Police Leaders as Educators and Trainers...Inspiring Cops to More Effective and Safe Policing

“Training is for the known, education is for the unknowns.” ~Marcus Mainz, Major USMC


Is  the concept of  a LEADER as educator and trainer a critical factor to consider in our effectiveness and safety in law enforcement? Is the job of  law enforcement leader giving orders, assigning tasks and assignments atta boy when assignments completed and come see me in my office when its not  or is it something more? What type of relationship and climate have you established with those you lead?

Describing the relationship between leaders and frontline officers’ as that of “teacher and scholar” (I loved this term). Leaders as “teacher and scholar” asserts that police officers should conclude their service to the community “far better men and woman physically, mentally, and morally than they were when they started. It also means more effort on the part of the leader to inspire and executive the right atmosphere. To accomplish this task successfully a constant effort must be made by all leaders to fill each day with useful and interesting instruction and enthusiastic interaction for the officers in an effort to continually learn, unlearn and relearn. In an effort to adapt lessons learned from experience. This effort must be intelligent and not mechanical, the object being not only to do away with idleness, but to train and cultivate the bodies, their minds, and the spirit of our officers.

Leadership is not a “one size fits all” every Supervisor leads with an individual style based on his unique personality. Understanding this is important because it actually helps make us all, better by realizing there is no one way to lead or to solve problems. We should always be looking at things from different perspectives and leveraging different experiences of different individuals as we all have something to offer.  This collaborative approach to learning opens up greater insights into whatever problems we may face, we realize there is more than one way to skin a cat, more than one solution to the tactical problems. This realization of no one solution to a problem allows us to adapt better, more innovative and safe tactics and actions in solving the problems we encounter. WHY? Because we understand there is room to maneuver within the white space (unknowns or uncertainties) of policy and procedures and position ourselves based on the rapidly changing circumstances, reducing friction in decision making giving us more of an advantage. We learn to mix people and ideas in combination with policies and procedures, with disciplined initiative! This allows us to think and act using our experience and our insight into the problem verses just acting and following a canned response that worked yesterday but damn well may not work today. This is crucial to officer safety and effectiveness.

“Bureaucrats will blindly obey whatever set of rules they are instructed to follow even if this leads them to take completely illogical or patently nonsensical actions. Try to keep them out of your organization. Also, help prevent your people from turning into bureaucrats by regularly reminding them that your organizations rules and regulations are designed to provide guidance to intelligent human beings who use their heads, and are not intended for slavish obedience by automatons.” ~General Ulysses S. Grant

Facilitating learning in those we lead is a big piece of what we as leaders do or SHOULD BE DOING. Training and facilitation of learning must provide the material for all to improve themselves without constraining them to a single, narrow style or view. Training must shift from teaching law enforcement officers how to apply solutions and enforce standards to teaching officers how to frame problems and solve them. This is where we can all help each other out if each and every one of us is continually diagnosing our efforts and identifying areas we may need training in.

Leadership cannot be considered in the absence of a moral element. Leading must include the ethics of the leader and those that follow. Those ethics affect the leadership process. Our ethos (values) and our ethics are vital to the three pillars of leadership; communicate, understand and decide. In short what you say has got to be first and foremost understood and then backed by action.

WHY did we choose to lead? Was it just to feel better about ourselves? More money? Some other personal motive? Or was it to inspire others to reach their potential and hence the overall potential of our departments? Some other questions that we should consider as leaders. Why do certain experiences stir our hearts and imaginations? What gets us excited about leading and serving others? What makes us want to lead with passion? WHY do we crave to be a leader? Where is the spirit of craving responsibility? Do you posses this craving? In your job? In serving your officers? In the services you provide? In the investigations you conduct or supervise? In the community you protect?

How are you going LEAD WITH RESPONSIBILTY to challenge the status quo and make a difference and inspire your officers to be and do their best in their quest for constant improvement? Have you thought about WHY you do what you do lately, ever? Its an important question to consider and to know the answer to if effective leadership and performance is what you seek.

Attributes come to mind when I think of  WHY we lead. Strength of character, social skills, honesty, integrity, adaptable, critical and intuitive decision maker, learner, teacher, selfless,  inspirer. All these are key to leading officer safety and effectiveness on the street. These attributes enhance command and influence at the street level by employing and making more fluid Colonel John Boyd’s “OODA Loop.”  These attributes are prevalent in cops all we need to do is find them, dig them out of ourselves and then step outside our comfort zones and execute.

As a leader we must work on interaction and robust communications with those we lead. We must focus and work on improving not only ourselves but those we lead in an effort to inspire. Formal training courses are great to send your officers to, but you are their leader so teach them what you know. More importantly teach them what THEY know and inspire them to execute! Take advantage of downtime, I do not care how little of it you have, find time, make time to teach your officers how to think and do this difficult job.

“The cream of all jobs is to perch on the fence and tell the other feller how to saw wood.” ~George Ade, Humorist

Stay Oriented!