If Ben Franklin Was the Police Chief


If Ben Franklin Was the Police Chief

Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of. –B.F.

And now I undertake being police chief of Philadelphia, in this year of 1756, having just turned 50. The Pennsylvania Gazette, Poor Richard’s Alamanak and other efforts are popular and useful, thus I gratefully prosper. My belief in personal improvement and industriousness allow me leisure time where I might endeavor whence my mind, spirit and energies take me. Civic duty consumes much of my every day as I develop an automatic sense of accountability and responsibility in my public endeavors.

spiteful leader
(Graphics by Jim McNeff)

My Leisure Time Allows Me Good Works

Saying and Doing, have quarrel’d and parted. –B.F.

I do try to make waking hours productive in body, mind and spirit. I am involved in paving, cleaning and lighting our streets. The fire department, Philadelphia’s Union Fire Company, does its vital work. With that, the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire helps the many get past fires which plague our city. Our Library Company has been loaning good books to good people for nearly 20 years now; I am thankful for every book by which it grows. Many appreciate my eponymous stove as do I on many a cold Philadelphia night. I am considering forming a hospital and something must be done to educate the many; it will be our strength as our county grows – which it does and will. Goodness, I hear there are nearly 200 miles of roads in Connecticut already, what a wonder. Everything fascinates me, I am most interested in lightning, yes lightning; could it be electricity? Yet I am plagued by the grumbling I hear from my Junto1 fellows about our dear king, his lieutenants and their policies.

Our system of night watchmen is inferior at best considering the rapid growth of Philadelphia (Waxman 2017). So, I enter the privileges, promises and privations of being our first police leader simply because it is a noble, worthy pursuit in the betterment of the many in the communities in which live, work, raise our children and serve.

fired Philadelphia officer

The Virtue of Simplicity

Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great. –R.W. Emerson

I am determined to bring the simplest of philosophies to the job – Little strokes fell great oaks, I say. Some observe I am accomplished, if so, it is only because I have had good company and guidance and I diligently applied myself to the task at hand – say what you will do and do what you say. As I assume the job, I will assess people first then my duties and responsibilities by seeing that they are executed simply, suitably and sustainably for results with confidence. Above all I will try to be the example I wish to follow. Great things are accomplished by everyman and through “… little advantages that occur every day (Isaacson, 2013 p. 490).” Being our police chief, I take gravely yet with abundant optimism.

The Enterprise of Bettering the Common Good

The Wisdom of the Wise is an uncommon degree of common sense. –Dean W. R. Inge

I have always been motivated by enterprise that benefits the common good. But to do that, one must invest in self-improvement – continuously improve virtuous living, work diligently, live healthily in body and mind and most important, respect others. Employing these life principles has allowed me to reach a station in life where I may enjoy the productivity of leisure, that is, my investments and enterprises allow me to meet my frugal needs and continue to invent, write, build and dream of a better community and thus a better country. I am always intrigued by the power of ideas put to creative, hardworking, determined people who are free to be and do so.

Ethics with Character – The Heart of the Matter

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. –B.F.

Early on I realized that to do significant things one must put even more moment into continuously strengthening virtuous living to build strong, virtuous character. It is an ancient struggle taken up by our ancient philosophers whom I read religiously. I was doing thus even before I began the Junto nearly 30 years ago to discuss morals, politics and philosophy guided by probing questions (Nutt 2017). I look forward to its every Friday evening meeting.

If Ben Franklin Was the Police Chief
(LET website and social media images)

As is my wont, I charted 13 virtues that comprise character as I see it to arrive at, “… moral perfection (Isaacson 2003 pp 90-101). The object is that by strengthening the one, the whole is broadened. It remains one of my most worthy and most vexing challenges as I expose my weakness all the way even though I pray to the divine for improvement. I observe that the pursuit of virtue brings character with it (adapted from Page nd).

