Culture, specifically the culture within your department, is everything when it comes to building public trust.
The social capital of your organization is built upon the trust of the public. This is especially true in law enforcement, where employees are taking action in ways that not everyone appreciates. Many agencies in the policing world are on the lookout for ways to build more trust with the community while minimizing activities which destroy this trust. How do they do so – with meaning and consistency? What are some strategies which will provide the most benefit for their valuable time? Well, it isn’t about posting touching stories on social media or by organizing community events.
It’s by creating a constructive culture inside that builds public trust outside. Period.
If you want collaboration and cooperation to happen between the police force and the community, it needs to start within the department.
We need innovation in policing: to foster new ideas, drive alliances with stakeholders, and engage employees at their highest realms of performance. When officers are restricted with too many rules, made to frequently run decisions by a supervisor, or are forced into a cookie-cutter version of a cop, their chance to innovate is squashed. They have less control over how their work gets done. These are all factors which Human Synergistics International, a culture company, has pinpointed as directly related to a defensive culture, and a defensive culture is all about protecting yourself. (https://www.humansynergistics.com/Files/HTML5/Circumplex/index.html)
When an organization runs primarily in a defensive fashion, it loses out on productivity, retention, and customer (or community) satisfaction. In order to make the switch from a warrior to a guardian mentality, as identified in the President’s Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing, this needs to change. An agency needs to have a constructive culture instead.
Building a constructive culture within the department creates more engaged officers who are achieving their goals, bringing their whole selves to work, and deploying creative tactics and sound decision-making skills to the situations they encounter.
How would the community react if officers –
- gave more encouragement to each other, shared more ideas, and engaged in more courageous conversations with peers?
How would things be different if officers were able to –
- be a bigger part of planning for the future of their department, more frequently deploy novel ways of thinking, and embrace the unique differences they each have to offer?
These are some of the primary elements of a constructive culture, according to Human Synergistics. Ideally, through a constructive culture, officers uphold the agency’s mission on a daily basis, feel empowered to perform their duties, and feel supported by their supervisors, amongst many other measures.
Through using the tools provided by Human Synergistics, an agency can assess where they stand against many other organizations and what factors they need to work on in order to perform more constructively. In over 45 years of research, Human Synergistics has found that constructive organizations increase efficiency, retain their employees, and are more effective at what they do.
As consultants certified and experienced in the use of these tools, we help agencies develop proven roadmaps for change— to guide the entire department, from the top leaders to the line workers, in the movement from the current culture to their ideal culture. By fostering a constructive culture within a public safety department, officers and staff can develop the skills, tools, and confidence they need to build public trust and provide outstanding service to the community.
Amber Peterson is a partner at Perme & Peterson Associates, LLC.