TPD Chief Talks About Policing in America

07/05/2015 – Chief of Police, Chuck Jordan writes:
Recently, the President’s Commission on Policing in America released a paper that outlined many suggestions and policies for police departments across the nation to implement so that they can better be part of the communities that they serve.

The commission was made up of a very qualified group of leaders in law enforcement from around the nation, and it was co-chaired by Philadelphia Commissioner Chuck Ramsey and Dr. Laurie Robinson. Ramsey has had a brilliant career as a police commander in Chicago, Chief of police in Washington, D.C., and now commissioner in Philadelphia. Robinson is a professor at George Mason University.

The commission conducted public listening sessions, which encompassed the following topics: Building trust and legitimacy; policy and oversight; technology and social media; community policing and crime reduction; training and education, and the future of community policing.

None of these concepts are new but how each police department addresses the issues is paramount to the success of that agency as it interacts with its citizens. The command staff of the Tulsa Police Department is certainly on board with the commission’s recommendations and philosophy, and much of the way we do business is already in lockstep with the findings of the commission.

Since the release of the commission’s paper, the Harvard Law Review published a commentary that delved into the so-called “warrior mentality” of modern police officers and suggested it be replaced with the “guardian mindset.”

First, make no mistake, I subscribe wholeheartedly to the philosophy that police officers ought to view themselves as guardians of their community. I would expect no less of them. I also expect our officers to display the respect and cooperation with the community that the term guardian implies. I expect them to jealously watch over and protect their fellow Tulsans and indeed, be guardians.

What has been lost in this discussion of warriors and guardians is that our officers often are thrust into the role of warrior to fulfill their obligation as guardians.

We are living in a world that is comprised of criminals who will visit violence on their victims as well as police officers without a second thought. We have bullet-resistant vests, patrol rifles and other “warrior” equipment to protect ourselves from the ever-increasing levels of violence and types of weapons that we are facing.

We teach our officers to survive encounters using the minimum force necessary but the offender himself makes the choice of what response we must implement, and often that choice must be decided on and deployed with blinding speed and unerring efficiency. They must be warriors who at times both survive and protect our citizens.

That being said, they also must be capable of compassion and service. Those two vastly diverse mindsets often have to be acquired within minutes of each other. The officers of the Tulsa Police Department are very good at both and know when each is appropriate.

They embrace the role of guardian. That is why they became police officers. They also know that being a warrior is an inherent component of that role.

We must be warriors occasionally to be good guardians.

It is not a case for either/or.