We Are NOT Broken:
The 'Broken from Within"
As a Law Enforcement Leader, you are experiencing the most difficult and dangerous time in our country’s policing history. In addition to simply enforcing the law, current times command that you also deal with a seemingly endless barrage of issues involving community trust, use of force, and defensible posturing. Perhaps even more acute, is the day-to-day impact this is having upon your officers.
We are not broken…
The challenges are great. Times are certainly…tough. Thankfully, we are far from ‘broken’. In fact, conditions such as these offer tremendous opportunity for those who [truly] lead.
In order to lead, especially in this era of dispiriting and morale-busting headlines and external agendas, you must (1) know your core principles, (2) know where you want to go, and (3) inspire those under your command.
Staying inspired can be tough
We’ll talk about core principles and your vision for your department (and how to get there) in future posts. For now, we need to begin at the beginning- with…you.
Inspiring those under your command is your best strategy toward dealing with external challenges. The thing is, in order to be inspiring, you yourself must be inspired.
Do you still have that ‘inner fire’? Are you still harnessing that drive…that passion for why you became a cop?
Staying inspired can be [very] tough in today’s environment. A great way to redefine your ‘edge’ is to get back to your “why”; to reconnect with WHY you got into law enforcement in the first place.
In 1993, I came across a poster by Abel Reynoso. It was created to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
At the time, I was an insurance adjuster. When I saw this poster- the uniform, the weapon, the command presence, and the look in the agent’s eyes, I was inspired. At that moment I decided to focus my life and my lifestyle on becoming that ‘guy in the poster’.
What was Your ‘Moment’?
Your ‘moment’ might’ve been a poster or a billboard, a scene in a TV show or movie, a magazine or newspaper article, a specific event, or maybe a comment made by someone dear to you (or someone you didn’t even know). The point is, it struck you. It defined you. At that instant, you KNEW what you wanted to do with your life- you were meant to be a cop.
Prevailing stressors can easily tarnish your clarity…your sense of purpose. A great way to get re-inspired is to go back to that moment. Recognize it. Focus upon it. Feel it. Reclaim it. Step back into it.
Why is this [so] important?
It’s not likely that external challenges and pressures are going to let up anytime soon. It’s more likely that things will get worse. External pressures generate internal pressures. And this is where your leadership, and the efforts of the other members of your leadership team, become critical.
Some law enforcement organizations will thrive and become much stronger and more capable because of the external challenges. Others will fall into dysfunction. As a leader, the direction of your department, and the attitudes and perspectives of your officers falls directly upon you.
The Battle from Within
My decision in ’93 took me where I wanted to go. In 1995 I achieved Special Agent status within the DEA.
Following my Academy graduation, as a ‘newbie’ with the Agency, I vividly remember Bobby Graham, a senior partner of mine, telling me, “you’re gonna love the job, but how you deal with the battle from within will define you.”
As a law enforcement leader, you know what I’m talking about. The ‘battle from within’ is something that every cop has to deal with.
As I progressed through my 20+ year career, there were lots of ups and downs. Even after I achieved “Supervisory Special Agent” status, frustrations (and believe me, there were MANY) were frequent. It was during such times that I reached down deep; I reconnected with my WHY. I’d pull out the poster and remember- this is me. This is what I was put here to do.
I honestly do not believe that anyone outside the law enforcement world can fully understand what we face- day in and day out. External battles continue to rage. As leaders, it’s our job to deal with our ‘battles from within’- first within ourselves, and then by leading and inspiring those underneath us.
Take heart. It always gets darkest right before the dawn. You are doing good work. Our entire society would unravel without the work that you and your department are doing.
In future posts, I am going to offer tactical insights into HOW to inspire, HOW to influence, and grow a culture of desire, where your team members are pulling together, and doing the right things for the right reasons because they want to- stuff that I have learned, experienced, and taught for 15 years as a Supervisor, Physical Trainer, and Tactical Instructor for the DEA at our training academy in Quantico VA, and that I’ve now combined with the Practicing Perfection® approach to human performance.
For now, the important thing is for you to get back to your personal WHY.
And I’d like to ask you to do me (and yourself) a favor. In the Comments section below, let me know what your ‘moment’ was- what was it and how did it make you feel?
By writing this down, it will not only help re-inspire you, it will also help to inspire others.
Until next time, thanks for all you are doing to help make our world a better and safer place!
Bob Catinazzo, PPM
Practicing Perfection Institute
Executive Vice-President – Client Services
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.