How the 'Oz Principle' is helping the MPD create a culture of accountability

Over the past three years, the Minneapolis Police Department has created a culture of accountability to improve public trust and employee engagement

The public’s increased attention on policing, coupled with President Barack Obama’s executive order that established the recent Task Force on 21st Century Policing, has put intense pressure on law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

The president directed the task force to identify best practices and offer recommendations on how policing practices can promote effective crime prevention and, at the same time, build public trust. The task force identified six pillars to address:

  • Building Public Trust and Legitimacy
  • Policy and Oversight
  • Technology and Social Media
  • Community Policing and Crime Reduction
  • Training and Education
  • Officer Wellness and Safety

Changing the Culture
Although some law enforcement agencies may already be effective in some or all of these areas, others will face significant challenges in developing ways to successfully promote and carry out best practices.

The Minneapolis Police Department is already ahead of the game, led by Chief Janeé Harteau, a veteran law enforcement officer who has been employed with the department since 1987 and worked her way up through the ranks to become the first female chief in Minneapolis. As a progressive chief, she has made great strides in the area of leadership, and she has consistently observed best practices from the private sector throughout her career.

Building Accountability
Harteau is a strong believer in officers owning their attitudes, situations and circumstances — with a mantra of see it, own it and solve it. She believes changing the culture falls in line with procedural justice and that people will be successful if there is consistency in what they do and also in holding each other accountable.

When she became chief, Harteau wasted no time in looking at ways to increase accountability and spent 10 hours a day in precincts talking with officers about what was working and what was not. “I very much had a vision about changing the culture,” she said. “I wanted to have an impact from the start.”

After many listening sessions with her officers, Harteau met in private with her executive team for six months to develop, as she said, “a better version of ourselves.” The chief and her leadership team met with the entire 1,000-member department, interacting with 500 one day and 500 another day, to discuss the organization’s core culture, their goals and the meaning of it all.

Chief Harteau wanted to implement transformational, department-wide change and a culture of accountability, and she wanted to achieve this as quickly as possible. “It’s something foreign to police work, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” she said. “I’m focused. We can change the narrative. I think this is the right time to be a chief.”

The Oz Principle
In order to transform the department, Harteau engaged the services of Partners in Leadership, an accountability training and consulting company that teaches the “Oz Principle,” a process to help organizations create greater levels of personal accountability and obtain long-term, sustainable change.

The Oz Principle focuses on how we make commitments, how we measure and report progress, how we interact when things go wrong and how much ownership we take to get things done. Through training, MPD officers learned how to operate “above the line” – meaning taking ownership of actions, finding solutions to problems and taking determined action and rejecting excuses and blaming others.

MPD 2.0
Training began from the top down with upper management, sergeants and lieutenants. This training provided the groundwork and drove the concept of MPD 2.0, the new and improved Minneapolis Police Department. MPD 2.0 focuses on three core values of commitment, integrity and transparency. MPD builds on those values to create a culture of accountability and achieve three core goals for improving public safety, public trust and employee engagement and morale. “Language and attitude tend to be the No. 1 complaints," said Chief Harteau. “That’s how the general public views who we are.”

Moreover, the accountability principle was incorporated into the exams for sergeant and lieutenant. “I use it in evaluations and terminations. It has to mean something. That is why it has to be part of the promotion process,” Chief Harteau said.

Harteau admitted there was some pushback when the initiative first began. “Some people were very negative. Most of them are since gone,” she said. “We operate above the line. It’s a way of being better. We hold ourselves accountable.

“We talk about our core values and our goals. I’m outcome-focused. I want people to have good service. Give people the time of day — it may be their only engagement with police,” she added. “Allow officers to have control. What kills the criminal justice system is the bureaucracy.”

Harteau says the department’s transformation has become a national model leading the way in community engagement, public trust and police legitimacy and employee professional development.

“What we didn’t know at the time is the national conversation that would take place as a result of incidents of police shootings and use of force in other parts of the country,” she said. “Now, as many departments are looking at ways to implement strategies to address each of the actions items listed under the six pillars, we are finding that MPD 2.0 is already addressing most of them.”

Lessons Learned
Mattson Newell, area vice president for Partners in Leadership, says the Oz Principle is a powerful metaphor. Think of the classic story: All the characters in The Wizard of Oz have a problem and look for a Wizard who can solve all their problems. At the end of their journey, however, they realize there is no Wizard and they must solve own their problems.

Newell says the process of transformation must be championed by an organization’s leadership. The leader must be clear about what the desired results are and what issues the accountability process will focus on. Examples could be employee morale, employee retention, public trust, public safety or any others that a police department may deem important.

“Once leadership buys in and uses the tools and process, the culture is led by leaders but lived by those on the front lines,” Newell said. “Get a couple champions — it creates movement.”

The Minneapolis Police Department’s effort demonstrates that cultural transformation of a law enforcement organization must engage everyone. Greater internal accountability for policing in the 21st century can help departments identify and adopt best practices, building public trust and resulting in law enforcement agencies operating above the line and improving public perception and good community relations.

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