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PODCAST: The Influence of the Badge | Monday Morning Roll Call | 006

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 006| The Influence of the Badge.

LISTEN NOW

 

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 006 | The Influence of the Badge.

A new Monday Morning Roll Call is released every Monday Morning and provides a short overview format of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead. 

In this episode:

  • We want to thank you for helping us get to our sixth episode, it has been an exciting journey and we hope you will continue to follow along. Please whether you love the show, hate the show, or are somewhere in between please go to iTunes right now and leave a rating and review.
  • We discuss the influence of the badge on our lives and the lessons that we have learned from law enforcement.
  • We discuss the 5 lessons that I have learned from law enforcement including:
        1. The Badge represents something greater than myself.
        2. You have a Voice, Use it!
        3. If it is not in the report, it never happened.
        4. True Strength is controlled Strength.
        5. It could all be over tomorrow.

Your opinion matters! Please leave comments and feedback on whatever media you are listening to this show. Also, please feel free to email with any questions that you would like dealt with in future episodes. This show is for you the listener and we need your help for it to become a great resource for everyone On the Blue Line. 

Connect with us to share in this vision! Visit our website and join our mailing list for up-to-date content, contests, and connection with what we are doing.

Also, join our closed Facebook Group where we continue these discussions and strive to help all of those On the Blue Line to achieve wholeness and happiness in their everyday life.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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PODCAST: The Importance of a Morning Routine | Monday Morning Roll Call | 005

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 005 | The Importance of a Morning Routine. 

LISTEN NOW

 

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 005 | The importance of a Morning Routine.

A new Monday Morning Roll Call is released every Monday Morning and provides a short overview format of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead. 

In this episode:

  • We want to thank you for helping us get to our fifth episode, it has been an exciting journey and we hope you will continue to follow along. Please whether you love the show, hate the show, or are somewhere in between please go to iTunes right now and leave a rating and review.
  • We discuss a heart-warming story out of Culver City, California, where an officers quick actions save the life of an infant.
  • We are compelled to tell the story of three nude women on a rampage in Florida. This is definitely a story we could not make up.
  • Finally, this week we discuss the importance of morning routines and that taking ownership of our morning, helps us take ownership of our day and ultimately our life.

Your opinion matters! Please leave comments and feedback on whatever media you are listening to this show. Also, please feel free to email with any questions that you would like dealt with in future episodes. This show is for you the listener and we need your help for it to become a great resource for everyone On the Blue Line. 

Connect with us to share in this vision! Visit our website and join our mailing list for up-to-date content, contests, and connection with what we are doing.

Also, join our closed Facebook Group where we continue these discussions and strive to help all of those On the Blue Line to achieve wholeness and happiness in their everyday life.

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PODCAST: In the People Business | Monday Morning Roll Call | 004

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 004 | In the People Business

LISTEN NOW

 

A new Monday Morning Roll Call is released every Monday Morning and provides a short overview format of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead.

In this episode:

  • We want to thank you for helping us get to our fourth episode, it has been an exciting journey and we hope you will continue to follow along. Please whether you love the show, hate the show, or are somewhere in between please go to iTunes right now and leave a rating and review. 
  • We discuss the story of young, Brisen Fullbright, and his fight with cancer. This heart-warming story tells about a town, a school, and law-enforcement officers coming together to support this 7 year old young man. This is such a great story highlighting the best in people.
  • We provide follow up on the Illinois State Trooper Gerald Ellis story; new witness accounts describe his final heroic actions.
  • We discuss the known and unknown risks when it comes to dealing with people and how the uncertainty of law enforcement and other related careers are all directly indicative of being in the people business.
  • We conclude with talking about the good and bad of humanity and the need to maintain a people-centered focus throughout our career.

Your opinion matters! Please leave comments and feedback on whatever media you are listening to this show. Also, please feel free to email with any questions that you would like dealt with in future episodes. This show is for you the listener and we need your help for it to become a great resource for everyone On the Blue Line.

Connect with us to share in this vision! Visit our website and join our mailing list for up-to-date content, contests, and connection with what we are doing.

