Friday, June 18, 2010

My Review of - A Whole New MInd: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink's work in "A Whole New Mind" has the potential to be helpful with a critical issue facing 21st century policing. Increasingly, officer's operating environment is transparent and open to worldwide scrutiny in real time. For good or bad, the individual officer can instantly become the epicenter of organizational influence on a worldwide scale. Besides being transparent, our communities are much more diverse and complex. The influence of universal pop culture and media constantly bear upon even the most rural areas of our country. While much work is yet to come, "A Whole New Mind" potentially opens the conversation to allow law enforcement to begin adapting to the challenges of the 21st century. If law enforcement courageously considers the implications of Pink's work and humbly sets out to build on it, I am convinced the following benefits await us: A Whole New Mind approach has the potential to begin to fortify law enforcement with new levels of tactical acumen and social competence. Tactical acumen: 1) More comprehensive pre-contact threat assessment by lowering the natural proclivity to be blinded by personal bias, prejudice, fear and loyalties thus allowing for a more objective assessment of total context and individual behavior. 2) Increased awareness of subtle precursors to violent or aggressive behaviors through a continuous gestalt (big picture) assessment of people and situations thus keeping the whole mind engaged to listen and observe. 3) Through these, increase the member's ability to use appropriate force at the appropriate time thus averting dangerous escalation. 4) Provide the foundation for strategies designed to devastate an adversary's willingness to resist, without devastating the adversary. Thus, build community trust and partnership with every encounter, even the most challenging ones. Social competence allows members to: 1) Appreciate as relevant, culturally and socio-economically diverse information from others perspective. Then, convert information into useful energy or processes needed to improve safety and quality of life. 2) Develop appropriate compassion: empathy for others with a strong desire to relieve suffering, through diverse life situations. Otherwise, when emotionally charged personal judgments of others swamp officers (with, for example, a feeling of disdain or "contempt of cop"); situational awareness and social competence evaporates. 2) Improve the effectiveness of assessment (precise attention and appropriate response to what is really going on with people and our communities). 3) Develop the capacity for attention and reflection (consideration untainted by mind-blinding judgmentalness and blame). This will produce the ability to match need with provision between various community members and professional colleagues. In a time of budget and staff cuts, law enforcement has but a few options before it: 1) Shrink back and become irrelevant observers to increasing chaos and suffering while engaging in what the military calls `force protection." 2) Increasingly resort to heavy-handed applications of force and enforcement; masked, rifle-toting SWAT teams hovering around, swooping down to decimate any perceived resistance, all the while destroying trust. 3) Take Pink's work and the work of many other progressive thinkers and learn to be responsive, reflective and relevant to what is really going on in our communities. In short, use our whole mind to continue learning new ways to unleash the power of unconditional respect.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Review of - Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin

In “Linchpin,” Mr. Godin has given humanity a gift. My passion and concern are for law enforcement, a profession filled with both, need and potential. I humbly submit that Godin’s gift could potentially meet our cultures most pressing needs and provide our communities the greatest benefits - through law enforcement. To paraphrase Mr. Godin: For generations, we’ve been pushing officers to do something inherently unnatural. We’ve been teaching, cajoling, and yes, forcing officers to hide their empathy and their creativity and to pretend they are fast-moving automatons; machines designed to do the department’s bidding. It is not necessary. No, I’ll go further than that: it’s damaging. It’s damaging to have to put on a new face for work, the place we spend our days. It’s damaging to build departments around repetitive faceless work that brings no connection and joy (page 71). It is as if Mr. Godin somehow peered into the police training academies and looked over, among others, the “tactical communications” training modules.
Despite all this, the best officers have always been some of the finest artists and given precious gifts that change the recipients. Sometimes the recipient knows they have been touched and changed in a significant way, sometimes the recipient is oblivious to the gift they have received. I can think of one woman, a wife and a mother of young children, whose family called the police because she was distraught to the point of hysteria - and had a gun. I do not suppose she or her family know she was given the gift of life that day.
On the other hand, there is much work to be done. Training and management processes are generally archaic, carrot and stick processes that suppress artistry, crush passion, and snuff empathy. In many cases, official systems admonish officers to put on a tactical face for dealing with the public and to use rhetoric to manipulate people. Systems further weight officers with hundreds of pages of policy that dictate down to detail, draining the responsiveness and artistry out of interactions. Further, law enforcement tends to be a profession filled with people compelled to “work overtime to stamp out any insight or art” (page 118). People who have the “resistance so thoroughly entrenched they don’t even realize it’s there. For them this is normal. They think they’re being mature and realistic when they’re actually cowering in fear” (page 122).
While law enforcement has always been a profession blessed with many “artist” and even “linchpins,” it is ironically a profession driven internally to be what Mr. Godin calls the “lizard brain.” I have wondered for years about a paradox in law enforcement. It is a bravery rich culture when dealing with circumstances the average person runs from – such as a person made super-strong and dreadfully violent by PCP. However, when it comes to dealing with internal issues that smother creativity, responsiveness and compromise integrity – the lizard brain rules. Mr. Godin did a great job as he hunted down the “lizard brain” and exposed how it operates. He even provides some valuable insight on how to overcome the “resistance.” For this and many other reasons, I think “Linchpin” has much to offer law enforcement. As the profession prepares to face the unique challenges of the 21st century, we must deliver inspired work, both internally and externally. We must become a culture where giving gifts is the ultimate symbol of the power invested in us, a revolutionary return to a time when power was about giving not getting (page 151). Our art must begin to build community and allow the community to build value and safety for all (page 153). This is what the U.S. military calls building a counterinsurgency environment (COIN). This is a reflection of the founding principles of policing (Sir Robert Peel). Law enforcement must become a culture increasingly filled with artistic linchpins who unleash the power of unconditional respect.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Racial Profiling – Striking At the Root, Rather Than Hacking at the Leaves

Many of the challenges in racial profiling discussions arise from the fact that it is inherently difficult to identify true racial profiling. The methodology for gathering statistical data from enforcement activity is, by its nature, very limiting. While one can easily quantify the number of minorities stopped, it is near impossible to capture what was on the officer's mind when he/she stopped them. Research data reveals that the areas of our communities that are the most crime-plagued are also heavily populated by minorities. Numerous socio-economic factors contribute to this, but it is representative of nearly every city across the country. Policing activities are often concentrated in the areas with the most crime, therefore, the highest number of enforcement stops occur in those areas.

