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A Police Chiefs Guide to
Organizational Change

By Bob Catinazzo

In my blog last week entitled: Police Brutality and the Victims Left Behind, I asked this question: With lessons already learned, WHY does Bad Policing and Police Brutality continue to be a problem and what is the solution to make EVERYONE happy?


I would like to continue the discussion with the focus on Organizational Change as the solution.


Before I continue, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the outstanding response to the above mentioned blog, if you haven’t read it, please do so by clicking  HERE before continuing with this blog.

Based on what’s going on in our country we all can all agree that some type of change is warranted. The internet is filled with opinions on WHAT needs to be done, however; very few “experts” are providing the “HOW.”


I previously stated that I felt the law enforcement profession was approaching this issue from “the outside- in rather than the inside- out.”  I believe the change begins with a change in approach.


From what I have seen over the past few years, the focus has been on relations with the community. I agree that community relations are important, however; it may be putting the cart before the horse.


Organizational performance improvement efforts must begin with internal culture-changing, where the focus is on people, their behaviors, motivations, and influences.


Let’s take a look at what that looks like. 



All progress begins by telling the TRUTH.  Author Leo Tolstoy said it best: “Everyone wants to change the world, but none want to change themselves.” 


Organizational change begins at BOTH the top and bottom of an organization, and it is achieved one person at a time, beginning with the Chief of Police.


To change your organization or an underperforming employee, you may find that the change must begin with YOU, and it may include unlearning what you have already learned. 


What is required in Public Safety, is a different approach.  An approach that appeals to the “why’s” of individual team members in a manner that is simple, readily implementable, and scalable across an entire organization.


Organizational change begins at BOTH the top and bottom of an organization, and it is achieved one person at a time, beginning with the Chief of Police.


It starts with each Police Chief looking at recognizing their role themselves as an influencer and paying close attention to the culture THEY have created, and THEY reinforce each day.  THEY must continuously ensure that “the look” I previously mentioned in Blog One does not exist in their department. THEY must encourage the mindset and culture that those who see “the look” in co-workers be proactive and not be “complicit” by ignoring what they see (like what happened in the Floyd incident).


Being a true leader often requires persevering self-development. Self-development involves combining new insights with what you’ve learned from the past. Only in this way can you be inspired to grow yourself, which is the only way to contribute to the development of others and your organization.


As a Leaders, you can’t do that sitting behind a desk delegating responsibility.  You must MUST be part of the change. And and as an influencer, you must actively participate in the change you are encouraging.


How do you do it?


The Task Force on 21st Century Policing listed Training and Education as Pillar Five in their executive summary. In my opinion,  Training and Education should have been Pillar One.


Some (not so smart) people are calling for the defunding of the police. What should really happen is money should be increased to all police budgets to provide Training and Education.


How do the ‘defund the police’ people propose addressing the problem if the money isn’t there to assist in the solution?


Cultural change begins with Training and Education. Once you have accomplished your culture-changing goals, the desired objectives in the other Pillars will just happen.


Before I go any further, let me be clear as to what I mean. “Culture changing” means providing impactful training to all individuals that has long term lasting effects on organizational change - to ALL individuals.


Let’s see what that looks like.

Culture Transformation

Throughout my career as a Special Agent, Trainer, Supervisor, and now certified Human Performance Expert, I have sat back and watched law enforcement professionals make mistakes in their culture-changing efforts.  To be honest, I have grown tired of watching it happen and have decided to use this incident to make my voice heard.  I wonder if a sentence in here about how you are now ready to speak up, or tired of sitting back and watching.


The general public’s frustration is based solely on what they see. There are some police department s in this country who have been doing the right thing relative to inspiring and changing their culture. However, some have not, and those are the departments that need to get on board with improved, culture-changing efforts.  


Sadly, as the Floyd incident has proven, the entire profession suffers from the mistakes of a few. Unfortunately, tThe public only sees the bad.


Since I retired, I have watched Private Sector organizations have hit the ball out of the park when it comes to culture change and performance improvement. Industries such as nuclear power, airlines, and utilities have achieved tremendous success in human error elimination and created work environments that thrive.  


The law enforcement profession as a whole pale in comparison to the private sector’s culture-changing efforts. Quantity, quality, and consistency of training is often an issue in most organizations, where the excuse is always budgetary..


First item on the cutting board is ALWAYS training! 


Historically, training is usually reactive and often addressed AFTER an event. In most instances, each job series attends SEPARATE leadership type training from various flavors of the day that focuses on the individual rather than the organization. As such, organizational change never happens.


