Posted on Leave a comment

PODCAST: Looking for Solutions to Mass Casualty Events (Part 1)| Monday Morning Roll Call | 022

Looking for Solutions to Mass Casualty Events (Part 1) | MONDAY MORNING ROLL CALL | Episode 022

LISTEN NOW

Monday Morning Roll Call is released every week by On The Blue Line and provides a short overview of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead.

**NEW** We now have a Patreon Account. What is a Patreon Account? It is a way for you to join with our mission by pledging as little as $1.00 per episode ($4.00 a month) to help fund the content and programming that we bring to you each week.

If you are enjoying what OTBL has to offer and would like to join us, please click here: patreon.com/OnTheBlueLine.

We hope you will continue to enjoy the programming from OTBL and please continue to tell others about the mission of OTBL- Thank you so much for your support!

In this episode we discuss:

  • This week we answer another question from our closed Facebook Group, On The Blue Line Guild. Be sure to join us!
  • We discuss the recent tragedies involving Mass Casualties including an incident out of California involving a machete.
  • Before getting into a conversation about gun control in Part 2 (releases next week), we first ask ourselves if we are considering the root cause(s) of the problem and if we are making a rational decision or a decision solely based on emotion.
  • Finally this week, we encourage you to think about your own decision making and approach to controversial matters.   

After the episode:

If you enjoy the Monday Morning Roll Call, we encourage you to check out our Interview Podcast , The Interview Room.

On The Blue Line was founded and is operated by active-duty law enforcement to fulfill the mission of providing guidance, resources and community for law enforcement officers, first responders, and military personal in their off-duty lives.

HONOR | EDUCATE | DEFEND


Listen and subscribe wherever you prefer to Stream your Podcasts…


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Posted on Leave a comment

PODCAST: My Greatest Fear Starting Out| Monday Morning Roll Call | 021

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 021 | My Greatest Fear Starting Out

LISTEN NOW

Monday Morning Roll Call is released every week by On The Blue Line and provides a short overview of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead.

**NEW** We now have a Patreon Account. What is a Patreon Account? It is a way for you to join with our mission by pledging as little as $1.00 per episode ($4.00 a month) to help fund the content and programming that we bring to you each week.

If you are enjoying what OTBL has to offer and would like to join us, please click here: patreon.com/OnTheBlueLine.

If you are not in a position to help at this time, we hope you will continue to enjoy the programming from OTBL and please continue to tell others about the mission of OTBL- Thank you so much for your support!

In this episode we discuss:

  • Each Podcast episode is now available on video on our YouTube Channel.
  • This week we answer another question from our closed Facebook Group, On The Blue Line Guild. Be sure to join us!
  • Finally, we remind you that the year is quickly moving along and we consider where we are on goals that we set for the year. We encourage you to make sure to regularly assess your goals in order to keep on track with reaching your target.   

After the episode:

If you enjoy the Monday Morning Roll Call, we encourage you to check out our Interview Podcast , The Interview Room.

On The Blue Line was founded and is operated by active-duty law enforcement to fulfill the mission of providing guidance, resources and community for law enforcement officers, first responders, and military personal in their off-duty lives.

HONOR | EDUCATE | DEFEND


Listen and subscribe wherever you prefer to Stream your Podcasts…


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Posted on Leave a comment

PODCAST: Find a Cure, Not a Scapegoat| Monday Morning Roll Call | 020

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 020 | Find a Cure, Not a Scapegoat

LISTEN NOW

Monday Morning Roll Call is released every week by On The Blue Line and provides a short overview of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Each Podcast episode is now available on video on our YouTube Channel.
  • This week we discuss disrespect towards law enforcement, specifically the water-throwing in NYC.
  • We contrast this with a Thank You note, I received this week from Thankful For Our Heroes in Blue and discuss the support from everyday members of the community for law enforcement.
  • We discuss the idea of finding a cure, instead of finding someone to blame when something goes wrong.
  • We consider this idea of taking responsibility and why people play the “Blame Game,” from an article by Dr. Susan Whitbourne in Psychology Today.
  • Finally, we encourage you to take responsibility when things go wrong and to work towards finding a solution and allowing the mistake to become a catalyst for success. 

After the episode:

If you enjoy the Monday Morning Roll Call, we encourage you to check out our Interview Podcast , The Interview Room.

