Holding the Line
Leading-edge transformational change in policing culture
June 17, 2022 By Michelle Vincent
Most police officers, civilians and their families in a policing organization are aware of the unspoken culture that exists in the world of policing. We eat, drink and live it whether we like it or not. We don’t have to participate in it; however, it is like smoke in a closed room—we cannot escape it and it touches every inch of our soul. I am not saying this is a negative aspect; it simply appears to have quietly evolved over the years.
As we evolve as a society, many of those original cultural norms are becoming less acceptable, with some becoming absolutely unacceptable. Although the overall intent of this culture is to keep us tight and safe, it has become apparent this very culture has cost the lives of many through suicide, addictions and through other serious mental health issues. Organizational culture and our perceptual experience of how the organization deals with critical incidents has been shown to have more impact on mental health than the critical incident itself. This is powerful information.
How does a large, close-knit society like a policing organization undertake a task as monumental as this as transforming culture in policing? In order to succeed, it would have to engage most of its members and have its executive command fully on board committed from the soul. I have always been very proud to be a member of a police service, however this inspiring journey they bravely decided to embark upon is one I could never have imagined would happen in my time as a police officer. Continuing into retirement shortly thereafter, this journey is ongoing.
When we nourish our souls, we are able to support our families, platoons and our communities in providing solutions from a team perspective.Advertisement
This project, delivered by a truly inspired company called Being First, endeavours to explore culture – in this case policing – from its roots upwards from a raw, telling lens through which real change has an opportunity to occur. It explores current culture from a multifaceted, all-angles perspective, providing a story of where we are and where we want to be. We have embraced these teachings have been embraced in this organization, from having our deputies and senior command attend a four-day retreat called “Walk the Talk”, which explores conscious leadership from a personal level, to allocating and training four of our members for an intensive four-week program called “4sight”. These four members, both sworn and civilian represented equally, have returned to lead us in this transformational change through the creation of committees representing each crucial area of change including wellness, inclusion and diversity, ethics, civility and respect. Several other committees have been devoted to transforming our culture. This investment of time and resources provides a transparency of intention, which is not often seen in the first responder community. The committees developed, who have attended a week-long intensive training component, are then tasked to explore, communicate and deliver solutions that are course-corrected as we travel this life-changing journey.
My intention for writing this column is to inform readers and leaders in policing of how a journey on cultural change can happen. To support their values from a core perspective, inspiring members both sworn and civilian to being well, inclusive and serving the community as a co-creative team. Of course, there are challenges along the way that will bring contrast and greater learning. However, this cultural change journey has the opportunity to transform traditional competitive thinking and action into a cooperative, supportive, all-inclusive mindset that is a win win for everyone. When we nourish our souls, we are able to support our families, platoons and our communities in providing solutions from a team perspective, and this is one of the most important goals this project has.
This particular police service has been known to be leading edge in many ways; however, with the implementation of the journey of this project, it demonstrates the true leadership and commitment to its people and community as a whole. This organization and its dedication to transforming culture through wellness, inclusivity and diversity, ethics and several other components ever expanding makes them a truly powerful example of “being first” as a top employer in our country. At the onset of this project back in 2019, our Chief said, “This is my gift to you all, take it for all it is worth”, and what an amazing gift it truly is. While we may never know the outcome and/or impact of this project, I have no doubt in my mind that this organization will “be first” in this ongoing journey of truly transformational cultural change.
Michelle Vincent PhD/MACP is a retired officer and the founder of The Haven, Ontario’s first non-profit, inpatient treatment centre exclusive to first responders and uniform personnel. Contact her at email@example.com.
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