All job series must attend the SAME culture-changing training regardless of rank. And, more importantly, the Chief and his/her command staff should be visible and engaged in the ENTIRE training process.


Throughout my 20-year career, I watched my leaders “poke their head” in and out of a training course they said they supported. What kind of message does that send? “If it’s not important to the Chief, it’s not important to me.”


Moreover, leadership conferences are usually themed with glorified speakers who have written a book or have experienced a war story and they inspire by sharing the powerful individual successes they have had as a result.


The motivational speeches are usually very good and inspiring, however, in most instances; there is no defined curriculum with learning objectives and the attendees are not left with any tools to help them achieve long term sustainable culture change within their organization.


Culture can be transformed-AND- it can be transformed rapidly. The challenge with “changing the culture” is that many so-called ‘gurus’ continue to pontificate, “Changing culture is hard and it takes a long time.” Nothing could be further from the truth. 


We need to rid ourselves of old-school thinking and recognize that we CANNOT improve the performance of people by demanding it. The top-down, “Do this because I’m the boss and I said so!” paradigm of managing people like things is outdated. Such a focus will NEVER achieve or sustain next-level performance.


Additionally, Ssimply adding a title to someone’s name will not guarantee a successful leader and influencer of others.  On several occasions II have watched people be promoted and promote for the wrong reasons.  


Being a Public Safety leader is not about being in charge, it’s about caring for those in your charge. Utilizing this type of methodology will ensure that your personnel believes and trust that you care deeply about them and their well-being., and will onlyThis incredibly important attitude validates the fact that you serve and protect them with the same enthusiasm with which you serve the community.


My biggest frustration as a Human Performance professional is that I have struggled to get my old previous profession to listen. I retired six years ago because I stumbled on the solution to organizational performance improvement and wanted to not only impact DEA as an instructor, but ALL of Law Enforcement.   


As I have seen with Private Sector clients, I believe I can provide the much-needed solution.



The Solution

Despite progress in the design, engineering, and automation of systems and processes, many Public Safety organizations have reached plateaus in performance. Such plateaus often arise in areas associated with safety and human error and are often based upon the assumption that what worked in the past will work in the present. 


It is critical to recognize that all performance derives from a single core element - the human performance of the individuals who protect and serve the community and maintain the systems, structures, and processes necessary for the organization to achieve its objectives. 


What’s Human Performance? It’s simply Why we Do, What we Do, The Way we Do It. In other words, it’s everything we do!


For Public Safety organizations, “Human Performance” remains a difficult area in which to show sustainable progress. What’s required is a different approach for initiating, integrating, supporting, and sustaining desired behaviors. Those organizations that recognize and place proper focus upon the human performance of individuals will not only thrive but will lead the future of the Public Safety profession.


Many Public Safety organizations continue to focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and various metrics to ‘drive’ performance as their primary mechanism for improvement. And, while knowing where we are currently so we can choose a starting place is important, Wwe must, intandem, approach performance improvement. And we must do so from the perspective of how to innovatively LEAD and INFLUENCE - how to grow, reinforce, and support high-performing teams.          


Leadership training that focuses on “War stories” and one person’s single-minded view on leadership has been a pathway to failure in the public safety profession. 


A curriculum including the latest insights learned from the fields of neuroscience, behavioral psychology, and leadership science as it applies to behaviors, motivations, and influence within an organization has proven to produce successful leaders in the private sector and must be the new normal in achieving social justice training results for all Public Safety organizations. 


Indeed, RESULTS are critical. Results are ultimately why any organization exists. From a global perspective, the combined outcome of all efforts within a department or organization should be the safe, reliable, economical, and environmentally sound fulfillment of its enforcement objectives. 


The climate in America today is lashing out at the law enforcement profession. Some are even pushing for the defunding of Police, which is ridiculous. George Floyd’s murder is the last in a series of events that have frustrated the public. But riots and looting are not the answer. 


The answer to the noise is building to build a Pathway™ to culture transformation - how to get you and your [organization] from where you are to where you want to be. Growing a culture of ONE team, with ONE goal, having ONE conversation, via the elimination of opposing priorities (racial bias) and conflicting agendas between different job functions.,


resulting Doing so results in a work environment that’s much more pleasant, engaging, fulfilling; and more Reliable, more Efficient, More Productive, and above all SAFE.


What has been lacking is a systematic approach to organizational change.

