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Monday, February 20, 2012

Restoring Nobility

The profession of policing is noble because it based on timeless, universal, objective principles that are inherently good - Good for people, families and society. (Ancient Warrior codes of humble, sacrificial service; Aristotelian principles of the Noble Guardian, Peelian and Constitutional principles of working for and under the consent of the governed with the general welfare of our communities NOT the visible actions of policing as indications of success). All of these would to connect policing to what Aristotle would have called the “telos” or core purpose of policing. Character development in these areas is the most complex to accomplish, requiring education and moral development.


At the same time the procedures or actions of policing are not inherently good, they can be good or bad, depending on the context and motivation. Skill set development in these areas is less complex to accomplish, requiring training with repetitive drills.

Let us take a simply understood example, which has direct correlation: disciplining a child. The noble motivation “telos” is the love, care and concern for the immediate and long-term wellbeing of the child. The “actions” or procedures of disciplining a child can be done with good or evil (you pissed me off, you inconvenienced me, you made me look bad) motives. The problem: The moment one mindlessly (subconsciously) slips into the insidious belief that the actions of discipline are inherently good; one has become a potential danger to the well being of children. The self-righteous indignation one can feel while doing the activity of discipline, devoid of inherently good motive, sends one down the slippery slope to evil and insulates one from reasoning to the contrary (the loss of wisdom).

Oddly, the reverse can be true. If another sees the evil done by discipliners who have become disconnected from the inherently good motivation of love and care – and reacts by ceasing all actions of discipline – they too have become a danger to the well being of children (the loss of wisdom).

Problem: The procedures and activities of policing has generally become the focus of training, management and accountability systems within policing. This tends to create a subconscious disconnect from the “telos” or inherently good and noble principles of the profession (particularly when an organization makes little or no investments in moral character development). Not only does this breed discontentment and resistance from disenfranchised community members (losing the consent of the governed) it also breeds misery and apathy within our noble guardians.

The combination of these creates an operating environment ripe for problems – at the same time most police interactions are being video recorded. On the rare occasion when an officer slips, or appears to slip, over the line – the organization tends to isolate and scapegoat the officer implicitly saying; “we have no intrinsic flaws in our education, training, management or systems, this officer was simply a fluke bad apple.” Occasionally the organization circle around the officer and the entire organization tends to become a scapegoat. Once again, mindlessly dismissing the idea that there are lapses in overall moral character development along with intrinsic flaws in the training, management and systems of policing – “This organization is a bad apple.”

Unfortunately, the cycle tends to repeat itself because corrective measures taken against officers and organizations tend to be purely and simply punitive (actions and procedures taken devoid of inherently good motives – good motives simply cannot exist in a state of ignorance of underlying causes). After punitive actions, the next phase (of corrections disconnected from noble cause) tends to take aim at limiting the ability or inclinations of officers to engage in a sacred public trust: The sanctioned use of force and violence to uphold the rights and secure the safety or community members. This again is akin to ceasing all discipline and corrections for a child; it spoils the child, ruins the relationship and leaves the child miserable, unsafe and unprepared for the realities of life – all in the name of protecting the child from a corrupt discipliner. As Aristotle said:

"Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way. We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions." - Aristotle

When bravery (the acts of policing) becomes disconnected from commitment to simple justice and the moderating affects of humble self-control (the telos of policing) you end up with raw authority carried out with cool indignation. All of which flies in the face of the noble cause of policing, even while professionally carrying out the actions of policing.

1 comment:

  1. I see that you and I are on the same wavelength with regard to the importance of respect/courtesy in policing. My new book is,“Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police" and we have a lot in common. My blog is at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com. Check it out. And let's talk.

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