On The Blue Line was founded and is operated by active-duty law enforcement to fulfill the mission of providing guidance, resources and community for law enforcement officers, first responders, and military personal in their off-duty lives.

HONOR | EDUCATE | DEFEND


Listen and subscribe wherever you prefer to Stream your Podcasts…


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Posted on Leave a comment

PODCAST: Define Your Standard| Monday Morning Roll Call | 019

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 019 | Define Your Standard

LISTEN NOW

Monday Morning Roll Call is released every week by On The Blue Line and provides a short overview of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Finally, we encourage you to start this week to develop your personal code and the standard by which you want to live.

After the episode:

If you enjoy the Monday Morning Roll Call, we encourage you to check out our Interview Podcast , The Interview Room.

On The Blue Line was founded and is operated by active-duty law enforcement to fulfill the mission of providing guidance, resources and community for law enforcement officers, first responders, and military personal in their off-duty lives.

HONOR | EDUCATE | DEFEND

 


Listen and subscribe wherever you prefer to Stream your Podcasts…


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Posted on Leave a comment

PODCAST: The Business of Outrage Culture| Monday Morning Roll Call | 018

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 018 | The Business of Outrage Culture

LISTEN NOW

Monday Morning Roll Call is released every week by On The Blue Line and provides a short overview of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead.

In this episode we discuss:

After the episode:

If you enjoy the Monday Morning Roll Call, we encourage you to check out our Interview Podcast , The Interview Room.

On The Blue Line was founded and is operated by active-duty law enforcement to fulfill the mission of providing guidance, resources and community for law enforcement officers, first responders, and military personal in their off-duty lives.

HONOR | EDUCATE | DEFEND

 


Listen and subscribe wherever you prefer to Stream your Podcasts…


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Posted on Leave a comment

Blooming in Stone

It stood there resolutely, a monument to the can-do spirit, a testament to the against-all-odds mentality.  In the middle of a crushed limestone driveway, it stood there, improbably alive.

 

I saw it out of the corner of my eye while I myself stood in the inexorable southern heat, futilely willing my cooling sweat glands to do their job. I walked closer and observed that not only was the pansy living in the early summer heat, it was blooming, just as beautifully as ever.

 

Driveways are rarely good places to plant flowers, and one should definitely never attempt to plant in the middle of them. And yet, there it stood. And that is not the only way it was out of its element.  The pansy was of the variety viola tricolor var. hortensis; it is not a plant that likes heat, and it absolutely prefers well-drained soil. It is a flower that is known to have a longer germination cycle from seed, 1-3 weeks, making it a perfect annual to start indoors, which allows it to make its appearance in late spring, after the last threat of frost has subsided. However, since it also does not like heat, it becomes in the Deep South more of a winter annual, planted when the north is still trying to decide if it is going to be sixty degrees today or snow.

 

fullsizeoutput_d25
Photo by Ontheblueline.com

Yet, somehow, the pansy ended up here–in the middle of a driveway, in the intense heat of a Southern summer. Its seed was likely carried in by bird droppings and ended up landing here, far from where any seed would likely want to be (provided, of course, that it had an opinion) by pure random happenstance. But after landing in this most inhospitable location, something happened.  Change began to take place. Heat caused a reaction in this little seed, coupled with moisture and humidity. First, little feet in the form of roots began to emerge, each seeking nutrition and providing stability. Then a single stalk sprang up, its little leaf seeking the sunlight above, like a deep-sea diver emerging from the blackness below. Next, an unfurling began, with more leaves emerging from the stalk. The mission of these new leaves was simple: catch moisture and deliver it to the waiting roots below. The roots expanded, reaching as far as they could past this little plant to gather as much nutrition as possible from its garden of stone. Then it happened, the crescendo, the unveiling; a bud emerged from the stalk, cautious at first as it opened ever so slowly, peeking its face of color around a curtain of green, until finally the beckoning sun pulled it from hiding and its brilliant color exploded, smiling for all the world to see.

