Law Enforcement from a Detectives Point of View
The Internet has its pros and cons for civilians and its own unique set perhaps for law enforcement personnel. When Northwestern University encouraged its students, including me, to get on Linkedin, I reluctantly replied “So you want me to share my personal information with everyone who can access the Internet? No thanks. You people are crazy.”
But I went to school with business people and in the business world; Linkedin is a very smart thing to get into. I let myself be vulnerable and not only posted my resume but started the Law Enforcement Leadership and Morale Group and I’m very glad I did.
At the time I started Law Enforcement Leadership and Morale, morale was a huge topic for the Chicago Police Department. We had a Superintendent appointed from not only outside the department, but from the F.B.I. Officers and leaders who have dedicated many years of their lives to the department felt angered and slighted by his appointment. Morale became even worse when one of our officers who had been disciplined officially by the department and our own criminal justice system for his actions was then federally tried in a court of law and sent to federal prison where he remains at this very moment.
Executive level decisions have an impact on personnel but what exactly is the impact? As a leader, how do you assess and measure the intended consequences of your decisions but also the unintended consequences? Did sending that officer to federal prison send a message to officers that an inappropriate use of force would not be tolerated? Certainly. But what else happened?
The message was sent that our Superintendent at that time was there to punish. Post-9/11, when law enforcement agencies should have been striving to build stronger partnerships with each other, support each other’s goals, and work together in quality and comprehensive crime-solving ways, trust was severely broken and fear allowed to thrive.
In law enforcement, risk aversion includes taking action (or decisive inaction) to preserve your own life, keep you out of civil and criminal trouble, and avoid scrutiny by the media. But risk aversion includes doing the bare minimum of work possible and as officers like to say “putting your blinders on” to crime problems. Officers and supervisors alike can suffer from risk aversion.
How are your officers acting to avoid risks and are you working hard to address their needs so they feel confident in taking risks necessary for quality work within law enforcement? If leadership fails to address the risk-related concerns of officers and detectives responsible for working the streets and clearing cases, actions rooted in risk aversion are allowed to thrive. What results is a culture of risk aversion and criminals win.
Law enforcement is a dangerous job, in that you put your lives on the line each day, in that you and your family suffer the side effects of the toll the job takes (including but not limited to physical and mental health injuries, sleep deprivation, and divorce) and in that you face civil and criminal liability and media scrutiny when you mess up. How can leaders send a strong message that they have their officers’ backs when they take substantial risks to do their jobs well?
Please enjoy the group and the discussions we have going. I look forward to your contributions and to hearing more from you about the pros and the cons to being on the internet for law enforcement, risk aversion and leadership’s role in combating it, and in building trust not only within our own agencies but between our nation’s various agencies as well so that together, we take a stance against our real enemies.
As always, stay safe.
Submitted and written by Detective Jamie Duignan
Chicago Police Department