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One-by-One Policing: Creating a positive ripple effect one person at a time

There is a direct correlation between how leaders treat their team members and how those team members treat people they serve

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By Chief Jack Cauley and Chief Doreen Jokerst

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into the water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” — Dalai Lama

Police leaders ask their police officers to put their lives on the line every day while they work to keep their communities safe and secure. And while doing so, police leaders expect police officers to earn the trust of the individuals within their communities. We know earning community trust is a basic tenet of good policing.

If police leaders expect the team members they lead to earn the trust of individuals they are sworn to protect and serve, it is essential for leaders to earn the trust of those they lead and serve. If police leaders fail to intentionally create environments in which internal trust is nurtured, they shouldn’t be surprised if the level of trust within the community is lacking.

There is a direct correlation between how leaders treat their team members and how those team members treat people they serve. If you want to increase the level of trust within your community, start by increasing the level of trust within your organization.

We would like to suggest One-By-One Policing as an answer. This unique philosophy promotes compassion and maintains a focus on evaluating how best we as public servant leaders can serve each person individually. By serving people one by one, together we can create safe and secure environments where people can thrive and demonstrate the best versions of themselves.

What is One-by-One Policing?

One-By-One Policing starts start at the top of the organization. By focusing on creating a safe and secure environment for team members, those team members can become better equipped to serve the community.

For the organization to provide the best possible service to the community, we as leaders must first serve our team members individually. We must create an environment where team members feel safe, secure and can thrive. As a result, trust is then earned and will exist across the organization. Although the department is responsible for serving the community, the leaders should approach this responsibility by focusing on individuals, thus serving people one-by-one.

Adopting the One-By-One Policing philosophy will provide police leaders with the mindset and tools necessary to create the culture and environment needed for success.

By focusing on creating a safe and secure environment for team members, those team members can become better equipped to serve the community.

How to administer One-by-One Policing

There are many ways to administer the One-By-One Policing philosophy. Below are some suggestions you can implement to turn this philosophy into action for your agency.

1. Listening sessions: The leader should personally meet with every member of their organization yearly, if possible. If your organization is too large, then begin by breaking the department down into sections and holding complete listening sessions in smaller groups. Ask your team what is working and where they think there could be opportunities for improvement. Then carefully listen to their responses. Leaders will then gain insight as to where their employees are in their thinking and experiences and will be able to envision what a great culture looks like to them. The leader must be willing to take action to ensure people feel heard.

2. Align command and supervisors with One-By-One Policing philosophy: It is critical to ensure that your executive leaders are on board, and that they support the philosophy of the new culture. If there is lack of buy-in or commitment, find out why and address any concerns. First-line supervisors are key to the success of One-by-One Policing. Spend time explaining its tenets and benefits. Be clear that it is your expectation that they will support a healthy workplace culture. Alignment among the leadership of the organization with the beliefs ingrained in the culture is essential. Facilitating a book club described below is a great way to pave the way for more effective organizational alignment. Alignment makes the leadership team stronger and provides them with one voice that will echo throughout the entire organization.

3. Be clear with your “why” and beliefs: As a leader, you need to be clear regarding what type of culture you believe in and how leaders within your organization should behave to support that culture. Be completely committed to role model your why and beliefs even when it is difficult to do so. Create a culture by design.

4. Emphasize benefits of change: Communicate the benefits of One-by-One Policing, such as the benefit of increased trust with members of the department and community. Explain the benefits of higher levels of retention, happier more productive employees, and an environment that is supportive and encourages a focus on employee mental health when One-by-One Policing is implemented.

5. Share your message with the entire organization: Communicate the vision, beliefs and philosophy of One-by-One Policing to the entire organization. This can be accomplished at monthly training, roll calls and team meetings.

6. Identify early adopters to garner support and help communicate your message: Every organization has people who just “get it.” Identify those people early and have them help you with changing the culture. These individuals can come from all areas of the department — from police officers to professional staff employees, from first-line supervisors to executive leaders.

7. Share the One-by-One Policing philosophy: Talk with elected officials, community groups and businesses about One-by-One Policing. Explain to them the philosophy of serving people one by one and how it starts inside your organization. The private industry understands the importance of culture. You will be amazed by the positive feedback you will receive. Everyone can relate to how important a healthy organizational culture is to achieving positive results.

8. Communicate with the media: Start weaving in One-by-One Policing when talking with the media. The idea of serving people one-by-one resonates with the media, and it is an important message for them to hear.

9. Roll-call recognition: Regularly recognize employees who demonstrate one-by-one policing at roll calls or team meetings. You can design a special “One-by-One Policing challenge coin” that is presented to individuals who demonstrate One-by-One Policing values.

