January 18, 2023 | View as webpage | Too many emails? Update Subscription Preferences
Dear Leader,

If your agency has a mission statement, does it actually reflect your agency's actions?

That is the question Chief Joel Shults poses in today's newsletter following the recent controversy over a police recruitment video for the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Minnesota. After members of the community voiced concerns over what they believed was a lack of diversity and community engagement in the video, the video was removed from the city's website and social media platforms. Chief Shults asks: If the video and recruitment program of the department had been measured against the statement of the mission would the recruitment campaign have been conducted differently?

Plus, Chief Michael Moore shares some simple but highly effective ways for police leaders to both humanize their officers and improve police-community relations. Now that's a win-win!

Stay safe,

— Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, Police1
Make sure your mission statement matches your actions
By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D. 

There have been slogans forever in law enforcement, whether “to protect and serve” or “semper paratus,” but formal mission statements became a default requirement of organizations in the 1980s from the writings of management guru Peter Drucker.

Law enforcement is often the last entity to employ management principles (and fads) from private industry, usually a decade or two after they’ve been filed and forgotten by the corporate world. The real question about mission statements is whether they were ever significant in the life of the law enforcement agencies who proudly display them front and center on their websites. It might be time to ditch them, revise them, or start actually using them.

When I read about some law enforcement controversy, blunder, or public relations nightmare I often hear the chief or department spokesman say something like “this does not reflect our values.” Values, ethics and morals all require a basic standard as the foundational measure. In today’s era of intense scrutiny and accountability, leaders cannot fail to establish those baselines.

I won’t go into detail about how to write a mission statement, but I do have a few suggestions.

  1. If you have the word “enhance,” get rid of it. Policing a community is not a mere enhancement, it is a fundamental element of a functioning democracy.
  2. Boil it down to essentials. I was once in a discussion for a university working on a new mission statement. It was full of the ideals of equity, leadership citizenship and more but I had to point out that in the process of building a utopian campus, we had failed to mention a word about actual education.
  3. It should be integrated into the very fiber of the organization. Every employee should know it by heart (another reason for brevity) and measure their daily activity just as the leadership uses it to measure broader organizational decisions.

A mission statement, properly constructed and integrated into the life of the organization establishes that baseline. Such a statement should establish, in the fewest words possible, the ultimate measure for every decision of the agency. Every activity, every optic, every budget item and every hire should be measured against the mission statement.

Take the recent controversy over the police recruitment video for the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Minnesota.

After members of the community voiced concerns over what they believed was a lack of diversity and community engagement in the video, the video was removed from the city's website and social media platforms.

Without commenting on the propriety of the video or Brooklyn Center Police Chief Kellace McDaniel’s response to the subsequent protests about it, let’s take a look at the mission of the BCPD as stated on its website: “Our mission is to serve and protect in a manner that preserves the public trust. We are committed to providing an exceptionally safe and secure community with great dignity and respect. We are proud to serve and protect our Brooklyn Center residents, businesses, visitors, and those with who we work within the City of Brooklyn Center. As a first-ring suburb, we address many urban issues, but keep in mind the hometown feel of Brooklyn Center.”

If the video and recruitment program of the department had been measured against the statement of the mission would the recruitment campaign have been conducted differently? At the risk of playing Monday morning quarterback, imagine taking the proposed recruiting video, which was filled with action-packed music and crime-fighting cop imagery, and measuring it against the professed values of the department. Did the video align with desiring public trust? Did it portray serving with dignity and respect? Did it feature service and protection? Did it show the value of a hometown feel?

By the way, I thought the original video was awesome. But it’s not my community, not my history, and not my mission statement. Could the controversy have been avoided? That I don’t know, but the exercise might have been worth the time, and one that every leader should consider.

If your agency's mission statement hasn't been reviewed lately, isn't known throughout your workforce, or doesn't match the department's activities, it may be time to delete it or start paying attention to it.

NEXT: Why every agency needs a 'vision GPS'

FirstNet Push-to-talk: Moving beyond the boundaries of LMR

In a crisis, you need to collaborate with your team and other agencies quickly. FirstNet® Push-To-Talk gives you access to the mission-critical data/messaging and video you need to complete your mission.
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Taking a back to basics approach to community engagement

By Chief Michael Moore

Getting back to basics and learning to connect with the communities you serve is a recipe for success. It both humanizes law enforcement and builds police-community trust.

The good news is there are ways to accomplish this goal that have little to no impact on the fiscal budget. However, it does require buy-in from the agency and a true understanding of the overall importance of repairing these relationships. If the administration doesn’t explain why trust-building must occur, all subsequent efforts will fail. Here are several methods to build trust and legitimacy.

1. Coffee with a Cop

Dusting off community events such as Coffee with a Cop is a great start. These events take very little planning and have almost no upstart costs. All it takes is coffee, cups and police officers willing to invest their time and energy.

The foundation of this event centers on community members and police officers having an open and honest dialogue. The goal is to break down barriers to communication and offer a means for the public to ask questions, bring up issues and share ideas about topics occurring in their neighborhoods. What better way to have a conversation than over a cup of coffee? The result is a healthy debate that demonstrates police officers are human beings, not merely a badge and uniform. 

Learn more: How to launch Coffee with a Cop (and why you should)

2. Block parties

Never miss an opportunity to have your officers stop by a block party. At first, residents may wonder why police officers chose to spend some time at their block party. Once the officers begin playing basketball with children, showing off their patrol vehicle, and handing out stickers to kids, requests for future block parties may include law enforcement. Again, these types of events cost very little to attend and provide an opportunity to gain community allies. 

3. Houses of worship

Partnering with houses of worship situated in your communities is another method of relationship building. There is a national movement titled National Faith and Blue Weekend that occurs annually in October. The event began small in 2020 and then transformed quickly into a national call to action. The idea behind the event is to bring local law enforcement and houses of worship together to create safer, stronger and more unified communities. The events include everything from picnics to parades and many things in between. Faith and Blue Weekend events bridge the gap between law enforcement and congregations in the communities they serve.

Learn more: Community-police engagement at the forefront of National Faith & Blue Weekend

4. School partnerships

Pairing law enforcement together with schools is another way to build trust. Consider moving beyond simply assigning a school liaison officer to creating sports rivalries. Events such as local police officers versus high school basketball teams are a great way to bring everyone together. Not only do the student athletes and police officers create relationships, but it also has the potential to bring families and the entire community together. Again, these sporting events do not impact the fiscal budget and provide an opportunity to create relationships.

5. Senior citizens

Do not forget your senior citizens. Playing cards, attending arts and craft events, and simply sharing meals together are straightforward methods of connecting with our seniors. Having the opportunity to share ideas and build lasting relationships is worth the small investment of time. These folks have the potential to be some of our strongest allies but often get left behind.

6. Citizen police academies

Maybe the strongest way to earn and build community trust is through offering a citizen’s police academy. This allows your residents a chance to learn firsthand what police officers do every day. Although this takes more resources such as time, staffing and money, the payoff is much greater. Selecting a cross-section of your community to have the opportunity to learn from your staff and gain an understanding of your brand of policing is priceless. This experience creates lifelong allies of your agency who will support you not only during good times but especially during crises.


Building trust is a never-ending process that takes years to accomplish and only seconds to lose. It is imperative to leverage that stockpile of trust when your law enforcement agency is faced with a critical incident. The community will afford you the opportunity to be transparent and conduct thorough investigations without the rush to judgment. The time to be earning community trust is not during a critical incident. If you look inward and realize your agency is not working to build trust, the time to start is now.

NEXT: How to establish community TRUST



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