powerful person and creating a complementary team based on mutual respect. …

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