 

fullsizeoutput_cf8
Photo by Ontheblueline.com

One thing that decades of landscaping experience has taught me is that plants ultimately will grow where they are happy, and where they are happy is determined by the plant. Whether you have a “green-thumb” or garden by YouTube, think about the plants that make it and the ones that do not. If plants interest you at all, you have seen the person who over-preps, over-plans, and over-cares for their plant. They make the trip to the hardware store, buy the highest quality plant, quickly discarding all the surrounding ones for any sign of a blemish. They buy the best soil, making sure every additive and fertilizer is in it.  Perlite: check. Miracle Grow: check.  Lime: check.  Everything that can help the plant be nurtured and grow, they buy. They get the plant home, carefully removing it from the container. They loosen the roots to give the plant the best chance of not being girdled. They then plant it in the right location–proper sun, proper shade, proper soil–and then they water, water, water.

 

A few days later, as you are walking around your yard, you look over at your neighbors’ plant, and the once-thriving, newly-planted specimen has moved on to wherever plants go when they are no longer living. According to all expert advice, that plant was in the proper location and everything was correct for it to thrive, and instead it died.

 

By contrast, if you have ever walked along the rocky gullies of central Indiana or the sandy cliffs of Northern Michigan, you have seen Hemlocks–towering, evergreen Hemlocks–growing in the most unusual of locations. Exposed roots, limited soil, limited nutrients, moisture that is only provided when the snow or rain comes, and yet they tower above many of the trees in the forest, when there is no plausible reason for them to make it. You see their roots above ground, snaking between rocks, and the tree itself bending and warping as it seeks light from the sun above the canopy. You wonder how the tree even stands, let alone lives.

 

adventure conifer daylight environment
Photo by Eric Sanman on Pexels.com

 

Why does one tree make it, and another does not?  How can an overprotected beautiful specimen die in 24 hours, but a flowering plant in a driveway that never should have taken root in the first place live long enough to share its bloom with the world? All of this with no care, only neglect and a harsh, unforgiving environment.

 

The answer is ultimately unknown. Sure, there is speculation. We can discuss genetics, unknown factors such as disease, insects, and fungus. It can be as simple as too much water causing the roots to rot, or not enough water causing them to shrivel up and die. There are also theories as to succession: which plants come first and can seek out and find nutrients, and which plants come second to live off of the nutrients supplied by the first living matter to occupy an area, such as when new growth begins to come back on a volcanic mountain.

 

Whatever the actual answer in a particular situation, it seems that people can be no different. How is it that one person can seem unaffected by the storms of life, but another person’s entire world fall apart over a seemingly minor inconvenience? How is it that trials make some stronger but for others it is a crisis from which they may never recover?

 

I remember early on in my law enforcement career seeing the Field Training Officers and Sergeants who had been at the agency for almost 20 years and were proverbially “Rusting in Place/Retired On Duty.” The “RIPRODs.” They were doing something that they had fallen out of love with a long time ago and felt like they were just biding their time to get to the goal of retirement. They would come across as prisoners, each shift scratching their mark into the prison wall, to keep track of how many days until “freedom.” We have all met them.  Everything was horrible, nothing good was happening, and often everything in their life outside of work was falling apart as well.  They were planted, barely, but wilting due to an underlying bitterness present in everything they did.

 

However, when we allow these setbacks to become our reality and we only see the negative, we begin to wither where we are planted. The good news is that we have a choice. The conditions that we find ourselves in do not have to define us.

 

I also remember seeing newer officers and supervisors, who had overcome great odds to get where they were. They had faced trials and turmoil in their personal lives and sometimes their professional lives, but rather than giving in to the storms, they grew stronger roots, anchoring themselves in the belief that this was just something they were going through and knowing the sun would shine again.

 

Whether in law enforcement or really any career, we all know people in both camps: the ones who believe that everything negative is happening to them, as though it is some deep-seated conspiracy aimed solely at their happiness, and the ones who believe that bad things happen around them, but they can learn and grow from the lessons that these trials provide. This is a drastic difference and it is almost entirely due to perspective. Our deep-seated beliefs about life and our role in it have a foundational effect on our ability to weather any trials that may come our way.

 

close up photo of coconut tree
Photo by Suparerg Suksai on Pexels.com

 

In life, real storms exist, and they are not always little rain showers. Sometimes they are hurricanes in the low country, they are insurmountable waves and winds buffeting us like wooden structures in sand. Our likelihood of survival seems bleak, and that is the best-case scenario. However, one thing about storms, no matter how terrifying at the time, is that they pass, the wind and waves subside, the sun peeks back out from the gray curtain of clouds, and the song of birds and of life returns. However, only the plants with strong developed root systems can survive these storms, and only people with strong developed core values can handle these life-changing events and come out stronger on the other side.