Other issues cloud the matter as well. Consider that distinct cultural attitudes are impossible to account for on a spreadsheet. This concept may seem ambiguous without a lengthy explanation, but it does contribute to the problem. For example, I (Chip) grew up in rural America. My friends and I thought it was cool to drive Dukes-of-Hazzard-style down country roads. This attitude, while simply part of our culture, increased our chances of drawing the attention of the county sheriff. Another example is blasting loud music from the car, which is illegal in almost all municipalities, but is an activity often associated with the urban culture.

In addition to the cultural attitudes of those stopped by police, some officers are rude and abrasive to EVERYONE they stop. If the target of their rancor on a particular stop happens to be a minority member, it could easily, although erroneously, be concluded that the stop and unprofessional conduct were predicated on a racial bias.

Jack and I believe the problem is much deeper. Policies, statistical record keeping, procedural reviews and annual training serve only to prune the leaves and branches of bias-based policing. However, a personal anima, an inner way of being, that is fueled by unconditional respect for all, strikes at the root of the problem.

I have a unique advantage in being able to field-test our philosophy on a daily-basis. Approximately 90% of the people my tactical squad encounters are minorities and our first contact with them during an enforcement action is generally at gunpoint. Tense, to say the least, as emotions run very high in these situations. Interestingly, my squad has not had a single complaint from a community member in almost three years, and we have never had a complaint of biased-based enforcement for the six years that I have led the unit. The credit is to be given to our unwavering commitment to the regard for the personhood of each individual we encounter. This is an acquired ability; a critical daily choice; a deliberate way of being. We wrote Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect in order to introduce this philosophy and indentify the unique opportunities that permit others to discover the interpersonal and tactical benefits of seeing people as people.

Recently, Jack’s daughter was on a pier in San Diego County, California. She noticed a thin, rainbow colored sheen of oil residue on the surface of the water. The sheen was only about twenty feet in diameter, was disgusting in appearance and was obviously bad for the ecosystem. The amount of oil was probably just a few tablespoons. It is remarkable to consider that in the countless billions of gallons of water in the ocean, this miniscule amount of oil floated to the surface and was enough to become an ugly pock mark on an otherwise picturesque scene.

While the goal of eliminating personal bias is unattainable (our humanity has personal biases woven into its fabric), we must cease leveraging our natural biases as an excuse to widen the divide between the public and the police. Rather, we should strive to create a law enforcement culture where unconditional respect for all people is the operational norm. In such a culture, the negative, bias-based policing will be readily identified. Even a few drops will float to the surface of an unconditionally respectful organization and produce a sheen that instantly exposes it for the toxic scum that it is.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Responsive to Our Communities Needs

By being responsive to our communities, we minimize the necessity to react to our community. It is ironic that our unwillingness to be responsive to people and situations (in the interest of maintaining organizational integrity) actually threatens organizational integrity rather than protects it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Collapse of the 911 Hamster Wheel

The wheel has collapsed, cities have cut budgets, departments have reduced staffing - the rules have changed. In the past, no matter how ineffective we were; we could always blame lack of community support, lack of funding and resources. Then we would get more funding, more resources more staff and most importantly, promote all our friends and get all our raises.
We never liked the 911 Hamster Wheel, we complained about it all the time but it has served us well in ‘proving’ we always needed more. Now, there is not more to give. What is the solution?
L.E. culture has always been susceptible to what Zachary Shore in “Blunder; Why Smart People make Bad Decisions” calls exposure anxiety. We fear looking weak and this leads to dangerous cognition traps. We tend to puff ourselves up to appear big and intimidating. We resort to our most base instincts, apply our Newtonian worldview, get out the stick (of industrial age carrot and stick fame) and engage in our communities as if our ends justify our means. However, as with most cognition traps the results tend to be disastrous
On the other hand, this could be a great time of learning and developing. An opportunity to forge strong relationships with our communities, establish new levels of understanding and empathy. This time could produce great new ideas of policing in the 21st century. This could be such a ‘revolutionary’ time that we find ourselves returning to our historic roots of Peelian Principles. We may find that building partnership with our communities IS our basic mission, and if we do not strive to do so with EVERY contact, we are self-destructing and have no one to blame but ourselves. We may begin to honor (and even promote) a completely new cadre of hero’s in our culture. Those who forge enduring relationships of high trust, and through this, find clarity and non-kinetic solutions to complex problems. We could begin to unleash the power of unconditional respect.
As unbelievable as it may seem, L.E. may not be ready for a fundamental change of this nature yet. We are all entrenched in loyalties, fears and biases that produce a plethora of cognition traps. However, if budget flows, do not return to normal levels soon, we might have no choice. We will either become irrelevant observers to chaos and suffering, or an occupying force.
So with cautious optimism – let us not simply watch and observe where the current budget crisis leads, let us take the lead with courage, compassion, integrity and unconditional respect for all people.