  • Make character a habit – Hold your personal charter first so as to be the Do not even think dishonestly. It is a slippery slope.
  • Seek ideas – Be creative. Creativity comes from reading, writing, speaking, thinking, conversing and especially of doing the thing. Be a student of the human condition and development. Carefully observe the Natural world and how men are Natural beings. Learn from other professions.
  • Champion the less fortunate – I have heard said that one should recognize the doorman on your way up as he will be there on your way down. Everyone matters and can instruct.
  • Use time wisely Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. Waste nothing especially time. I am always with a book, pen and paper and an idea to occupy a stolen moment.
  • Be early to bed and early to rise – And rise with purpose; ask, “What good shall I do today?” Waste neither your evenings or mornings.
  • Hone your public image – We are on stage even when not before others. Opinions matter.
  • Fear not risk – Neither should you be foolhardy with risk. Remarkable things will be accomplished by venturing into uncomfortable yet worthy endeavor – but wisely. I remember Napoleon, “Action, Action, Speed.” In the end you must do.
  • Networking matters – Make connections, friendships better, wherever you go. Do not be shy, neither arrogant or abusive. Make sure to be remembered well. It can be done with a word or gesture, study the art of this diligently.
  • Ah Frugality – Frugality to me is second only to Justice of the Cardinal Virtues2. A penny saved is a penny earned. Learn to be parsimonious as a matter of course. Details matter.

Always study your character. Sight is fleeting, dig deeper; everything has significance. Notice what the thing before you means; perception aids understanding especially when it comes to getting along with people.

PR Battle
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Miguel Lara III)

The Softer Touch of Working with People

To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future. –Plutarch

It is with a softer touch in mind that I intend to mold my fellow officers into likeminded people motivated by making Philadelphia a place where our neighbors can have the opportunity to be industrious, prosperous, safe and happy. As the Ancient Greeks observe, it is natural that men are virtuous, industrious and civic minded. I plan to nurture what is natural in our police and in turn our neighbors and thus their communities.

(LET website and social media images)

The first question must be, how will I manage my people, politics and processes? Consider people first because working with people is also to manage the politics and process of getting things done. I aim to be amenable still firm and fair:

  • Rise above – Turn minds to bigger issues. Always remind people of possibilities, goals and the dream of what can be accomplished together. People will rally when inspired. Reaching the mountain top of a worthy goal affords us better perspective of the next, and yet the next worthy goal and thus we progress. Then focus on the essential details to get there.
  • Make allies – I find it a very rewarding pursuit to make friends. In fact, one of my guiding principles is to earn the respect of respectable people. My ultimate achievement is to make a friend of an enemy.
  • Don’t engage when incited – Agitation is never a good counsel and an indication of wickedness. It is very difficult to recover from a barb delivered in haste. Ill words remain while the good we speak fades in their wake.
  • Don’t speak ill of people who may disagree with you – Speak to not of people who disagree with you (Nutt 2017). One must get to know people and learn of their strengths, weaknesses and moral fiber. We cannot shoulder communal endeavors alone. Collaboration is best when bettering community wellbeing. And it is simply harder for people to say no, when looked in the eye.

I will not ask those in my employ to be perfect in virtue; I ask that they try and that I may have the means by which to set the example for them.

My First Day on the Job

Too much will rush at me. So, I will structure my day to allow time to meet people, organize them and motivate if not inspire them. I must start with our police of course. I will do it seriously most of the time and jovially when the moment is right. I must say, I am fond of good, clever wit in every day. My goal will be to know, really know, each of them so that I my recall meaningful details even on a chance meeting.

  • Know people. I would begin to get to know people who have direct effect on policing. Visits to all in the department is a must. Listen much, talk less. My neighbors will see me frequently. And I will become even better dear friends with our elected and appointed officials. With that, I will further my circles of people as to know more of their professions – each has much to teach.
  • Do not let character go unnoticed. Praise in public when dually earned. Admonish in private; never let faults of character go uncorrected, swiftly and rightly.
  • Assess the direction of the agency. There will be a mood of our police individually and as a collective. Asses if it is divisive or cohesive; build cohesion. See that it aligns with goals. If goals are not clear, state or better, re-state them – simply, suitably and sustainably.
  • Redirect the agency if needed. I would start with Make the Community Safe, Secure, Resilient and Productive. Such a goal simply stated is also suitable to the capacities of police, amenable to the community and can perpetuate; thus, it is sustainable. Naturally, this purpose when vetted by all may vary in a word or two but will form our direction forward. The leader must be the standard-bearer of purposes.
  • Make processes efficient and the agency effective. How people work must be efficient. Their collective effort as an agency must be effective. The community must know and support the result of their effort.