 

Life is not about perfect; it is about a perfected response and perspective to the life we have been given.

 

If we find ourselves in life-changing storms but are always living in the belief that the storm is coming back rather than enjoying life between the storms, we do ourselves a great disservice. We begin to believe that the storms are the only reality of life, and we never again try to bloom. Life is not solely about being comfortable and only existing in the perfect conditions for growth. The perfect temperature, the perfect soil, the perfect water, the perfect light. Life is not about perfect; it is about a perfected response and perspective to the life we have been given.

 

Whether on the job or in our personal lives, there will always be setbacks.  There will always be moments when we question our own survival and whether or not there will be a tomorrow. However, when we allow these setbacks to become our reality and we only see the negative, we begin to wither where we are planted. The good news is that we have a choice. The conditions that we find ourselves in do not have to define us.  We can land among the rocks in the most inhospitable of environments and then bloom among the stone.

 

green leafed plant on sand
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

THIS POST FIRST APPEARED AT ON THE BLUE LINE, April 18, 2019.

Posted on Leave a comment

Coming Home

Coming home. A simple phrase with so much meaning. The thoughts that it provokes, the memories it conjures, the images it displays are different for each of us, depending on our life experiences, our desires, and our interpretations. It seems like only a short time ago I would come home to the pitter-patter of tiny feet—the echoing sound of a toddler running across ceramic tile to greet me at the door.  The high shriek of a child’s voice screaming, “Daddy’s home!” The giggles, the “How was your day?,” and the moment of reunification that seems frozen in time. Almost every parent can relate to this memory, and others may even relate to a similar response from a beloved pet. It seemed in that moment that nothing else mattered; mommy or daddy was finally home, and life could get back to normal.

girl s white and blue dress
Photo by Johan Bos on Pexels.com

Time changes everything. Over the years, the pitter-patter of children’s feet becomes the thud of teenager’s tennis shoes. You are no longer met at the door. Instead, you may hear a deep, dispassionate, “Great… Dad’s home,” echoing from somewhere in the house. This greeting is most likely coming from the living room couch where an electronic game or television is playing in the background.  The excitement is no longer there, and your daily schedule has descended into a ritual of leaving and returning, without cause for excitement or wonder.

 

Time changes everything. Over the years, the pitter-patter of children’s feet becomes the thud of teenager’s tennis shoes.

 

This is a natural part of the progression of life, and it is often no different in our career. Do you remember the first few times you wore the uniform? How it felt? How many times you checked for the proper fit in front of the mirror, just wanting to make certain it was perfect? Do you remember the first time you sat in your Field Training Officer’s car?  And do you remember the first call you went to? If you have family or roommates living with you, do you recall their response when you returned home from those first couple shifts? Your family was so excited, wanting to see you in your uniform, the beaming smiles, the pats on the back, and the words of congratulations.

 

No matter where in the country you serve, your career likely began in a police academy of some type. You spent months learning, educating yourself on the details of the job, the laws of the state and community in which you serve, and how to properly use all the equipment you would one day be issued. While in the academy, you were likely participating in regular physical fitness, working out several days a week, striving to be in the best shape you could be for the career ahead. The academy was all about comradery and teamwork. There was a sense of excitement among the group knowing that you were in this together and that somehow, someway you were all going to make it. You knew that someday you would all wear the badge, and you were excited about it, no matter what the tasks of the day demanded.

 

This excitement remained through the orientation at your new agency and place of employment. After completing months at the academy, having only a few weeks of introduction was refreshing. However, somehow, these weeks seemed to go by even slower. You were so close to finally being on the road, so close to your goal of becoming an officer. No matter if being a police officer is something you dreamed of your entire life, or if just one day you decided you needed a job and you applied, the process helped to create a feeling of accomplishment.

 

Finally, your first day on the road arrived. You likely remember every moment of that first day. The feeling you had when you sat in your first roll-call. There was certainly apprehension, but deeper there was enthusiasm, a knowing that you had made it this far, that you could complete the process. Every call was exciting. Sure, some were tragic, some may have been concerning, some may have even been boring, but at the end of the day there was an eagerness behind everything you did.

