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Why law enforcement leaders need to ‘be the change’

Police leaders must assume the tremendous responsibility of leadership – to care for their people, and give them meaning, purpose and fulfillment through their work


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“We need to send people home feeling valued and fulfilled.” — Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller

Leaders assume the tremendous responsibility of caring for people and giving them meaning, purpose and fulfillment through their work.

There are so many leaders in the policing profession who are doing fantastic work, but some struggle to find that magical ingredient to increase organizational wellness.

Here is a hint, it all starts with LEADERSHIP. It is the leader’s job to create a psychologically safe environment where employees trust that they can speak up or raise their hands if they need assistance, admit if they make a mistake, and ask for help if they do not understand what they are doing, without any fear of humiliation or retribution. Leaders who truly care about others are those who lead with compassion and empathy. Such leaders create an environment of trust that enables employees to feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings.

Creating a culture of wellness

Never has there been a greater need for our employees to feel safe and valued, so leaders must explore progressive and innovative strategies to deliver new resources and help increase the mental health of our employees.

We must become trauma-informed leaders and understand that, on average, first responders will experience 188 critical incidents over their career; the average person, maybe 5 to 10. First responders are 5 times more likely to suffer from depression and PTSD than the average person, so providing resources for our people is essential. We cannot expect our people to go out and take care of our communities until we can demonstrate that our employees’ care and well-being are our highest priority.

At the Pinole Police Department, we created something called the Asher Model: A 7 Point Approach to Creating a Culture of Wellness.

The model offers a proactive seven-point approach to help increase organizational wellness. What resonates with one employee, may not resonate with another, so providing multiple resources improve the chance your efforts will reach each of your employees. Read more about the model here.

In following our model and putting theories into practice, we have been blessed to partner with some of the nation’s best practitioners to help raise awareness and provide practical solutions to our employees. Our approach was to provide resources that address the seven points of our wellness model. We initiated a “Wellness Series” and have partnered with and brought in some of the best presenters to be a resource for our employees and address each point of our wellness model.

It is essential to collaborate with culturally component partners who comprehend the policing culture to come into our organizations to help educate our employees on topics such as work-life balance, PTSD, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, sleep deprivation, financial fitness and retirement planning.

We have hosted sessions on wellness awareness by Scott Medlin of Code 10 Mindset; developing a solution-focused approach to wellness by Dr. David Black of Cordico; peer support by Ernest Stevens of “Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops"; resiliency by Nick Wilson of The Resiliency Project; healthy habits by Mandy Nice of The Nice Life; and the importance of work-life balance by Dr. Donnie Hutchinson.


I imagine a day in the policing profession where a culture of caring for our people must be our highest priority. I also imagine a day when these messages are no longer needed, and there is no longer an audience or a market for these demands. That day may never arrive, as there is still such a heavy need for these services, which only means there is an excellent opportunity for all of us to lead with love and “be the change” as we continue our efforts in changing outcomes.

NEXT: A 7-point approach to developing a culture of wellness in law enforcement

Chief Neil H. Gang has served in law enforcement for over 34 years and has been the Chief of Police for the Pinole Police Department since 2014. He is the Chairperson of the California Police Chiefs Association Officer Wellness and Resiliency Committee, the author of the Asher Model-7 Point Approach to a Culture of Wellness, the host of the 6th Pillar Podcast, is a CALPOST-Wellness Instructor, and was named Public Safety Hero of the Year by the House of Representatives in 2020. The IACP has featured his innovative work as a law enforcement leader in Police Chief magazine and several other law enforcement platforms. He is a graduate of the prestigious Northwestern School of Police Staff Command, where he was both the president of the class and the recipient of the Franklin M. Kremel Award for excellence in the field of leadership and is currently finishing his Master’s degree at the University of San Diego, LEPSL program.