During the course of my career in public safety (32 years) and my time as the editor of this publication (7 years), I’ve had the opportunity to work with cops from every state and several countries. What a privilege—and I don’t take it for granted. Along the way, I became convinced that police work has more than its share of “make a difference” people. Unfortunately, I’ve also become aware that we have some who happily anchor the other end of the spectrum.
This realization caused me to consider the key ingredients of the doers, those who regularly leave the woodpile higher than it was when they showed up. I spent a lot of time reflecting on the intangible elements that make someone a doer. Take a look at the list below and do a little self-assessment. How many can you confidently put a check by?
Commitment: Would others describe you as dependable? Do you do what you say and say what you’ll do? Are you willing to stay the course, even when the going gets rough? Remember: You took an oath to serve; you were entrusted with something that society does not give out lightly—authority. Use it wisely but use it.
Care: Nobody said it would be easy, and, yes, it sometimes feels like you’re shoveling sand against the tide. But you signed up for this job for a reason. Remember when you said that you “wanted to help people”? You can never lose sight of the fact that society depends on you to stand in the gap. It’s a privilege to serve. If you don’t feel good about what you do, let somebody else wear your badge.
Continuing improvement: If you’re not working to improve your skills and knowledge then you’re falling behind. There’s nothing routine about police work and you must continue to sharpen the saw or you’ll be ineffective in what you do. Others will pass you by and if they’re a bad guy, they just might take your life as they do. Yes, I’m serious. So is your job.
Creative: Most great people (especially cops) have more than their share of creativity. This doesn’t mean they’re accomplished artists. It means they’re innovative and like to solve problems by bringing forward new solutions. If the first attempt doesn’t work, they’re pretty good about coming up with another one.
Courageous: Before you think this one is obvious, hold on just a minute, because my definition is a little different than “willing to confront danger.” I’m talking about standing up for what’s right, even when it may not be popular, and having the courageous conversations when appropriate. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with facing down seven-foot bad guys. If you’ve got that ability, go for it!
Constructive: The opposite of destructive. Rather than engage in gossip and undermining others, those who make a difference encourage and challenge. No work environment is perfect, and we all take our turns in the barrel. But when the lemons come around, the guy who makes lemonade is my first pick.
The next time you find yourself saying, “Somebody ought to . . . ,” it’s important to remember that no one named “Somebody” works here. Here’s a challenge for every supervisor: Catch people doing things right. You’ll be surprised at how much more “right” you see showing up around the workplace.
Champion: Find your niche and fill it, then champion the cause. For instance, if you become a field evidence technician, develop your skills, share them with others and build the program into something that is a model for success. Becoming a resource for others is the best way to expand your sphere of influence. When you think you’ve got it nailed, remember that continuing to improve is just as important as believing in what you do.
Considerate: Do you give thought to how your actions or words impact others? We’re all faced with challenging situations, but try to respond and not just react. Response involves a thought process: Use that process to consider your actions.
Notice what’s not included above: experience level, educational degree, rank or salary. Yes, some of these are indicators of societal success. But they have little to do with making a difference. So, how about that woodpile? It’s time to contribute.—Dale Stockton, Editor in chieF