 

The first couple times you returned home after a shift, you were greeted by family. They wanted to hear about your day.  “What did you see? What did you do? What was it like?” If you have small kids, they probably asked to see the lights in your car, to hear the siren and maybe even quietly whispered, “Can I sit inside the car?” They wanted to hear the funny stories, and you told the humorous tales with gusto. And they thought they wanted to hear the tragedies, so you told them the edited versions you could recall. They were eager and you were excited, and they wanted to know everything about what you were doing and who you had become.

man wearing jacket and peaked cap grayscale photo
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

 

Over time, it all changes. It is slow at first, like the evaporation of water on a hot summer day. You don’t notice the slow change. At first, you notice your response is different. Calls you used to approach with interest become routine. The awe and wonder are no longer there, and you begin to feel a rise of cynicism, maybe even resentment towards those you serve. The parts of the job you used to find exciting and full of promise become annoyances and aggravations. It takes years, but slowly and steadily everything you used to love about the job becomes everything you hate. Pressure grows, frustration grows, and impatience grows, and you find yourself beginning to wonder why you even chose this line of work.

 

It takes years, but slowly and steadily everything you used to love about the job becomes everything you hate. Pressure grows, frustration grows, and impatience grows, and you find yourself beginning to wonder why you even chose this line of work.

 

Now, it isn’t that you don’t want to be a cop; in fact, that’s the one thing that makes sense. It is the clearest thing to you, the fact that you are still a cop. Somehow it seems that it is the definition of being an officer that has changed. It is no longer you in your cape, flying about, solving the ills of society; rather it is the reality of a society with so many ills you begin to wonder if they can be cured. Once, you dreamed of helping victims find justice, and now you begin to think that the term “justice system” may be a misnomer. You have felt the frustration of the revolving door of the courts and detention. You have seen evil seemingly win and felt the anger when the vilest appear to be vindicated.

 

You still want to be a cop, but your definition has changed. The real question is: why has it changed? This change seems so deep, so core to everything that you know that you begin to wonder if it isn’t you that has fully changed.

 

It is here, in this place we have all been, that I would argue that it is not change, but rather the natural seasons of life. Just as a teenager no longer thinks as a child, no longer cares about the same things he cared about as a child, and no longer behaves like a child, so it is with us as we “grow-up” within a career. We begin to see the world differently because of our comfortability in it. The world isn’t as we once knew it, because we are there, we are interpreting it according to our involvement. It isn’t that these frustrations were not there before we became part of the system, they just were not your frustrations. It was not the world that you knew as intimately as you do now.

 

Sure, cynicism can creep in, even deeper concerns such as resentment, but they are reactions to a world that existed before you even first put on the badge and will be there long after you hang up your uniform for the last time. The answer does not lie in changing that which is out of our control. The answer is maintaining ourselves in the storm, making sure to preserve the proper perspective and to guard against cynicism, resentment, and even hatred.

blur close up device display
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

The teenager sitting on the couch playing a video game when you walk in the door doesn’t love you any less now than when he would run across the tile floor, and you don’t love them any less, they just see their world differently. They no longer expectantly wait for dad or mom to come home because they are reaching a level of autonomy, and your world is not the most important thing in their world. Their world is evolving with each revolution of the earth around the sun.

 

It isn’t that the lights, sirens, and uniforms don’t interest friends and family anymore, but they are no longer new or different; it is simply who you are, who you became. The new car scent has officially worn off.

 

You still have a sacred mission, and until the day you decide the job is no longer for you, you retire, or you leave for reasons outside of your control, we must remember what brought us here in the first place.

 

This evolution has occurred on the job as well. You now see the frustrations, but the core mission, the core need that brought you here still exists. The career still needs your involvement to try to stem the tide of injustice and mayhem that would exist in a world without law and order. The reason you are here is no different than it was years ago when you went through the academy; it has only progressed. The goal now is to protect the part of yourself that sees this as a mission and to be careful not to lose yourself in the job. For if we lose what brought us here in the first place, we risk not being able to complete the duty to which we have been called.

opened brown wooden french door
Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy on Pexels.com

For each of us, putting on the uniform should every day be a coming home celebration. You still have a sacred mission, and until the day you decide the job is no longer for you, you retire, or you leave for reasons outside of your control, we must remember what brought us here in the first place. Welcome Home!

