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May 19, 2021 | View as webpage
Leaders,
 

It is said that change is the only constant in life, yet we often act surprised when change is required. To evolve as organizations – and as individuals – we must adapt the way we respond to an ever-evolving world. One way to successfully navigate change is to embrace it as an opportunity to grow, both professionally and personally.

In today’s Leadership Briefing, Pinole Police Chief Neil Gang explains why LE leaders must be resilient when faced with change so they can become part of solutions that will shepherd policing into the future. And Police1 columnist Joel Shults addresses one of the most important topics currently being debated regarding evolving police response: How the public wants officers to respond to individuals in mental health crisis.

Let us know the biggest change your agency implemented in the past year. Email editor@police1.com.

P.S. Promote safety. Make sure you and your officers register for Police1’s upcoming webinar on May 26 on ambush prevention and response. This free session will inform attendees on how to adapt tactics and training to combat current police ambush trends. Register NOW.

Stay safe, 

Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, Police1 

 
FEATURED CONTENT
Change is at your doorstep: How will you respond?
By Neil Gang 

My good friend Paul Butler recently spoke about the storm that the law enforcement profession is experiencing and how, if you are a leader who is hunkered down in a foxhole waiting for the storm to pass, you will quickly find yourself lost when you emerge because the landscape will have drastically changed.

Often, a lull in chaos simply indicates the eye of the storm is upon you. Waiting to react until the dust settles or a clear path emerges, will leave you with no voice in the outcome and powerless to change the road forward.

The eye of a hurricane is an opportunity: a chance to shore up your resources and prepare what’s still coming. Change is an unavoidable part of life. The world is changing rapidly, and law enforcement must evolve – quickly and strategically – to acquire new skills and develop the tools to meet these challenges.

Engage the moment

Unless you take the reins as part of this transformation, you will find yourself no longer effective. This is the time for leaders to stand up, speak up and face the storm head-on. We must be resilient and embrace change, choosing to be a part of the solution that shepherds this profession into the future.

If we want or expect change externally, then we must initiate the process with honest, introspective reflection. For too long, our profession has been siloed from growth while other organizations flourish around us. Just look at how successful institutions and organizations embrace innovative skills, methods of training and leadership mentalities. There’s a lot that law enforcement, and public safety more broadly, can learn from the success of others.

We have been provided a singular opportunity to explore modern, creative business practices and develop more progressive approaches that rapidly incorporate the skills, qualities and dynamic culture we wish to see in our profession. I truly believe this is a time of great opportunity for engaged and innovative law enforcement leadership.

Working with culturally competent partners will help us develop Strategic Innovation Plans for cultural evolution, customized for modern law enforcement challenges, to create the intentional change we wish to establish. We must: 

  • Leverage emerging technology;
  • Embrace evidence-based policing;
  • Incorporate advanced people skills training;
  • Employ social-emotional intelligence in our hiring and promotional processes;
  • Develop cohesive culture centered on officer wellness;
  • Establish a rapid prototyping methodology to analyze and assess new programs.

Embrace your role

As Jim Collins mentions in "Good to Great," we must start with the “who.” Using social intelligence to avoid the traditional pitfall of the “conscious kind” in our hiring and promotional processes will assist us to recognize employees’ strengths and weaknesses and aid us in strategic talent placement throughout our organizations. The result: More effective leadership teams and a more cohesive, resilient culture.

Like it or not, change is here. How you respond will define you as a leader and will shape the future of our profession and the resilience of our communities.

NEXT: 10 ways police officers can turn ideas into action

On-Demand webinar: Using data to support community policing strategies

 
Learn how Stockton PD initiated a new strategy to address firearm crime using data analysis to deploy resources more efficiently, prevent crime and interrupt violence.
 
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What officers and the public are thinking about mental health crisis response
By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D. 

Law enforcement has been handling calls about persons with mental illness since the first badge was pinned on an officer. There is merit to exploring whether it is time to shift more responsibility for mental health calls to be handled by non-police responders. But are police reform critics the only voices weighing in on the issue?

In Police1's recent State of the Industry survey, 4,000 officers were asked what services they would like to shed from their routine responsibilities.

Fewer than half of survey respondents strongly supported shifting mental health calls to non-police personnel. That would indicate that most officers feel confident in handling the mentally ill.

Services officers are much more ready to hand off are finding housing for those who are homeless, animal and nuisance calls, and parking enforcement.

[Click here to view an on-demand webinar that reviews key findings from Police1's survey.] 

A recently released survey of the public, however, shows strong support of supplemental mental health response, as well as significant fear of COVID-related increases in mental health crisis incidents.

The survey, from Rave Mobile Safety, questioned a thousand adults regarding public expectations of how first responders, including 9-1-1 call takers, police, EMS and firefighters, should respond to emergencies involving mental health.

Civilians are concerned about the mental health crisis

The urgency of concern is indicated by a Census Bureau survey that shows as of January 2021 the average share of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive order was 41%.

The Rave survey findings show respondents have major concerns accompanied by a strong desire for more training and resources for mental health response. A substantial 94% are concerned about Americans' mental health with a high percentage "extremely concerned" and two-thirds say they are more concerned now than they were this time last year.

The concern is personal, with half of the respondents reporting that they are someone close to them who experienced a mental health crisis. About half of respondents express concerns about students returning to school and campuses, and those returning to public spaces and workplaces.

Confidence in law enforcement mental health response remains steady

Confidence in law enforcement response to mental health calls remains steady, with only a third expressing some level of distrust in their local police response, with a strong majority agreeing with a need for more training.

Most are also willing to provide information on their own or their loved ones' mental health conditions to assist in an effective response. Most agree that 911 call centers should have mental health professionals available, as well as traditional first responders.

Only a quarter of those surveyed recommended mental health professionals respond alone with no public safety personnel. Co-response is highly favored. About 80% believe that first responders should be accompanied by a mental health worker. Most agree that legislation should facilitate additional training and co-responder strategies.

Police leaders' response strategies

Policymakers should note both the general confidence in their police officers and the high concern of the public about mental health. Over half express concerns about being present during a mental health crisis in public spaces such as malls and events, places of worship, schools and college campuses, and workplaces. 

The survey shows that most citizens perceive their police as highly engaged with the community, a third still desired increased community engagement to increase their confidence in law enforcement's ability to deal with mental health crises.

Police leaders should consider increasing efforts at community engagement surrounding mental health issues. This could include assurances of current and ongoing training, as well as coordinating with mental health specialists. Education on the rarity of violence associated with mental health crises could provide some perspective about small chances of being victimized in random attacks, as well as strategies for citizens to seek shelter should an attack occur.

Despite headlines to the contrary, police officers hold a place of trust among most of the public. Acknowledging their concerns with assurances that their officers and leaders are listening can leverage that trust and reduce fear and anxiety.

NEXT: Creating a partnership between law enforcement and mental health practitioners

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