Is your agency bleeding out or flatlining?
Law enforcement consultant Jack Colwell, formerly with the Leadership Academy at the Kansas City (Mo.) PD, has a quick test for measuring your department as a place to work.
Envision a grading continuum ranging from 0 to 10, with 0 representing “Totally Disagree,” 10 “Totally Agree,” and the middle numbers “Somewhat Agree.” Then score your agency on each of these statements, which Colwell believes constitute “the critical life blood” of any department:
Question to consider
Score 0-10 with with 0 representing “Totally Disagree,” and 10 “Totally Agree,”
I feel my organization fosters safe, open, honest communication that is respectful of different opinions and results in better ideas.
I feel members of my organization are held accountable for results, top to bottom.
I feel I can trust my organization.
Add up the numbers and divide by three and you have your final score.
Now, Colwell says, you have an overall average that provides “a snapshot measure of the prevailing culture” in your agency.
“Any organization below seven is bleeding, below five is hemorrhaging, below three is flatlining,” he says. “In those cases, people feel they are seen and treated as objects. Cynicism is high, trust is low, talent and creative energy are lying dormant beneath a sea of suspicion, gossip and rumors are running and ruining everything, opportunities are lost.”
Laughter rippled through the audience when Colwell itemized the test statements during an ILEETA training conference, but he tells PoliceOne there actually are agencies in this country that get commendable ratings (seven or above) from their personnel.
And whether you peg your employer high or low, he suggests this turn-about: grade yourself and your behavior—with brutal honesty—against each of these statements to gauge whether you’re part of a solution or perhaps part of the problem.
“The test is not meant to give cops one more reason to be cynical,” Colwell says. “It’s so natural to blame others for a bad atmosphere. But your personal conduct can be the first step in improving the culture of your organization.
“Work within your own sector. Take responsibility where you have responsibility. Set a goal that every time you have contact with anyone else in your agency, you will walk away having behaved in the way you’d like the whole system to be.
“Everyone operates in a circle of influence. People tend to be products of the social milieu around them. When you show the courage to break the cycle, it becomes contagious, it spreads.”
As Mahatma Gandhi said: “We must become the change we want to see.”
Colwell elaborates on action plans for effecting positive change in policing in the book Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect: Transforming Law Enforcement and Police Training, which he coauthored with Sgt. Charles (Chip) Huth, team leader with a KCPD street-crimes tac unit. The book is available at discount through Amazon.com.