We need creative changes in our police organizations because it produces positive benefits, improves mechanisms for wellness and advances effective and professional policing.
Police organizations can become stagnate, ineffective and inefficient if they are mostly reactive in nature. When there is a culture of reluctance to embrace positive and creative change that is proactive, the organization can become crippled in its ability to respond constructively to the rapidly changing demands, laws and community expectations.
In order to become most responsive to the needs of the community, to most professionally fulfill your agency’s mission and to maintain organizational wellness, mechanisms to enable continuous positive change are essential.
Who can become the change agents
Every officer — regardless of rank, seniority or position — is not only a leader but an essential potential agent to create positive change. This concept needs to be understood and cultivated among supervisors and management executives.
One of the main pillars to foster positive change is for management to welcome bad news and creative ideas from those who work for them. They must also continuously foster creative partnerships and engage daily with their officers to show support, help them feel appreciated and valued, and build respect and trust. Effective communication and trust are essential to building partnerships and creating needed change.
If a supervisor or manager is not seen as approachable by their officers — if their officers believe any new idea will not be seriously listened to or possibly acted upon — and if their officers believe no good will ever come from delivering bad news or pointing out what isn’t working, then managers are severely handicapped in fulfilling their purposes in maintaining the highest level of professional and effective policing. Managers should be soliciting new ideas for constructive change. We may know this, but do we practice it consistently?
Good ideas can come from anyone and need to be welcomed. Even the most troublesome officer who is the most negative and cynical can have ideas that could potentially significantly improve police operations. Often, their negativity and cynicism come from perceiving the administration as not being as supportive and welcoming to improvement ideas as they could.
Also, if an officer’s ideas are not practical or worthy of serious consideration, then it needs to be explained why. Give feedback to any suggestion and follow up with any progress made from it. Not explaining why an idea was not embraced or tried will likely prevent that officer from ever suggesting anything else in
As a manager, think about how you respond to new ideas. Does your response leave the impression that the idea was listened to and taken to heart, whether it could be acted upon or not? Does your response give the impression that the idea was appreciated and that any other ideas would be welcomed?
Identify barriers to initiative and change
For anyone wanting to initiate change, they must first identify the barriers to implementing such change and find ways to work through them. Some barriers may be a history of the agency not embracing change or taking new ideas seriously. Another may be certain managers who, it is believed, will hinder any new initiative. It could be a lack of funds, adverse political considerations, an unresponsive police union, a lack of understanding for the need or initially a lack of support.
All of these barriers can be overcome. It takes perseverance, commitment and a will to intelligently address an issue in whatever ways that could lead toward the desired improvement.
If you believe it’s a good idea, don’t give up. Some of the best ideas for change took years to become supported and implemented.
Cultivate allies for change
Within the police profession, it is almost impossible to implement any change on your own that is long lasting. Research shows that if only one person offers an idea and tries to get it accepted, it is very likely to be summarily dismissed. If two people offer an idea for change, it will be initially listened to but not likely
implemented. If three or more people offer an idea, the odds of it becoming implemented increase significantly. The more allies you can cultivate to partner with you to implement the change, the greater the chances of success.
Try to win support from the police union, peer support team, representatives of as many agency units and divisions as possible, certain supportive management executives and line officers and supervisors. First, convince them of the need for the change and then work to gain their support and understanding for why your initiatives will be practical and effective.
To effect the change sought, it must be solely for the purpose of benefiting the agency and/or all the officers and/or the community in good, positive ways. Allies should want to be part of the initiatives for change because they see all the good that it can do.
Qualities that enable creative change are selflessness, perseverance, tolerance for differing views, a commitment to making things better, mutual respect and cooperation, and a heart-centered desire to be part of a solution to make a meaningful difference rather than enabling the problem.
Six pillars for creating positive change
First, the individual and the group as a whole seeking change must share a common vision, purpose and intention. Second, the individual or group should have goals but not have cherished outcomes. Change agents need to be flexible, creative and adaptive in implementing change. When a certain specific outcome is pushed as the only possibility for the idea, then progress is hampered.
Third, individuals and the group must understand and be all right with the fact that most change takes time and may not even happen within their careers. However, they can do much to move the ideas further toward acceptance and implementation.
Fourth, everyone involved must accept that they will possibly not get any credit for their efforts, and that must be all right. Fifth, each person within the group working for change must enjoy fundamental equality and respect, even as the various roles in the hierarchy are respected.
Finally, each member of the group seeking change must act with selflessness and integrity so that they are seen by others as being solely motivated to do good for others or the agency as a whole.
Mechanisms to embrace new ideas and to develop positive change are essential for police organizations to most effectively fulfill their purpose amid our rapidly changing profession. By always seeking improvement, police managers offer the best hope for organizational wellness and professional policing.