Notice that I have not dwelt upon the business of being chief. Rightly I feel it necessary to dwell on myself and how I will get those under my hand to espouse and practice realizing their potential and thereby taking policing with them.

Final Reflections

Strive to be who you admire. Endeavor to speak the truth. Be industrious, take the worthy challenge. Speak ill of no one. And be frugal in word and deed (Adapted from McKay & McKay, 2018).


Franklin, B. 2001 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Modern Library Edition, NY, NY, Random House Inc.

Isaacson, W., 2003 Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. NY, NY: Simon and Schuster.

McKay, B., McKay, K 2018 Young Benjamin Franklin’s Plan of Conduct. Viewed December 8, 2018, https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/manvotional-young-benjamin-franklins-plan-of-conduct/.

Morris, T., 1997 If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business. NY, NY, Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

Nutt, A., 2017 There’s a Scientific Reason to Speak, Not Write to Those Who Disagree With You. Viewed Dec 6, 2018, https://www.sciencealert.com/there-s-a-scientific-reason-to-speak-not-write-to-those-who-disagree-with-you.

Page, A., (nd) 9 Successful Characteristics Embodied by Ben Franklin. (n.d.) Viewed December 8, 2018, https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/9-successful-characteristics-embodied-ben-franklin.html.

Waxman, O., 2017 How the U.S. Got Its Police Force. Viewed December 13, 2018, http://time.com/4779112/police-history-origins/.

  1. In the fall of 1727 Benjamin Franklin and a group of friends founded the Junto Club also known as the Leather Apron Club. The 12 members were tradesmen and artisans who met Friday evenings to discuss issues of morals, politics or natural philosophy. The club lasted 38 years. Franklin proposed that the group be formed of “ingenious men –a physician, a mathematician, a geographer, a natural philosopher, a botanist, a chemist, and a mechanician (engineer)”. It was guided by a list of probing questions devised by Franklin. The Junto it could be said was the roots of forming the new American republic. Viewed December 9, 2018: http://www.benjamin-franklin-history.org/junto-club/
  2. The Cardinal Virtues according to the ancient Latin and Greek philosophers are Justice, Wisdom, Courage and Temperance. Justice, being the king of virtues, as it concerns knowing the difference between right and wrong and endeavoring to do right instinctually, as a natural course of conduct.


Dr. Klopovic holds a Doctorate of Public Policy from Charles Sturt University, Sydney Australia, with concentration on service project capacity building at the organizational and community levels focusing on community policing, delinquency prevention, reducing recidivism and reducing prison populations. He has served as a senior staffer on The North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission for 24 years and he is retired from the United States Air Force where he served in multiple locales including South East Asia and the Middle East in numerous capacities including as a logistics line officer, training detachment commander, Department of Defense Advisor (from 1977-78) to the Imperial Iranian Air Force, Area Recruiter for the ROTC and  Air Force Academy and Associate Professor, Arizona State University. 

Mitch Javidi, Ph.D., is the Chancellor of the National Command and Staff College. As a globally recognized expert on leadership development, Mitch has trained leaders at the Joint Special Operations Command, and the US Army Special Operations Command and is an honorary member of the United States Army Special Operations Command. Mitch is the developer of “MAGNUS,” a general theory of Leadership.  He has published scholar with over 890+ conference presentations worldwide to include presentations for Fortune 500 companies as well as top Public Safety organizations including FBI NAA, HAPCOA, HIDTA, National Tactical officers Association, California Police Chiefs Associations, National Sheriffs Association, WLLE, and may other national and state associations. 

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