December is a time for reflecting on the year gone by as we begin heading into a New Year of resolutions and aspirations.
Three things stick with me from 2012 that I’m still reflecting on. I think of the very good, the probably bad, and the definitely ugly.
Here they are in opposite order of the title because I’d rather end the year on a good note.
The Ugly — Very Definitely Ugly
Some of the comments on this very website, open to the public and supposedly posted by officers, which have more in common with ‘gangsta rap’ than anything the badge stands for.
Here’s a sampling:
“I've got an idea. Since most beefs arise from traffic stops, how about we stop making them? Let people kill each other with their unsafe driving.”
“Act like a POS, get treated and talked to like a POS.”
Setting aside the notion that some of these comments might be posted by trolls — because I don’t believe the vast majority are — here are my comments:
• These kinds of comments violate the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and any honorable warrior ethos — they are also firing offenses
• These commenters are cowards because they hide behind avatars and aliases (probably because they’d be fired if their identities were known) — bring it on cowards and gangsta rap me... at least my name is on what I write
• Given the high stakes and pressures of the job, I understand the need to vent, but a public forum is not the place — it has dire consequences for the profession, as demonstrated by this comment posted to another website:
“I, for one, encourage LEOs to express their opinions and emotions candidly on public forums online. I hope LEOs continue to vent, rant, insult, and generally spout off whatever they are feeling. This will increase the public's awareness of the mindset of the typical LEO, and further turn public opinion against the police as a whole. LEOs definitely deserve to have their real thoughts known by the public, and be viewed for the monsters that they are.”
The honorable majority of you remain silent at your peril.
In 2013, shine a light on these roaches and send them scurrying. Call them out, publicly denounce them. Let the citizenry know they do not represent your mindset.
The Bad — Maybe, Probably Bad
Police unions may want to pause and think in these ever-shifting economic and political times. This past summer, Wisconsin passed a bill that stripped unions of most of their collective bargaining rights. Police and firefighters were exempted from the bill.
But they joined impacted public employees in fighting the legislation, perhaps concerned they’d be next.
One battle tactic was letters sent to business owners signed by different police unions and other law enforcement associations. The letter urged the businesses to public oppose the bill, gave a deadline for the business to voice its opposition, and provided a sign to display showing support for the unions. The letter also warned that if the business missed the deadline, the unions would publicly boycott them — but if they showed support, the unions would publicly celebrate their partnership.
While the unions might consider this political activism, there was plenty of backlash. For example:
• Unions threaten business
• Police and firefighter unions demand businesses publicly oppose Wisconsin governor
• Support Us or Else: Wisconsin Unions Bully Local Businesses With Ultimatum
Words used to describe the letters included “extortion” and “protection racket” and “goon tactics.”
Even some union members commented that the letters went too far. I don’t think law enforcement can afford to dismiss a sizable negative public perception. People’s perceptions are their reality. These people live in the communities you patrol. They sit on the juries in cases in which you testify.
Perhaps 2013 will continue to present challenges to police unions. Just this month Michigan, long a bastion of union labor, passed a bill significantly limiting unions’ power.
Police are viewed differently by the public — they protect and serve.
All I’m recommending is police unions think carefully about future activism and whether it hurts or helps their causes.
The Good — The Very, Very Good
I was privileged to be a keynote speaker at the 2012 Oregon APCO/NENA Conference last month. My topic was The Spirit of Leadership — Winning Hearts & Inspiring Action. If ever there was truth to the Latin phrase “qui docet, discit” (those who teach, learn) it occurred that day, as I learned a very valuable lesson in spirited leadership from a young dispatcher.
With the audience participating, we were making a list of things that troubled or depleted our spirits at work. A young dispatcher in the back of the room raised her hand. When I pointed to her, she said, “Insecurity.”
In the current economy, I assumed she meant insecurity about job tangibles like getting laid off or forced furloughs.
But when I asked her to explain, she replied, “Insecurity about being good enough for those who need and rely on me.”
I was stopped in my tracks. To make sure I understood, I asked, “You mean you’re worried about being worthy?”
“Yes,” she said.
And so I end 2012 humbled by a young dispatcher in Oregon. Would that we all care, and even worry, about being worthy — of the work, the people we work with, and the people we serve.
A mantra is a sound, a word, or a group of words that is considered capable of creating spiritual transformation. I now have a new one for 2013. Before I speak a word of training or type a word on a blank computer screen, each time I will first say to myself, “Let me be worthy.”