Transformational Change: What does it look like?

I am hearing a lot about this new “transformational change” classes that is provided by way of the Being First group.  While I support anything that improves our department, let me be clear when I say this, no change will come to the rank and file without the command staff being direct, respectful, and transparent.  I respect most of the command staff and understand that running the department is a difficult one.  You must walk a tight rope, one that allows you to play politics with the community and still have the respect of the troops.  I truly believe that you can do both and be an effective leader.

When I speak with the membership the top three issues are morale, discipline, and manpower.  All three are tied together, as discipline and manpower are the two things that directly affect morale.  Manpower has been low for as long as I can remember but we have always been able to handle the job.  It is getting to the point now that we will not be able to provide some of our basic services if this lack of hiring and retention continues.  I am not blaming our Mayor and Council as they have provided the funding for all the classes we can fill.  Retirements are up and recruiting is down.  I truly do not blame anyone who wants to leave the department in the current state of affairs and understand the hesitancy by some to join a police department.

Discipline is the largest issue that we deal with on a regular basis.  Currently the department takes every complaint and conducts an investigation.  Unfortunately, once a complaint is initiated, they will pick out every little infraction and you will be cited with it.  This is where morale suffers the most.  Everyone knows that if they receive a complaint, they will get “hit” with something. Real or perceived, the fear of discipline is the largest driver of morale in this department. I will say that there are many cases that are cleared information after the body camera proves the allegations did not happen, but the department does a poor job of letting people know that.

We have been blessed that our department has not been defunded like other cities, but when we can’t recruit it hursts us all.  Sadly, I predict in the near future that some of these specialized units will be back to running calls because there are not enough officers in patrol. I predict that we will lose more officers and be below 5000 by the end of the year.  This will get worse before it gets better and no form of change in this department can fix that issue.  As long as the vocal activists are out there blaming law enforcement for all of the world’s problems, we will continue to have issues hiring and retaining officers.

Transformational change sounds all warm and fuzzy, but in reality, our department needs to define what this change is and what it will look like once completed.  Until we have a clearly defined goal and a direction in which to reach that goal, transformational change is nothing but a catch phrase.