Also, join our closed Facebook Group where we continue these discussions and strive to help all of those On the Blue Line to achieve wholeness and happiness in their everyday life.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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PODCAST: The heaviness of the badge | Monday Morning Roll Call | 003

Welcome to Monday Morning Roll Call | Episode 003

LISTEN NOW

A new Monday Morning Roll Call is released every Monday Morning and provides a short overview format of issues that matter to you and provides encouragement for the week ahead. 

In this episode:

  • We want to thank you for helping us get to our third episode, it has been an exciting journey and we hope you will continue to follow along. Please whether you love the show, hate the show, or are somewhere in between please go to iTunes right now and leave a rating and review.
  • We discuss the recent tragic line of duty deaths of Illinois State Troopers and these senseless tragedies that could have been avoided.

In Memory:

Trooper Brooke Jones- Story, End of Watch March 28, 2019.

Trooper Gerald Ellis, End of Watch March 30, 2019.

To these Troopers, We want to Thank each of you for your service and dedication, rest in peace, we have the watch from here.

  • We discuss George Strait’s new Album, Honkey Tonk Time Machine and more specifically the concept around the song, The weight of the badge.
  • We talk about the difference between the actual weight of the badge and the perceived weight of the badge.
  • We consider the negative ways that the badge can get heavier and positive ways that we can react towards it.
  • Finally, we layout the concept of ROE: Reflect, Orient, and Execute. As a way to deal with the negative effects of law enforcement on our personal lives as a way of combating losing oneself to the job. 

Your opinion matters! Please leave comments and feedback on whatever media you are listening to this show. This show is for you the listener and we need your help for it to become a great resource for everyone On the Blue Line. 

Connect with us to share in this vision! Visit our website and join our mailing list for up-to-date content, contests, and connection with what we are doing.

Also, join our closed Facebook Group where we continue these conversations and more throughout the week.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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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.

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The Silence

This Post was written in honor of the men and women who wear the uniform everyday and in memory of a recent loss close to home, you will always be remembered. 

Sound. It is an interesting thing. For those blessed with hearing, a sound can mean so much; it can mean everything. Sound is one of the primary ways we experience the world. From the time we are a little child, sounds stick with us and begin to define our perception of the world. Sounds such as the lullaby mom used to sing, the seriousness in daddy’s voice, and the understanding tone of a loving grandma; all begin to clarify our place in the world .

This continues throughout our life and begins to exemplify the defining moments. Maybe it is our favorite song heard on the radio, the music we first danced to, the understanding voice reflection of a close friend. These sounds provide the backdrop of our world as we know it and our understanding of it.
 
This definition is true with many types of industries and vocations.

Sound begins to describe a career and the moments within it. The whir of machinery, the simple taps on a keyboard, the drip of a coffee maker, the distant voices congregating in a break room, and the sound of the bosses footsteps coming down a hall; they become the drumbeat that fills the background of everyday life. Over time they dissipate into the dull hum that plays out in our everyday moments, but if you stop every once in a while and try to push back against the noise, you will hear the simplest and most distinct of sounds that make up our everyday life.

Law enforcement is no different; sound fills the tapestry of everyday life on the job.

Law enforcement is no different; sound fills the tapestry of everyday life on the job. Sounds that are not as common or simply do not exist in other careers. It can start with the simplest, purest form of noises, until the sounds build on each other, each beginning to tell a story as they build into a crescendo.

The simple sound of a zipper on the side of issued black Rocky boots. The swooshing sound they make as the zipper tightens the support of the boot around the ankle of the officer. The audible click that is heard as the snap is closed on the black leather keeper that goes over the zipper.
 
The sound of velcro being pulled apart. Its distinctive ripping sound made as the sides of a ballistic vest is tightened and retightened to get the snug fit just right.

The sound of velcro being pulled as the outer duty belt is straightened to the inner keeper belt. Moving it, loosening it, to get it to fit just right below the vest.
 
The sound of metal clicking as the snaps on belt keepers are clasped. Each placed strategically around the belt to hold it in place in case something was to catch the belt, someone was to grab the belt, or the weight of the tools, coupled with gravity, would cause it to shift.

The distinctive sound of a magazine being slipped into a handgun, the metallic sound of the slide moving forward to chamber a round. The audible click that can be heard as the firearm is slipped into a retainment holster and nestled into place. The click of the magazine release as it is again removed from the holstered firearm, one last round entered, and then placed again into the magazine well with a click.

