Is your department on life support? Does it need CPR? No not the medical kind. But, does your department need to revive Community Police Relations? Notice I didn’t say Police Community Relations? Why?
In the term “police community relations,” please note that we, the police, put ourselves first. This may be part of the reason there seems to be such a loss of relationship between many communities and police departments. I liken it to talking about your family when at a party and your spouse is standing right there with you. You say something like “My son just got picked to play the lead role in the school play.”
Although what you say is true, you have lessened the relationship of the family, both in the eyes of your spouse and the person you are talking to. In hindsight you should be saying “Our son….” Instead, your original comment places you at the center of the accomplishment, not you and your spouse as part of a team which has done a wonderful job raising your son and is proud of his accomplishment.
I think the same is true in policing. The community should always be the focal point of any conversation. In fact, the department and its officers are a segment that makes up the community as a whole. It’s kind of like the biblical saying; that the church is one body made up of many parts. To place the department in a place of higher importance, in conversation and attitude, diminishes the whole community.
What influences this attitude and separation between communities and their police departments? Is there anything that can be done to change it? I believe so which leads to the acronym CPR.
The renewal of community police relationships is no easy task. In fact, one of the leading stumbling blocks to such renewal is impatience.
Impatience with renewing the old, of changing the way things “have always been” is a stumbling block as is impatience with relating to those who can’t or won’t renew the relationships. Impatience with apathy. Impatience with follow-up and follow-through.
What is needed? Improving community police relationships must be a process designed to bring a communal experience to deep personal conversion/renewal of everyone involved. I bet some of you are thinking right now, “what a bunch of manure!” If so, go back to reread the previous paragraph. If I still have your attention and interest, read on. You might find this article impactful and challenging, not a bunch of ivory tower mumbo-jumbo.
Do I have all the answers? Nope, I probably don’t even have some of the answers. Building and maintaining relationships is as unique as the people involved. Really, how many people did you date before you met “the one”?
Building and maintaining relationships is hard work , work that never ends. In community police relations there is no such thing as “Oh well, we can always just get divorced.”
Community police relations are not about feelings and emotions. You ever meet someone who is just all jazzed up around the New Year? They are making all sorts of resolutions. They are going to lose weight, get in shape, start reading more, start spending the proverbial “more quality time” with the family. Six weeks into the New Year, they have already stopped going to the gym. That diet? Out the window. More time with the family? Replaced by signing up for more overtime. Why?
Because the word “resolution” is seen as a feeling, not a commitment to action over the long period of time. It is seen as a one-time “event” – I hereby promise to do such and such. And, there do not seem to be any consequences for breaking those promises.
We are great at creating plausible excuses and placing blame – no time to work out, the shift I work and stress at work make me eat poorly, and I need the overtime to help support my family. We want to create the experience of a better life; we just don’t do the follow-up and follow-through to make it a reality.
Community Police Relations should not be a New Year’s resolution. CPR should be more like wedding vows, in good times and bad, without the divorce option. And, this is a two way street. It is not acceptable for one party in a relationship to expect or demand all the good things and to throw the other party under the bus during the bad times.
CPR is not a 50-50 relationship. It is a 100-100 relationship. Each side has to give 100%, all the time. Does the community want a police department to only give their best to protect and serve them 50% of the time? Do police departments only want the support of the community 50% of the time? Show me a marriage that is 50-50 and I’ll show you an unhappy relationship and a divorce in the making. A community police relationship that is 50-50 is doomed to failure.
Do I have all the answers? The answer is still – nope. I only have my experiences to rely on. Yours are probably much different, with different players, different needs. I will share with you want I know works – at work, at home, in the community.
Renewal is a process, not a single event. The process cannot be threatening, too structured or complicated. The process cannot be solely dependent on one person’s leadership style or skills – or lack of skills. Most importantly, if you renew individuals you will renew the department as an organization and the community as a whole. Start with yourself.
If you engage in this process will things magically get better for everyone, all the time? No. Some people will refuse to change, people who will always play the blame game. Some people will always hate the other side, both citizen and cop haters.
You will have to deal with these people on an individual basis as the situations arise. Don’t write off the whole community or department based on the attitude of a few. If they are the north end of a south bound horse, either turn the horse around or cut it lose and move on.
The best process I know and try to apply every day, in every situation is this simple:
Am I doing:
The right thing?
At the right time?
In the right way?
And, for the right reasons?
This approach is not threatening, too structured or complicated. It places the responsibility of my actions and responses on me. The answers to each question are not dependent on what someone else is doing, thinking or scheming. And each question forces me to consider the other person first.
They are questions you can ask of the folks you work with or supervise. They are questions you can ask people on the calls you take or at community meetings. They are questions the community can ask you. Your answers can build and maintain relationships – in good times and bad. What are your answers?
Pat Welsh is the Founder and President of PJ Welsh and Associates, LLC. Mr. Welsh retired in April 2012, as Major, West Patrol Operations Division of the Dayton Police Department. He was recognized throughout his 26 year career in Patrol, Narcotics, and Investigations by such groups as the FBI, the United States Secret Service, the National Police Athletic League, and the Dayton Police Department. A graduate of the FBINA and Police Executive Leadership College, Mr. Welsh specializes in leadership training, keynote speaking, coaching and expert witness services. Mr. Welsh is also a Certified Team Member of the John C. Maxwell Group. Visit www.CourtSurvival.com for more information or contact Mr. Welsh at [email protected], if you would like to learn more about how he can bring coaching, training or keynote speaking events to your agency or company.