 

THIS POST FIRST APPEARED AT ON THE BLUE LINE, April 3, 2019.

Posted on Leave a comment

Painting Rocks

It seemed to be the most mundane of all tasks. The intense afternoon sun was directly overhead, and the heat and humidity surrounded him like a heavy wool blanket. The tropical heat of Florida was unfamiliar to him, and each labored breath he took made him wonder why he had ever come here in the first place. Tiny sweat droplets could be seen gathering on his glistening forehead as the moisture seemed to only intensify the sun’s reflection.

He stood in a field of white sand. He had a shovel in his hand that he would use to dig into the soft dirt, removing it from what appeared to be the beginnings of a hole. Each time the metal spade would dig into the loose sand, the soil around it would loosen and partially fill the hole he had just dug. Over and over this dance continued, dig a little soil and watch the surrounding soft sand partially refill the hole. The unrelenting heat, coupled with the monotony of this task, led to the initiation of a conversation by one of the fellow workers. The other man could not make sense of the repetitiveness of the task and began to complain. In fact, he ceased working, threw his shovel on the ground, and sat in the shade of a nearby tree.

craig-whitehead-270989-unsplash

A conversation ensued between the two men in reference to the fairness of the supervisor. The man who was sitting in the shade saw the supervisor as an unreasonable tyrant forcing them into hard labor in the blistering heat. The man made it clear that he had no respect for the leader and that he no longer wanted such a mundane job. However, it was only his first day on the job, and he was known for moving from company to company, never happy with any place that he had worked. This work seemed to him to be the most ridiculous of jobs and something he saw as being far beneath him.

 

The male who was still digging the holes that partially refilled as he dug had been working for the supervisor for many years, and he truly respected him. He knew that though the work was grueling, the pay was fair. He also knew that though the environment was inhospitable due to the location, he knew the owner did everything he could to lighten the workload.

As the men talked, the man under the shade tree stated that he did not understand why the other man was working so hard and stated that he would be walking away after he had rested. The man then looked up to the other man still consistently digging and asked, “What is it that makes you stay?”

The man with the shovel replied simply, “I stay because I know the man that I work for, and I will do anything that he asks of me.” After a brief pause, the man went on to describe the owner as a man of character, a man who cared when his child was sick and he needed time off, a man who was there when a serious accident almost cost him his life, and a man who constantly supported his desires–even when he asked if he could simply dig the holes for the others who would be planting behind him.

Sitting in the shade, the man was silent for a moment and then inquisitively looked up and asked in an almost stuttering voice, “You want to dig holes?”

“Yes,” he replied gently. “You see, I can no longer operate the equipment since the accident; my eyesight will not allow me. I can no longer plant the large trees because of the strength that it requires and the injuries I sustained.  And can no longer walk great distances quickly enough to move material around.  But the owner knew I needed a job and offered me this one. I owe him everything for his kindness and his caring support. Whatever task he requires of me, I will do with what strength I have left, to the utmost of my ability.” He paused and continued, “You see, digging holes is one of the most important jobs we have. If they’re not ready when the planting crews get to them, then the process is slowed, and it affects the entire operation.”

The man in the shade stood up and quietly walked away. He could never understand the wisdom of the man to whom he had been talking. As he walked away, the methodical thump of a shovel striking sand could be heard behind him.

chris-yang-1052032-unsplash

 

I once heard of a supervisor that would ask his people to paint rocks. They were simply brush strokes on native stone for no apparent reason. It’s a task both mundane and thankless. When asked why they would paint the rocks, they almost always replied that it was not because they wanted to paint rocks, but because of who was asking them to paint them.

These stories above are illustrations of the response that great leaders get when they ask for seemingly mediocre tasks to be completed. Sometimes the task is exactly what the person needs and wants to do for their own growth even though the assignment seems lackluster. A seemingly menial task may be the best fit for them and where they are right now in their career. In other cases, the job that is being asked may be truly insignificant or the followers do not have the whole picture, but the person doing the asking is someone that people want to follow.