The clicks, the snaps, they continue each with their own distinctive tone, as the radio is put in its place along the belt and the cord for the microphone is ran to the uniform’s shoulder. Cameras are affixed with the faint sound of magnets finding their attraction, flashlights are added and piece by piece the uniform is put in place. The uniform coming together as a symbol of the vocational role this person plays in the world.
 
The human sound of a sigh, as they take one last glance in the mirror to make sure that it is all there. The sound of exhalation as the unrelenting thought, of “what am I missing?” comes to the forefront. The sound of one last pat down as all the pockets and holders are checked and inventories to make sure everything is present.

Not all the sounds are this harsh in their delivery, some sounds that surround law enforcement whisper as they join in the nightly chorus.

The sounds now move outside. The sound of a car door on an agency vehicle being shut. The door to a unique office environment, unique to only a few careers. Next comes the sound of the engine starting and the fan noise as the heat or air conditioner kicks on and is adjusted. The whir of fans begins to chime in as the computer and radio come to life and the beeps and notifications they send out announcing their resurrection fill the air.

The symphony is in full display as the sound of the tapping of keys on a laptop keyboard join in and passwords, routing information, dispatch logs, and other information comes to life at their fingertips.
 
The shrill sound of voices begin to pierce the dull rumble of background noise. Dispatchers and officers begin the back and forth electronic communication.

The penetrating sound of excited voices on in-progress calls, the defeated sound of an officer dealing with the one call he was hoping he would not get, and the questioning sound of dispatch wanting to know the details of the call, knowing more is happening than what is being relayed.

The ear-piercing sound of a radio tone-out, the high pitch squeal that makes all officers stop whatever they are doing and pay attention. The questions come fast. What is happening? Where is it happening? Who is there?
 
These sounds encompass every part of the job, each distinctive in its own right, but collectively loud and harsh. The sound of sirens on a patrol car trying to keep time with the flashing red and blue lights. The distinctive sound of fire rescue and emergency services vehicles, their red and yellow lights reflecting in the sky.

The sound of tires on asphalt as a vehicle is driven fast or the squeal of a vehicle turned too quickly on pavement. The rushing sound of the engine when the gas has to be applied rapidly.

Some noises are so unique to the profession that they cannot be confused with any other. The well-known sound of handcuffs being clicked. The metal on metal clasping which leads to a loss of freedom. A sound so distinctive that it can produce a knowing sigh, or an angry outburst.
 
Every call comes with its own distinctive sounds. The sound of voices telling you what happened from their perspective. Each voice vying for your attention, each seeking to get an audience before you, knowing that a decision will be made that could impact their life forever.

Sometimes these voices can never be forgotten. The scream of a mother who just lost a child. The sound of an enraged man whose high has caused him to act out. The cry of the wife who just saw her husband end his life in front of her. The disturbing sounds that signify the end of life, they are often most haunting of sounds. The sound of agonal breathing, the gurgle of liquid and air that can often be the prelude for life slipping away.

There are some sounds in this career that are so distinct that everyone knows their importance, regardless of their walk of life. Chief of these sounds of the sound of a gunshot, its projectile piercing the air, disturbing the quiet of a home and a neighborhood. The concerned calls, the responding sirens, the vehicles still running as they are parked on subdivision streets.

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Not all the sounds are this harsh in their delivery, some sounds that surround law enforcement whisper as they join in the nightly chorus. The simple cadence of footsteps on a building check in the early morning hours. The strike of the boot on concrete providing a percussion-line in the darkness.
 
Sometimes it is the simple sound of a child’s voice saying thank you at the window of your mobile office. Other times it is the grateful sound of the cashier saying, “Thank you for what you do,” or the citizen stopping to shake your hand with a knowing smile and saying, “Thank you for your service.”

These softer tones are the ones that help to stymie the roar of the evil that exists in the shadows where we serve. Yet over time, the harsher tones often win out; they become the overwhelming sound that can define the career. The quiet “thank you” is lost to the sirens and screams. They are the sounds that often cannot be escaped from.

