Here’s a suggestion to police leaders, especially first-line supervisors.
Take some time every week, even 5 minutes, to reflect on how you are doing in one of more of these areas of your leadership practice. Not to get grandiose, but such a practice could save a life someday.
Am I up to date on the law and its proper enforcement?
Have we upheld the spirit and the letter of our oaths, the state and US constitutions and the laws?
If my department has specific guidelines on procedural justice, am I following them? Are my subordinates following them?
Am I making decisions based on my Core Values? If I make decisions based on my Core Values, I will do the right thing every time. If I make decisions based on situational values, I likely will make the wrong decision.
Am I treating everyone I encounter with the highest level of dignity and respect possible under the circumstances?
Am I communicating? Communication starts with Listening. People – cops and civilians — want to be heard on their stuff. When people in my life say “communication sucks,” they really mean, “you don’t listen to me.” Am I slowing down and listening whenever possible?
• Am I employing my words, my body language and the signs and symbols of my office thoughtfully, making them work together to help me get the good outcomes I want?
• Am I smiling whenever possible? A smile goes a long way and is international in nature. It’s not a sign of being weak, it’s a sign of strength. I can be fully aware tactically with a smile on my face.
• Do I start an encounters whenever possible with a respectful gesture, question or request?
Do I De-escalate?
Am I modeling the peace, calm and stability I am trying to create or restore? To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling ,
If I can keep my head when all about me/ Are losing theirs and blaming it on me, I’ll be a safer, healthier and more effective leader and police professional.
Am I prepared emotionally to disengage tactically when that is the right move?
Do I ‘drive angry’?
If I am pissed off, resentful, tired, hungry or otherwise out of sorts, am I, first, aware of my state and how it affects me? Second, am I taking steps to improve my state before doing business with the public or my subordinates? If circumstances do not allow me to decompress, eat or rest, am I at least aware of how my state might interfere with being the professional I want to be, or land me in a jackpot?
Do I remember that resentments kill? They hurt me physiologically and emotionally. Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Do I explain what I am doing whenever possible? Of particular note:
When things go sideways, as they will every shift, despite my making the best possible decision with the information I had at the time, do I spare myself a wealth of headaches by not being afraid to acknowledge any pain that it caused others? Am I ready to take responsibility for my part in it? If I have messed up, do I get defensive? Am I strong enough to just apologize and move on, realizing everybody involved will remember my response for a long time but will have forgotten about the original incident in two weeks?
Do I capitalize on positive community norms in my policing practice?
Anything one calls “normal” — a behavior, a custom or idea — is governed by a norm: an unwritten rule about what kinds of behavior are acceptable. Am I getting to know my community’s positive norms and building on them for my own safety and the safety and order of the community? Am I doing the same with the personnel I lead? Am I getting to know what these norms are by
o Paying attention
Am I Teaching & Coaching my subordinates?
o Am I communicating about these matters with my officers, i.e. actively listening to them, and asking them to communicate with the public?
o Am I asking my people to ask people what they think and what they are worried about? I will learn a great deal of useful knowledge.