Seven Seeds for Policing

Article excerpt

In my over 30 years of police service, I have seen some changes of which I am proud, specifically, the higher education levels of police recruits and the larger number of women and minorities in police departments. At the same time, I confess that all I hoped for did not happen.

However, because I am not one to lament the past, I want to look ahead and think about what could be for those who choose to serve as police officers. My vision is to see seven seeds planted in the field of policing--leadership, knowledge, creativity, problem solving, diversity, control of force, and community policing. If these seven seeds take root and grow, they can, hopefully, provide a vision for tomorrow's police leaders.

The Seed of Leadership

The police may be the last organization in America to maintain the authoritarian organizational structure. We don't seem to understand the fear it generates among employees or realize how it chills creativity and initiative within the ranks.

Today, the best organizations in America are adopting leadership styles based on Total Quality Management. This leadership style stresses listening to others, coaching, and fostering the personal growth of employees.

Nevertheless, many of this Nation's police leaders continue to wrap themselves in the protective mantle of authoritative and coercive leadership styles. The longer we delay this needed change in police departments, the more difficult it will be to accomplish it. Once and for all, coercion and fear must be cast away as leadership methods--the police officers we lead deserve no less.

It is time to move from fear to fostering. It is time to stress listening, coaching, and fostering employee development as the three most important characteristics of a police leader.

The Seed of Knowledge

As a young police officer in 1967, I became excited over the report released by the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. The report challenged me to finish my college degree and attend graduate school.

I was convinced, as I am now, that policing could be a profession of intellectual substance with an interdisciplinary body of knowledge. Yet, professionalization will never happen until police leaders require a baccalaureate degree as an entry requirement.

It is time to move from diplomas to degrees. It is time to institute the bachelor's degree as the entry requirement into the policing profession and an advanced degree for top leadership positions.

The Seed of Creativity

Policing chills creativity in so many ways--from our leadership styles to our ongoing romance with the status quo. It is unfortunate, because the problems facing law enforcement and society today require not more of the same, but new and creative ways and methods of policing.

It is time to move from the wasteland to the heartland. It is time to move from being the wasteland of the status quo to being the center of creativity and innovation in government--its heartland.

The Seed of Problem Solving

For nearly a decade, police leaders have talked about problem-oriented policing. It is now time to "walk the talk."

Whether it is a noise complaint or civil disturbance, the police tend to focus on their response and not on their ability to solve or prevent the problem. A mentality of "waiting for the big call" infects each generation of police officers, whether they drive patrol cars or sit in executive offices. In turn, this virus makes it easier, as a society, to invest in prison cells rather than prevention strategies.

It is time to move from suppression to solution. It is time to understand that reacting to and suppressing problems must be complemented by action--by problem solving, preventive strategies, and moving "upstream" to work on the causes of the social problems that perplex us.

The Seed of Diversity

Most police agencies are not representative of the people they police. …