Being a law enforcement officer and working in the justice profession is a calling: A calling to serve. A calling to protect our communities. A calling to help. That requires more than just classes on procedures, an understanding of the law, or time on the firing range.
Some would say, it also requires a certain quality of character.
Check out this recorded webinar as Ray Nash from Police Dynamics Institute returns to discuss the importance of authentically representing their authority, which helps officers:
- avoid negative consequences of poor decisions
- build essential trust-based relationships in the community, and
- develop the resiliency necessary to survive the four "deadly arenas': the streets, the courts, the media, and the profession.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors: Your webinar is titled The Centurion Principle. Tell us a bit more about this premise/concept.
Ray Nash: The first concept related to this principle is what I call the Authority Maxim. It states that “all human authority is delegated.” In other words, all authority flows from a higher source. That is particularly true in the law enforcement/public safety profession. Our authority flows down a chain of command that can ultimately be traced back to the people who have entrusted us with the authority of the law. Think about the power that has been entrusted to our law enforcement officers. They have the power to take away things. Under the right circumstances, they can take away life, freedom, property, and children. We don’t entrust anyone else with that type of authority. It should be a sobering thought.
Every time an officer acts, he is representing all of the authorities that have been placed over him. And there is this human tendency to view these authorities as being somewhat oppressive. But the primary purpose of any authority is to protect those who are under their care. Operating under the protection of authority gives officers a powerful influence in their communities.
You’ll see why I call this the “Centurion Principle” if you tune in to the webinar on the 22nd.
As an officer, you don’t represent yourself.
You represent something much bigger than yourself.
JCH: You indicate that police misconduct is often ego-driven. Expand on that?
Ray: When officers fall into the trap of thinking they have been entrusted with authority to represent themselves, they tend to take things that happen to them very personally – instead of taking them professionally, which is the proper response. Taking a challenge to their authority personally is one of the key factors that leads to failures and abuses. It’s not about us. It’ about something much bigger than each of us!
Regretfully, so many of our officers have lost sight of this principle and believe they are representing themselves rather than their authorities. And the minute an officer thinks they are here to express their opinion, meet their agenda, or satisfy their own egos is the minute they set themselves up for a major ethical failure. In fact, I will go so far as to say virtually every instance of misconduct, ethical failure, or abuse of authority can be traced back to a violation of this principle.
The minute an officer thinks they are here to express their opinion,
meet their agenda, or satisfy their own egos
is the minute they set themselves up for a major ethical failure.
JCH: You’ve talked about mentorship in previous interviews. Why are mentors so important in a person’s career development?
Ray: We are often drawn to a mentor due to their expertise, personality, etc. The key to finding a good mentor is to look beyond their competencies to their character. There is an old saying that “character is better caught than taught.” In other words, it is incumbent upon those of us in positions of authority to demonstrate good character. But what if there is very little good character being pitched? What if the only character our young people are exposed to is bad character? And how far do you have to go today to find a bunch of bad character being pitched? Turn on the TV. Log in to the internet. Go on Facebook. Take a look at sports, media, Hollywood, and politics. There is a lot of bad character being pitched.
We have to take the responsibility to counter this by purposefully “pitching” good character, right across the plate each and every time so that our officers, our culture, and our children can catch it!
It is incumbent upon those of us in positions of authority
to demonstrate good character.
JCH: Tens of thousands of people go through law enforcement academies every year. Thinking about these new recruits, what’s the most important piece of career advice you could share to help them as they move through their careers?
Ray: I have often said that if I only had one hour to present some wisdom to a group of officers it would be the Centurion Principle. It’s that important. Understanding that it’s not about you, as an officer you don’t represent yourself. You represent something much bigger than yourself.
It’s about the nobility of the profession. There is a higher calling and a higher purpose. But so many of our officers get so beat down by the profession, or are exposed to some really bad role models, that they fall into the trap of taking things personally, then taking it out on those they feel have offended them.
When I was a young officer just starting out, my father gave me a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten. He said that, in his opinion, the best officer is the one who has learned to balance his authority with humility. I didn’t appreciate the wisdom of that statement at the time. But now I realize just how right my dad was.