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What inspires you?

There are many similarities in what collectively inspires each of us to push forward – be creative, be compassionate, think big, think differently and stay the course


Assess yourself and your daily activities and how they make you feel. Keep doing them if they make you feel energized, positive and hopeful. If you find that not to be the case, eliminate inspiring-killing actions.

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What inspires you?

It was a simple question I asked undergraduate students in an Administration of Justice class who are in the regional peace officer academy, some sponsored by agencies, others hopeful and contingent upon successful completion.

It was our first day together for this semester. Before diving into the course curriculum, I wanted to cultivate a space of deeper consideration for the conversations and activities we would be engaging in over the next few months, for we would be exploring how to encourage richer relational policing in American communities that police officers are entrusted to serve and protect.

Hesitantly, I could see them contemplating something to share that inspired them. To give them a moment to develop their thoughts, I shared what inspires me and asked them to think of their own inspiration.

As I began, I wanted to frame the conversation, so I used my personal story to allow my students to learn more about me versus hearing my “bio.” Weaving in my moments of inspiration, a pattern emerged that drives my purpose in life. The pattern was of those deeply personal things that may inspire me more than they inspire someone else. However, I find there are more similarities in what collectively inspires each of us to push forward – be creative, be compassionate, think big, think differently and stay the course.

Once I finished, I asked for someone to share. Eager now, several hands went up, creating an infectious energy in the room filled with emotion, determination, confidence and commitment. Their personal stories broke down barriers between them as students as they shared hard moments that left them defeated but how they were inspired or encouraged by someone, not something, in their life.

One female student, when called on, said, “Ma’am, I don’t know if you’re ready for my story.”

I told her in a reassuring voice, “We are all ready when you are. This time is for all of us to lean into who we really are and why we are choosing this profession. Why do we believe we should do, want to do, and need to do it. Take your time.”

She proceeded to share her personal story of battling alcoholism, her sobriety, and being in an abusive relationship and all the degrees of situations resulting from those experiences.

Her story shifted to her pursuit of a career in law enforcement and how someone inspired her by believing in her despite her past and encouraged her to apply for an agency. She did, and in the first few agencies, she didn’t make it past the background investigator. However, on the heels of one of the last disqualifications, another agency asked her to come in for an interview. It was a long distance from where she lived, but she went and was ready for a similar rejection. However, she said, “They offered me the job and sponsored me through this academy. I am incredibly grateful, but honestly, I still don’t know what to do next.”

As I stood a few feet away from her with all eyes focused on her, I said, “You should be very proud of yourself for the inspiration that led you to this moment. This agency sees your potential and the life experience you bring that will benefit the actual people you will serve in the surrounding community. Trust that what you have is something that is uniquely you and is needed. So, stay inspired by this opportunity and live up to the moment by doing your part and showing up ready to serve.”

As the energy in the room transformed us all, several other students shared how family members stood in the gap between those who had abandoned them or died when they were younger. Some were first or second-generation immigrants and the first in their families to go into law enforcement. Others spoke about the inspiration of their newborn babies and spouses, and the service legacy of their family in public safety. Several reflected on friends and family that deeply moved them from places of darkness to places of light. Now finding themselves seeking ways to help others and how they were then inspired by contact with someone in the profession that ignited a flicker that became a flame.

Listening to them authentically open up and relive some of their reflective moments, I knew this would be more than a class to address the curriculum but one where we could begin to see others who are different from ourselves and feel connected through our humanity. And that they are all working toward a deeply important purpose that inspired them all to choose law enforcement.

As you ponder the question of what inspires you, consider these daily:

  1. Assess yourself and your daily activities and how they make you feel. Keep doing them if they make you feel energized, positive and hopeful. If you find that not to be the case, eliminate inspiring-killing actions. Often, we think we don’t have time to be inspired, but we do when we change our mindset and focus on things that give us that energy.
  2. Challenge fear in your thoughts. It can be easier to go along with the status quo or false narrative of yourself than it is to rise above it due to fear of rejection, judgment, embarrassment, or what happens next if you do go for it, make the change, or speak out. You have a great influence on the decisions you make to chase your inspiration or remain right where you are and stay stuck in how you feel.
  3. People in your life should inspire you, give you honest input, question you relentlessly with good intentions, and champion you to move mountains.
  4. Unlock your fixed mindset and grow your understanding of the world and the people you live and work with. I am inspired daily by reading various literary sources and learning from the amazing people I meet personally and through social media with innovative, creative, and positive missions.
  5. Stay inspired. Find ways to engage your inspirational moments throughout each day. Initially, it may take external inspiration to get you going, but with time, you can begin to inspire yourself and, in turn, inspire others. Remember, someone may need you to inspire them toward their own purpose and place in their life and, quite possibly, this profession.

NEXT: 13 reasons why you love being a cop

Jonni Redick retired as an assistant chief and 29-year veteran with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), where she rose through the ranks from county clerical worker to breaking through the “less-than-one-percent” ceiling for women of color in executive leadership in law enforcement. Over her career, she worked throughout California holding uniformed ranks from officer to assistant chief. She was the first female captain of the Contra Costa CHP Area in Martinez, California, where she worked with 18 allied agencies to collectively provide service to an 802-square-mile region. Administratively, she has overseen multi-million dollar statewide nationally recognized programs.

In her assignments prior to retirement as an Assistant Chief, she worked in the Golden Gate Division, San Francisco/Bay Area as a part of executive oversight for 16 field commands with over 1,600 personnel that work in the nine Bay Area counties with over 100 cities and over seven million in population. She retired out of Valley Division within the Sacramento region where she was a part of the executive leadership that oversaw 20 CHP commands spanning over 11 counties. Daily, she oversaw eight CHP commands including the 3rd largest communications center in the state, which handles over one million 911 calls annually.

She is a graduate of POST Command College, Class 56 and holds a Master of Science degree in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership (LEPSL) from the University of San Diego. Currently, she is adjunct faculty for San Joaquin Delta College P.O.S.T. Academy as a Paraprofessional instructor in the Humanities, Social Science, Education, Kinesiology & Athletics Division and approved for the discipline of Administration of Justice. She is also adjunct faculty for the University of San Diego instructing for the MS, Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership Program.

Her progression from front-line police work to executive leadership in a large state agency serving the entire state of California generated her passion for building resilient leaders. She continues to provide leadership training that enhances personal and professional performance to build resilient leadership for 21st-century organizations through her coaching and consulting business, JLConsultingSolutions.

Jonni Redick is the author of “Survival Guide to Law Enforcement Promotional Preparation and “Black, White & Blue: Surviving the Sifting.”