A Systematic Approach

This Systematic Approach involves the following four fundamental elements, which when properly integrated, generate the “Human Performance Factor” (HU Factor®):


Proactive Accountability® - is about attitude. By opening the door, inviting ALL organization members to step through, and claim ownership, a new mantra is imprinted onto the mindset of workforce members: "What else can I do to make things better?"  'Good enough' is no longer an option.


Tools - Beyond physical tools necessary to perform specific tasks/jobs, there are also procedural/process/behavioral “tools” to guide organization members while they’re doing their work.


Engagement - Every organization (including yours) is perfectly aligned to get exactly the results it is currently getting.


If I could have a “do-over” in my career as a Supervisory Special Agent, I would have been more engaged spent more time on my culture. I, without a doubt, would have incorporated more “ride-a longs” with those I led.


Not to find mistakes-, to find what they did right, and engage in meaningful conversations that build trust and enhance communication, where problems are identified and solved well before they happen.  .


Certainly Like most, I made decisions in my career that impacted my culture in both a positive and negative way. I wish I knew then what I know now!  


Imagine the Chief of Police of a major police department taking the time to “ride-a-long” for a shift with every officer (including command staff) in his department regularly. What an impact that would have on his/her culture. Think of the knowledge the Chief would acquire about his/her department to assist in leadership decisions. 

Committing to A Principle-Based Mentoring™ methodology will assist you in maximizing interactions in a way that improves relationships and morale, promotes desired behaviors, and integrates efforts to dig up landmines and remove roadblocks.


At the Practicing Perfection Institute (PPI) we use It does so by using a simple engagement recipe to be used during observations known as the Core Four™, which . The Core Four™ is a series of Ask/Share questions that helps leaders get to the heart of any issue.

Learning - Learning is critical to long term sustainable performance improvement.  We want to LEARN and ACT DO so that we can repeat proper behaviors and good outcomes. We also want to LEARN and ACT DO so that we do NOT repeat things that did not go well.


When implemented and sustained in the right proportions under the right conditions, the HU Factor® is where the “magic” happens in organizational performance improvement.

An implementation plan must be put in place in a way that positively impacts the entire organization.

Here’s how it would look.


Effective transformation can only begin by understanding your starting point. And all progress begins by telling the truth.


PPI offers a Culture Profile process that provides an opportunity to ascertain the truth about the current culture of your agency or department and the teams within it.


This is the same Culture Profile process that has been used to assess work cultures within some of the largest organizations on the planet.

PPI Law Enforcement Culture Profile


The PPI Law Enforcement Culture Profile offers metrics and qualitative insights in five key areas:


  • Systems and Structures

  • Ownership

  • Openness and Awareness

  • Error-Likely Environment

  • Adaptability


To our knowledge, this is the only Culture Assessment of this type.


Rather than simply measuring team member engagement or satisfaction on one hand, or simply assessing systems and processes on the other, the PPI Law Enforcement Culture Profile identifies the bridge between the two- HOW current cultural aspects of your organization (mindsets, perceptions, relationships & expectations) interface with work environment conditions and processes to generate your current work climate and levels of performance.


PPI has completed Culture Profiles for some of the largest organizations on the planet. The Law Enforcement Culture Profile is specifically designed to assess law enforcement agency/department culture in light of current events.


Remember - all progress begins by telling the truth. To repeat, if you are truly interested in transformation, this is the place to start.


If you would like more information on the PPI Culture Profile process, please complete THIS form and I will personally get back with you to see whether this is a good fit for your department.


In closing, I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on this very important issue in our country. I strongly encourage Public Safety leaders to consider to prioritizing training and learning (Pillar five in the 21st Century Policing recommendations) as the first step in their departments cultural change process. A process that includes e learning and to continuously develop an educational plan for themselves and their sphere of influence. 


Developing a better understanding of how to influence others, and how to promote engagement and , ownership, and how to continually improveing performance will provide tremendous influencing power and lead our Public Safety organizations into the 21st Century.


To do so, leaders must begin to THINK different, so you can FEEL different, and ultimately DO differently.  .


This will be the Pathway to Social Justice reform, and I am certainly here to help.


Please feel free to contact me directly at if I can help in any way.


Wishing you all a safe journey through these challenging times!

Bob Catinazzo, PPM

Practicing Perfection Institute

Executive Vice-President – Client Services

(203) 738-8466

Bob Catinazzo is a decorated Senior Supervisory Agent for the DEA (retired), and is Director- Law Enforcement Services for the Practicing Perfection Institute.  He has taught law enforcement professionals around the world, providing strategic and tactical insights in leadership and human performance.

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