This analogy is often true in times of war. Though no good leader would intentionally want to lead their people into a deadly scenario, it is a possibility in war that what you are requesting could lead others to their deaths. Why do people follow these men and women into a war zone? In the world of firefighting, why would someone follow another into a burning building? In law enforcement, what would make someone choose to follow others into an active shooting area?

Some might argue a blank follower-ship, a proverbial lemming scenario: they jumped off the cliff, so you jump off the cliff, and so forth, and so on. Though this can be true in some scenarios, I would argue that this is not the case in the majority of situations. When those who survive are asked why they went into the inhospitable environment knowing that they might not survive, they usually respond with some version of, “Because of whom I was following.”

When those who survive are asked why they went into the inhospitable environment knowing that they might not survive, they usually respond with some version of, “Because of whom I was following.”

 

But what does this have to do with law enforcement and holding the blue line? We have all had that one supervisor–the one whose face immediately springs to mind whenever the subject of bad leadership comes up. The first labels that come to mind might be “micro-manager,” “uncaring,” “hard to understand,” and “undisciplined.” We may even use harsher terms or language that describes major character flaws, possibly even unethical or immoral behaviors. We all know and can probably tell a story about a bad leader we have had in our lives, regardless of our profession.

If good leaders are the antithesis of bad leaders, then we can discover what defines them by reversing the traits of a bad leader. If a bad leader is defined by the list above, then the opposite holds true for a good leader, terms such as: “allows for autonomy,” “caring,” “easily understood,” “disciplined” and “ethical,” maybe even “moral.” We all know the signs of good and bad leaders because we have had them in our lives. From the time we were a child, we began to develop an understanding of who we would prefer to follow and why we want to follow them.

In law enforcement today, there is a polarizing effect that takes place when it comes to leadership.  In some organizations we have strong leaders that people will follow into any situation, while in others, we have leaders that no one wants to follow at all.  As with any business, there is a difference between positional authority and leadership. Someone can be given a position of authority–such as passing a Sergeants or Lieutenants exam–but if no one is following them, then they are not a leader. The test for leadership is determined by stopping and seeing who is behind you. Who is it that is charging up the hill towards battle (real or proverbial) with you?  If you glance back and no one is there, then you have no true followers.

jehyun-sung-486247-unsplash

 

Leadership is something that is essential to a law enforcement organization, from the front-lines to the office of the Police Chief or Sheriff. This is a career that requires you to be able to lead people or at a minimum take charge in a precarious situation where decisions must be made on a moment’s notice. However, this is often determined by positional leadership in the organization and complicated by the chain of command structure. This is an important structure in law enforcement and military organizations but can often lead to an increase in people with positional authority but lacking in actual leadership skills.

The real question is, where are you? What is your role? And why do you do what you do? Do you feel sometimes like you are mindlessly digging holes only to see them partially filled back in with each shovel full you take? Do you feel like you are pointlessly painting rocks just for the sake of changing their color? We all have these tasks, these requirements, that are asked of us. What we must come to terms with is: why do we do them? Is it simply because someone of a higher rank asked us to, or are we following this person because of who they are and where they are leading us? Finally, we must ask the question: if it is solely because of positional authority, then what am I doing differently to be ready to lead when my turn comes?

 

markus-spiske-1142262-unsplash

 

On the other hand, if we are like the man on his first day sitting under the shade tree refusing to do what is asked, then we are not setting ourselves up for success should the opportunity ever arise for us to lead. That way of thinking will not develop a leader but rather someone who at the best can hope for positional authority should they even stay at the organization long enough to have promotional opportunities.

 

Finally, develop the skills of good leaders in your life, so that someday when you need to ask someone to dig holes or paint rocks, they will simply say, “I do it because they asked me, and they are the kind of man or woman I want to follow.”

In the coming weeks, I encourage you to begin to take notice of your organization and your role in it. Observe those who are leaders you want to follow and what sets them apart, and begin to emulate their actions and reactions. Notice what defines a bad leader, and be vigilant to refrain from those traits in your own life. Finally, develop the skills of good leaders in your life, so that someday when you need to ask someone to dig holes or paint rocks, they will simply say, “I do it because they asked me, and they are the kind of man or woman I want to follow.”

 

THIS POST FIRST APPEARED AT ON THE BLUE LINE, MARCH 2019.