Webinar presenter Sheriff Ray Nash (ret) answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Dynamic of Restoration: Restoring Renegade Officers. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: How do you suggest pulling someone back to the right side knowing that they are not a bad employee but have gotten so far in and management has not done a good job at intervening?
Ray Nash: I think one of the first parts of the whole thing is for them to realize where they are. I can’t tell you how many officers I’ve counseled over the years where you paint this picture (of the Renegade Officer). And I do it visually. You see how I teach. I’ve got all these charts and diagrams and stuff like that. I typically draw it out on a piece of paper. You could draw that stairstep diagram out on a piece of paper. Then say, “This is what typically happens with officers.” There’re three important questions I like to ask. The first is a question like this, “Where do you see yourself on this diagram?” They may not recognize it by themselves. Typically, when you explain it well, they’re going to say, “Well, I’m down here. I’m the Bitter Spirit, I’m the Renegade, or whatever.” That’d be your first question. Your second question is, “Where would you like to be?” Hopefully, they would say, “Well, I want to be the Faithful Officer, the one who is aligned with their authorities. The one who’s protected and prevented from these destructive influences and the like. So, then you say, “If this is where you are, and this is where you would like to be…” The third question becomes very obvious. It’s, “How are you going to get there?”
I remember a particular time I shared this principle with an officer. He wanted to work for me at the Sherriff’s office, but I knew something about his life situation. And where he’d gotten himself wasn’t good. I called him over to my house. I knew him personally. I drew him essentially that very diagram. I used the one with the Dynamic Authority. But it sends the same message. I asked him those three questions. When I got to the part of, “How are you going to get there? If this is where you are, and this is where you want to be, how are you going to get there?” He looked at the piece of paper for the longest time and then he started to cry. As a tear ran down his cheek, he said, “I don’t even know how I got where I’m at, much less how to get back.” Like so many officers, he had lost his way. That’s the dark side. It really is the dark side. You lose your way. There’s this blindness in it.
The first step, I think, is for them to realize that they are not where they should be. A lot of officers think that’s how they’re supposed to be. They think they’re supposed to be Renegades. Hollywood reinforces that image. Think about all of the cop shows, TV shows, and movies. Back when I was growing up, it was Adam 12 and Dragnet. Nowadays, it’s changed. No longer are the heroes of the cop shows the virtuous, honorable officers. Nowadays, the Renegades are the heroes. It’s all scripted. It’s all Hollywood that the Renegades end up winning in the end. We’re reinforcing this kind of rebellious attitude.
It all started with Dirty Harry. As much as we love Inspector Callahan, think about the message that it sends to these young officers. He’s always in trouble. He’s always violating policy. He’s always abusing people’s rights. He’s always threatening people. He’s always beating confessions out of people. He’s always violating the chief’s instructions. The chief would say, “Alright, Callahan, that’s it. You’re off the case!” And, he’d be back on the case the next day, working on his own time or whatever. It’s always this abuse of authority. In the end, he ends up saving the day. We’re reinforcing that image and it continues to this day.
I’m on my soapbox, now, Aaron. The only (police) show that I watch is Blue Bloods. I like the Tom Selleck role. He is a man of character. But his oldest son, Danny, is a Renegade. He’s always beating up on people and threatening people. But he catches the bad guy in the end. He’s a hero. We’re probably into the third generation now of officers that have been raised on this stuff. Unless they are watching Nick at Nite or We TV or whatever the latest TV Land thing is, watching these old reruns. Unless they are watching that, they are coming into the profession thinking they are supposed to be Renegades. And there are enough bad apples in the profession to reinforce that (perspective), unfortunately.
To answer that question, the first thing is they have to see it for themselves. You can’t tell them. They have to see it for themselves. I say share it with them. Give them a link to our webinars or get them into one of the seminars that Dr. Mitch and I did out in Wisconsin. We don’t have you on our schedule right now, but bring us back. There’s plenty of videos on the Police Dynamics website (www.policedynamics.com). You can do a search for the Dynamic of Restoration. The Dynamic of Authority is probably the best one. You’ll find some videos. Maybe you can’t explain it to him yourself. But maybe you can get him to see it. You’re right. They have to see it in themselves first.
Audience Question:: We have terminated three officers recently and one is still in jail awaiting trial for several felonies they did while on duty. Do you have a mentorship program and how do we restore our agency?
Ray Nash: Oftentimes, it’s going to start from the top. Leadership is obviously critical. But if you don’t have the support of your leadership, don’t be discouraged. Even if you happen to find yourself working for an agency that does not encourage good character, perhaps inadvertently encourages bad character or rebelliousness, don’t be dissuaded. Continue to be a man or woman of integrity. Continue to make an impact within your sphere of influence.
In my perspective, after being in the business for so long, is that if you focus on your sphere of influence, whatever people you could impact, and you’ve got to start with yourself. Your first sphere of influence is yourself. You’re going to start with yourself. “What character do I need to develop with myself?” We begin to influence others that are maybe on your shift, maybe on your team, maybe in your division. You will find that your sphere of influence starts to expand. You may find yourself as head of an agency one day. You can impact change on a large scale. You bloom wherever you are planted and you promote good character wherever you are. And hopefully, the leadership of the organization begins to see that it might be something that’s systemic. And that often starts with failed leadership at the top. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad leader. It might mean you have someone who’s disengaged who doesn’t know how to lead appropriately. Yes, we would love to be involved. I’ve mentored a number of leaders. We can be involved to help you either through training or mentorship. I would love personally to be able to help you through that. Let me know if you can. There’s a lot of resources on the website.
Audience Question: Are these strategies best implemented on a one-on-one basis with a troubled officer with a supervisor? We have a wellness unit, would it benefit the process to include them in the process?
Ray Nash: Absolutely. I don’t know the approach your agency takes from a wellness standpoint. But wellness is a whole lot more than fitness, a whole lot more than just nutrition. It includes mental health, emotional wellness, and all of this is tied into character. Character builds resiliency to deal with stress. That’s why these otherwise good officers are losing their composure at that moment of maximum stress. They didn’t have the resiliency necessary to overcome that particular critical moment. What is done at that moment, at that instance, can be career-changing. It could ruin a career. It can ruin a reputation. It could ruin a life.
I’m sure you all have noticed that the default position in our profession (for dealing with problem officers) has changed. It used to be internal discipline, first. Internal discipline can take place in the form of revoked certification. If somebody’s doing something really bad, they couldn’t work for another agency. It might include civil liability. It was one of the ways we kept checks on improper behavior of officers. As well as the news media. We don’t like to see our names in a negative light so we keep ourselves in check. But now the default position is criminal prosecution. Sometimes officers do commit serious crimes and felonies, like I mentioned. But there seems to be an overzealousness to prosecute problem officers criminally. This is not fixing the problems. You are treating the symptoms and you are not fixing the problems. The bad behavior, the ethical failures, these are the symptoms. These are not the problems. The problems are much deeper. When you start pulling on that thread, you are going to find out that it leads to a lack of character. That is the fundamental common denominator amongst all of these ethical failures.
Whether it’s one-on-one or on a large scale or a combination of the two, I think any kind of talking and promoting these types of principles and ideas is effective (in reducing failures). Let me know, one-on-one, if I can help your agency specifically. I’m glad that he connected this issue with the wellness unit.