Trending Topics

5 things I hate about department mission statements

If your mission statement is longer than the Pledge of Allegiance or doesn’t fit on your business card, ditch it before somebody actually reads the whole thing

car-1531273_960_720 (3).jpg

Mission statements, if written correctly, have value in law enforcement policies and websites


Article updated August 2, 2018

“The AllThingsToAllPeople Police Department’s mission is to enhance the blah, provide blah, blah, and to blah, blah, blah.”

Who cares?

Mission statements and guiding values were the thing to do a few years back. They still have value and a place in our policy, websites, and in our hearts.

However, if you want to read some good fiction and wonder what the heck some departments think their purpose is, check out random department websites and look at some mission statements.

Here are a few things I hate about some of your mission statements:

1. Flowery Language doesn’t belong in a mission statement

If you have the phrase, “enhance the quality of life” in your mission statement, that’s just plain wrong.

What are you doing? Planting flowers?

Imagine your community without the police. Is it unenhanced? No.

It would be crime infested and chaotic.

No watch commander stands before the troops at briefing and barks out, “Alright coppers, get out there and do some enhancing.”

Let’s stop the poetic language and just crush some crime.

2. Totally unrealistic expectations of officers

I hate to break it to you, but many of your own officers don’t know the department’s mission statement. That’s because you have a “mystery mission.” It is written on paper in your policy, but is not written on the hearts of your officers.

If they can’t quote — or at least paraphrase — the mission statement, then it’s not really your department’s core mission is it?

If the cops don’t know the mission, something’s missing ... like a realistic mission statement.

3. Stop stating the obvious in the mission statement

Do you really have to say that you’ll have high ethical conduct? That you’ll enforce the law with integrity? That you’ll respect Constitutional rights?

Did your officers and the public see that in your mission statement one day and say, “Gee that’s a good idea! Who woulda thunk it!” as though these things aren’t foundational values that go without saying?

Methinks thou protest too much!

4. Mission needs to state the obvious to protect and serve

By the way, did you mention in your mission statement anything at all about the fact that you are armed government agents with the power over life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Did you mention that you arrest bad guys and hope they go to prison?

I don’t expect any mission statements that read, “cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em” but can we be a little more realistic?

I miss the old “to protect and to serve.”

5. Mission statement can’t be longer than a business card

Do you have a mission statement or a rambling essay on all things good? Some departments have a mission statement, along with the vision statement, along with the guiding principles statement, along with the values statement, that combined together is longer than U.S. Constitution.

If you mission statement is longer than the Pledge of Allegiance or doesn’t fit on your business card, ditch it before somebody actually reads the whole thing.


Police work is a wonderful mix of services and expertise. We are heroes doing a thousand different jobs.

But the one thing we do best that no one else can do is to bring the rule of law to criminals by use of force. We can enhance and empower and collaborate all day long, but in the end, it’s our badges and guns and guts that make the difference. If that’s not in your mission statement, you might consider sneaking it in someplace when nobody’s looking.

Joel Shults retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.