It is the sound that cannot be escaped from that is worst of all, for when it builds and builds into a crescendo, it becomes so overwhelming that it is all you hear—building and building until it finally overwhelms the senses and what once was background noise now takes over every aspect of thought. At this point there is little perceived alternative but to silence the noise. Sound has become the enemy. The repetitious, haunting nature of these sounds does not dissipate without intentionality.

Sound has become the enemy. The repetitious, haunting nature of these sounds does not dissipate without intentionality.

Sadly, in some cases the sound becomes too much—a constant humming tone, a Tinnitus of sorrow. For some, the sound is so overbearing that it must end; the quiet must be allowed back in. The demons that once danced at the edge of the darkness, just outside the light, have crept in through shadows, moving closer and closer, enveloping more and more light, creating the sense of anxiety, and the feeling of no escape.  For some, you may hear the sound of the alcohol bottle being opened and the sound of liquid being poured over ice. For others it may be click from the plastic safety lock on a bottle of pills and the sound of a swallow as they seek relief.

In the most tragic of cases, what you may hear are sounds of finality. These sounds can be the rubbing of a rope over an exposed rafter. The cut of a knife against skin. The click of the firearm being loaded followed by the explosion as the trigger is pulled. These are always accompanied by secondary sounds, involuntary noise created by the inevitable stoppage of motion. The sound of a firearm falling and landing on the floor. The shuffling sound of a body slumping over as gravity begins to pull unimpeded from the strength of the living. Sounds of horror such as the gurgle of blood for a few final moments, the sound of dripping fluid on the surfaces below.

That is when you hear it; its voice now screams in the background for all to hear. It is the inevitable sound of silence.  
 
The drumbeat of voices has silenced for this one, a final silent moment. Or at least that is what is believed to have come. However, in reality, peace cannot come out of this type of tragedy. The sound dissipates for one only to become louder for all those who knew them.

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As the moments pass, the sound comes roaring back in the land of the living,  among the brothers and sisters who must bear the weight of what has happened. A new roar of noise is heard above all the others; the sound of grief and loss has permeated all who knew them. The sound of phone calls and scheduling, the sounds of responding units. The sounds of loss and heartache, tears and brokenness. The sounds of family members hearing the tragic news of loss. The sounds of their grief-stricken reactions to that news and the sound of press conferences and media being notified that a brother or sister decided the noise was too much, they needed relief.

The sound of questions being asked. Questions that can never be answered. Why? How could we not see it? Why didn’t they talk to me? What was going on? Why was it so unbearable that they didn’t think they could reach out? Did they reach out, and I somehow missed it? The questions turn to anger, then resentment, then resolve, until finally acceptance.

No more is the struggle solely with the internal demons of one. It is the shared voice of the defiant, of the strong, of the courageous, the unified voice of the collective, saying, “We will not lose another on our watch.”

Over time the silence again returns. This time it is a haunting silence. No more will those boots be zipped, the sound of a duty belt will never again find the velcro. The snaps of the duty belt keepers will never again be heard as it is being put together to be worn. The vehicle will never again be started by that officer, and the computer and radio will not come to life to signal the start of another day. Their voice will never be heard across the airwaves of those who wear the radio. The sirens will not fill the air and the lights will no longer flash and reflect. Never again will that officer hear the cry of a parent, the whisper of a child, or the wail of a loved one. It will be for them always… Silence.

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This story does not end in silence, not today. Today is different. This tragedy, this horror, this loss, has prompted a new sound. Sounds meant to override the pulsating drumbeat of evil noise. Today a brother called a brother or sister just to ask how they were doing, a knowing and understanding voice to calm the storm. Today a hug was given between zone partners, a knowing touch to make sure they knew they did not have to bear this cross alone, for the pain is easier carried on multiple shoulders. Today at read-off, a pat on the back from a supervisor told a fellow officer, “I am here for you anytime you need me.”  And today a thank-you note slipped in an agency mailbox told a new officer they were being thought of and prayed for.
 
Today the silence is no more. No more is the struggle solely with the internal demons of one. It is the shared voice of the defiant, of the strong, of the courageous, the unified voice of the collective, saying, “We will not lose another on our watch.” A unified voice saying, “We will hold this line together.”

 

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