It is hard to imagine anyone not being outraged by the murder of George Floyd and the racism in the justice system. But it has given us something that we have never had before…a national consensus that this must change.
We are angry. We want punishment. We want convictions for all the officers involved. Somewant police forces defunded and the money allocated to programs that help marginalized citizens. Minneapolis is going as far as disbanding their police force…they view it as unfixable. Many Americans share that belief.
Punishment feels good, it feels right, it fixes nothing.
Why? Because we are missing the fundamentals: feedback, measurement, coaching, accountability. Without these, training courses are just good courses, or boxes checked. I have worked in training all my career, and I have personally developed great training courses, which resulted in no lasting change. Without follow up, coaching, measurement and accountability, it was just a good course.
We know what needs to be done to effect lasting change. Here is the recipe:
1. Willingness to Change. Every person responsible for policing our society must be willing to change. Without that, there will be no change. This includes the “Yes, but…” comments.” We used to say “everything before the but is bull***t.”
2. Listen to the Experts. Obama formed a commission from all sides of the debate that produced 30 pages of recommendations. Yet, few if any, of these recommendations have been adopted. We need to implement them now.
3. Training. This is what people point to the most, yet it is the least effective mechanism for change. It is fun creating new programs, it is exhilarating…it is ineffective.
4. Measurement and Coaching. Police officers have a very difficult and complicated job. In jobs such as these (like teaching), the only way to get systemic change is through measurement and coaching. Let me repeat myself. The only way to get systemic change is from measurement and coaching.
Athletes know this, they can’t improve with only a training course or a new program. They need feedback and coaching.
People incorrectly assume that coaching is a negative experience, but at the hands of a skilled coach it is transformational. Let me give you an example how it can work with the police. Body cams can help coaches and officers get a better understanding of the behavior and its impact on citizens. A good coach will review body cam footage and identify opportunities for praise and improvement. Then the coach plays the video with the officer and they talk about what it. With guidance, the officer creates his or her own improvement plan and the next session, that plan and his or her behaviors are reviewed again. A good coaching session empowers the participant.
Without measurement, how do you know if you are improving? To develop measures, you need to ask a simple question:
What does success look like? From the community’s perspective, from the department’s perspective, from a crime perspective, from a budgetary perspective and from the officer’s perspective. Once you have the answer to that question, measurements naturally derive from it. Like school report cards, it is not a single measurement, it is a comprehensive assessment (e.g., crime, community response, cost). The mistake that most people make is to select the “easiest” measures; this results in the wrong behaviors. As we say in the industry: What gets inspected, gets respected.
If you choose measures like number of arrests, you will more arrests. If you choose measures like number of traffic stops, you more traffic stops. If you choose measures like community support, you will get community support.
5. Community Feedback. What is considered community feedback is usually a public meeting that allows citizens to vent but provides no mechanism for changing. Community feedback can take many forms, anonymous questionnaires, one on one feedback with community leaders, individual (professionally coached) sessions with those who feel that they have been unfairly treated.
Did you know that effective feedback must begin with the assumption of “positive intent?” Think about it. How much more effective is feedback if you assume that the aggressor meant well?
6. Accountability. Sadly, that is what I did not hear from leadership. Without accountability, George Floyd and others like him die. It is that simple. If someone is resistant to coaching and displays aggressive behavior, his employment must be terminated. It happens to people in corporations, why doesn’t it happen in the public sector? Police departments need to make it easy to report inappropriate behavior. Without it, there will be no systemic change.
I’ll leave it to the experts to tell us how to do this
Probably nothing has empowered the Black Lives Matter movement more than our President’s response to it. All Americans now understand what it is like to be criminalized. Our President’s unnecessary use of force helps us white folk empathize with the indignities that Black Americans have suffered. The clearing of peaceful protesters for a photo opp. A plethora of heavily armed guards on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. These images say it all.
Let’s get mad and then let’s make Black Lives Matter.