10. Timeliness of awards: If you hold an annual awards ceremony, great. But also recognize employees throughout the year for their good work in addition to recognizing them at the annual awards ceremony. Waiting to recognize people for the big awards once a year diminishes the effect.

11. Annual award: Recognize one individual who has consistently demonstrated the One-by-One Policing values throughout the year. You can call it the annual “One-by-One Policing award.”

12. Communicate your vision of One-by-One Policing with all new hires: Set aside time for either you or a senior member of your team to talk with new employees to stress the importance of One-by-One Policing and how it is embedded in your culture. Doing this sends a strong message that, as the leader of the organization, you care about them as individuals and that the one-by-one culture is a priority for you and the organization.

13. Establish a book club for supervisors: Utilize a book club among department supervisors to facilitate learning about leadership principles and how leadership is important to the new culture. This will also increase awareness, drive support, increase engagement and earn the trust of members. It will also create an opportunity to talk candidly about the current culture and what success looks like. A book club also sets the stage for the leadership group to tackle difficult and challenging issues that will inevitably occur.

This collection offers a great introduction to Simon Sinek’s leadership philosophies

14. Conduct employee surveys: Employee surveys are simple to design and can be easily implemented. In order to garner wider participation, keep them short and simple. Be sure to address key areas where possible, and as soon as you can after results are in, continue to build trust with employees and demonstrate that you are listening to them. To receive unfiltered feedback, keep the surveys anonymous. For best results, use a scale of 1-10 or something similar instead of simple yes or no questions.

One-by-One Policing creates environments that are safe and secure where people can thrive. Creating environments where team members feel both physically and psychologically safe builds a circle of safety that is key to creating a culture where people can be their authentic self. This provides the foundation for everyone in the organization to operate at their natural best. Team members who feel psychologically safe tend to place greater trust in their leaders.

It is worth repeating that we may not be able to control the external environment, but we can control the internal environment, i.e., the workplace. Our team members are put in high stress and dangerous situations that are often beyond our control. What we can control, however, is how our employees feel at work. If both internal and external environments are high stress, there is an increased likelihood something will go wrong.

You cannot modernize the policing profession without changing policing from the inside out.

This is why it is so critical to provide a workplace environment that is both physically and psychologically safe. Doing so helps public safety team members engage more positively with the community, which increases the chance of achieving more positive outcomes. By treating the people they serve in their communities as they would a member of their own families, our team members will experience more meaningful interactions in people’s lives — a very positive result.

You cannot modernize the policing profession without changing policing from the inside out. As Mother Theresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” This begins by treating those within our span of care with dignity and respect and by creating healthy workplace climates. It begins with One-by-One Policing.

If you are interested in learning more about One-by-One Policing visit or contact Chief Doreen Jokerst at or Chief Jack Cauley at

About the authors

Jack Cauley was sworn in as Castle Rock Police Chief on January 3, 2012. He began his law enforcement career in 1984 as a dispatcher, eventually joining the Overland Park Police Department in Kansas, where he served for more than 25 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Chief Cauley holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Central Missouri State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

In 2018, Chief Cauley was presented with New York Times best-selling author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek’s Igniter of the Year award. Sinek presents this annual award to an individual who has taken his vision and used it to transform the culture around them. Chief Cauley did this through the creation of his One-By-One Policing philosophy, which promotes building a safe and secure environment for officers and staff so they are better equipped to serve each person they encounter individually. This unique style of policing encourages compassion and treating others like family, and his department readily embraced it. Sinek featured Chief Cauley’s cultural shift at the Castle Rock Police Department in his 2019 book “The Infinite Game.”

Doreen Jokerst is Assistant Vice Chancellor for the Division of Public Safety and the Chief of Police at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a nationally recognized public safety expert and university police leader. During her CU Boulder tenure, she has implemented highly innovative and collaborative public safety initiatives, drawing upon her extensive public safety and emergency management experience, as well as her engagement with and governance of national/international public safety and leadership organizations.

Prior to her current appointment, AVC/Chief Jokerst worked her way to the rank of police commander in a Denver-metro suburb police department, gaining extensive experience while serving in diverse specialized and supervisory capacities. She obtained a State of Colorado Emergency Manager certification and has commanded numerous critical incidents, including participating in a multi-state effort to assist in Florida’s Hurricane Irma’s aftermath. She holds a Doctor of Education degree in Leadership for Educational Equity, Higher Education, master’s degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is also a Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, the Senior Management Institute for Police and FBI National Academy graduate.

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