659 words û MR
Jet pilots and prize fighters
by Morley Lymburner
The dawn of the jet age was not without its problems. Early jet planes kept crashing. Engineers tinkered and made improvements but still faced many apparently insurmountable problems. Then someone discovered it wasn't the plane that needed the attention. It was the pilot.
Pilots were familiar with slower propeller driven planes and had no problems at speeds in the range of 250 miles per hour. The problem arose when they took the controls of an aircraft that went twice this speed. The pilot had to get his eyes up to the horizon and anticipate that he would reach it much faster. When his mind was not always catching up to the nose of the aircraft he flew fine.
In much the same way police leaders (by this I mean people with leadership ability, not just the top dog) must keep their eyes on the horizon. They must anticipate what is coming and be prepared to react before the problem presents itself as an immediate hazard.
As an example studies of the people under their care, and historical shifts in the demographic, can be the key to future needs. They can reflect the type of people hired, the training they receive and the direction they are given to perform their tasks.
Another lesson can be learned from those early jet pilots. The faster you go, the narrower your field of vision. You can lose sight of the big picture. You must make daily checks of how well things are working.
So what happens when a negative piece of news hits like a prize fighters punch?
Conditioning is important to a prize fighter. The better shape he is in, the more punishment he can take and still prevail.
In the same fashion police departments, and police chiefs in particular, have to consider their agencies as prize fighters. They must continually ensure their organization meets the standard so it can take a negative circumstance and keep getting back up to resume the fight as quickly as possible. Only in this way will they prevail over their opponent(s). They must continue to evaluate their ability to take punishment, even during times when no punishment is being dealt.
Staying in shape, in this metaphorical sense, means on-going review of policies and procedures and keeping them up to date. This includes regularly reviewing officer knowledge and training.
One thing that can be invaluable to any organization is keeping a talent inventory of your personnel. Simply ask your people about their previous jobs, work experience, hobbies and interests. (It is a big relief to find a member with carpenter skills when the drug squad just kicked down the wrong door, for example.)
A program of continuous quality improvement should be foremost in the minds of management and every member of the organization. Keep up on what is happening with arrests, crime pictures, technology, statistical gathering and analysis.
One other point to consider is how ready your people are to meet the public, both as crime fighters and community helpers/protectors. Can they anticipate trends? Are they prepared to handle that punch when it comes?
Handling the negative when it comes means having people well versed on agency rules, regulations and procedures and, most importantly, knowing the reasons why they exist. Nobody wants to hear someone tell the media that "we were just following procedures." If a procedure does not exist there is no harm in being frank with the public and simply saying "this situation is one that we never anticipated but we are using it as a learning experience for the future."
One last note. If you want to be a real leader you must respect the power you do have and clearly understand the power you do not have. Allow some time to take an inventory. Jet pilots and prize fighters do it all the time.
(Sourced from Commentary, August 1999)