Holding the Line
How values impact organizational messages in culture
January 13, 2020 By Michelle Vincent
Organizational values in policing are similar throughout Canadian organizations. From original, longstanding values (integrity, accountability and community) to newer, more forward- thinking ones such as compassion, innovation, fairness and professionalism, these values constitute the very cloth in which our policing culture is threaded.
With this thought in mind and the goal of implementing mental health “wellness” programs in most — if not all — policing organizations, culture is expected to mirror those values. It is with curiosity and inspiration I also suggest co-operation be a value that is included in every organization.
Co-operation includes working together to achieve a predetermined outcome. It dissolves the competitiveness that is natural in police culture and yet also destructive in most ways in most processes. Imagine if co-operation were a required theme/component in every process, such as the promotional process. Being required to show how you were co-operative in implementing a new program within the organization, or how you managed a particularly intricate and yet successful investigation from a co-operative perspective, may reframe the way in which we perceive a successful outcome and the manner in which it was achieved.
This co-operative, thematic approach to the organization’s vision may demonstrate strong relationships between our members, their units, policing organizations and finally (and maybe most importantly) an authentically strong relationship between policing organizations and the communities in which they serve. Imagine the leaders in our organization, from our Executive Command Team downwards, operating with co-operation as their background theme and objective in most if not all of their endeavours. The message would be clear to members that their organization truly cares about them and their wellbeing, for without co-operation in each and every task, it becomes a one-person show.
Competitiveness has been innate in policing organizations for decades. This is understandable as we are expected to be in top shape both mentally and physically as we “compete” in physical fights to gain control and protect the innocent. This can happen in firearm interactions and other altercations that could involve life and death. It is not a surprise our mindset as police officers is competitive in most if not all aspects of the career. As with society in general we have evolved as a species in many areas of combat.
Centuries ago, prior to firearms, we used primitive projectiles, arrows and other forms of defence. We moved to firearms, grenades and bombs when combat became atomic bombs and chemical warfare. The mental health issues we contend with today are believed to be a combination of exposure to traumatic incidents and the management of those incidents by the organization. The physical and chemical reaction that results from these incidents and the member’s perception of their experience can contribute to operational stress injuries, depression, anxiety and PTSD.
If the organization approaches their values in a co-operative manner, adding co-operation to their list, the culture they are working on changing through inclusivity/diversity, wellness, ethics, etc. (I have to check out the rest) may unfold in a more organic way. Co-operation dissolves competitiveness. Instead of having to write the most tickets, the member/supervisor has to reframe their thinking to be successful by supporting the successes of their teammates. That is what fosters an environment conducive to healthy culture and sound mental health.
Michelle Vincent is an 18-year York Regional Police officer with a master of arts in counselling psychology and a background in equine-assisted therapy, workplace reintegration after a critical incident and long-term leave, as well as teaching. She is in the process of implementing the first non-profit treatment centre that will be occupationally specific for first responders and is working towards her PhD in Forensic Psychology/Crisis Response. She can be contacted at: email@example.com.
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