Category Archives: Dynamic of Authority

This next series of posts will be a bit different for the Police Dynamics site. I was invited by Pastor Chuck Baldwin to speak at Crossroad Baptist Church during their God and Country Service just prior to the 2006 elections. My topic was the Biblical Foundations of American Government. The whole message went about 56 minutes, but I am going to break it down into shorter clips to be posted on the blog.

During the first portion of the presentation, I spoke about the importance and true meaning of the oath of office taken by an elected official. George Washington said: “…where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…?” I believe he was right…

Click here to view the entire message on the Foundations of American Government.

Here is Pastor Baldwin’s rather lengthy introduction of me as the speaker for anyone who is interested…


The Latin root for the word integrity is integritas – which means wholeness and completeness. Here, I use the opportunity of visiting the ancient Roman city of Jerash in Amman, Jordan to tell another story about the centurion.  In the Roman military tradition, the soldiers would line up for inspection and as the centurion approached each man, the soldier would bang his breastplate with his fist and shout, “Integritas!” which meant, “I am whole. I am complete. And I am prepared for battle…!”

I was first exposed to this history in a speech by General Charles Krulak, then commandant of the US Marine Corps.


While I was on vacation at Hacienda Tres Rios, I was reading the book 1776 by David McCollough.

It reminded me of the Authority Maxim which states that “all human authority is delegated authority” — it always flows from a higher source. So I climbed up a mangrove tree just to tell you about it…

Our Founders understood this Authority Maxim and wrote it into our founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Understanding this principle gives a professional police officer power to be more effective. By relying on positional authority instead of ego power, an officer can more effectively deal with difficult individuals who decide to challenge his authority. And “Because I said so, that’s why!” is NOT the professional response…

And just to prove that I did, in fact, climb a mangrove tree to film that last clip…

More video from Tres Rios: Dangerous Encounter with the Ferocious Mexican Coati

Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!


My family and I just returned from a fantastic vacation in Riviera Maya, Mexico (south of Cancun). We stayed at a beautiful resort called Hacienda Tres Rios (a place I highly recommend, by the way), which is surrounded by a nature preserve. There are 10 cenotes, or underground springs, that feed the three rivers of Tres Rios. I hiked to one of the cenotes to film this video clip where I talk about the importance of taming the tongue

This tongue of ours get us into SO much trouble in law enforcement. As Dr. George Thompson, the founder of Verbal Judo, says, “When words rise readily to the lips, you are about to make the greatest speech that you will ever regret!”

Even the Bible has something to say about taming the tongue. In the book of James (3:9-11), it says:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

At Cenote Hondo, I was reminded of the Bible’s reference to a spring producing both fresh and salt water. It is so important for us as professional law enforcement officers to control our tongue — and not only WHAT we say, but HOW we say it (which is what generates most of our citizen complaints). Remember, the Miranda warnings can apply to you, too: whatever YOU say can and will be used against you in court…

For anyone interested in Tres Rios, here is the promo video…


Here is the long-awaited video of the Centurion, filmed on location in Capernaum, Israel. The Dynamic of Authority is the centerpiece of the Police Dynamics message. And the account of the Centurion is the focal point of that dynamic. I had an incredible opportunity to relate this story from Matthew 8:5-13 standing in the very synagogue built by this amazing government leader.

The best historical illustration of a man under authority happened about 2000 years ago in this little village along the Sea of Gallilee. The Centurion assigned to this post was the representative of Roman governmental authority. He was the law enforcement official of that time, responsible for maintaining the law, order, health, safety, and morals of that community. As modern day centurions, his story is pivotal for any law enforcement officer or government official eager to gain an understanding of this important principle.

Here is some more video from Capernaum showing the outside of the synagogue, St. Peter’s home (under the glass dome), and the Sea of Gallilee.


By definition, criminals operate “out from under authority.” And they’re constantly trying to get the police to step out there with them. They will push every button you’ve got until they get you to react to them out of your own pride and ego. And once you step out into their territory, they’ve got you right where they want you.

It’s the classic challenge to a police officer’s authority. You’ve all heard it. It goes something like this: “You wouldn’t be so tough if you took that badge off!” Regretfully, some officers will figuratively take their badge off and answer the challenge. A few of them will literally take their badge off and engage the criminal at their level.

To resist this challenge, remember what you represent: the law, the Constitution, the agency, your Chief or Sheriff, the standards of the police profession. Ultimately, you represent the people. The one thing you don’t represent is yourself. And the minute you think that you are out there to represent your goals, your agenda, and your ego, is the minute you set yourself up for a major ethical failure. This is the fundamental teaching of the Dynamic of Authority, the cornerstone of the Police Dynamics program. Watch this video on the Independent Spirit for more information.

Operating under authority is essential to building trust and accomplishing the police mission. It means: if the criminal is pushing your buttons, make sure you don’t have any buttons without “button covers…!”


The Dynamic of Authority is the essential teaching to understanding the Police Dynamics training series and principles of character-based leadership. Here, I use it as a teaching paradigm to communicate how to model a standard of good character. If the leadership of an organization is not modeling good character as well as encouraging it, the whole process breaks down.

Understanding what the badge actually represents and the proper relationship between a police officer and his or her authorities is perhaps the most important teaching for law enforcement personnel and their leaders to grasp.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrFbcOEvro0]


The law enforcement officer who is operating out from under authority will often lead the police department in citizen complaints. The Independent Spirit that he or she demonstrates when interacting with the public can generate a reaction on the part of the citizen, which can in turn generate a complaint on the officer. I have been in police administration for a long time and I have seen this scenario played out over and over.

An officer that maintains his or her composure under pressure, on the other hand, demonstrates the type of character that builds public trust in our relationship with the citizens. This is the highest ideal of law enforcement: to bring peace out of disorder.

Dr. George Thompson brings this out in his tactical communications course, Verbal Judo. He emphasizes the importance of controlling the tongue. In fact, one of the dynamics in Series 2 (the Dynamic of Compliance) is based on Dr. George Thompson’s teachings.


Law enforcement officers operating out from under authority tend to take things personally, rather than professionally. Since they reject the proper relationship with their authority, they build walls of hostility, take personal offense, and take it out on the individual they are dealing with. You can trace virtually every instance of police misconduct back to a violation of this ethical principle.


by Cmdr. John R.”Barney” Barnes (ret.)

“Becoming proficient in the proper exercise of the authority entrusted to you is a function of the merging of the knowledge and understanding of your authority with the will to regularily and properly exercise that authority.” —  John R.”Barney” Barnes

The fundamental role of authority is often misunderstood in our modern culture. This lack of clarity of this role can be the genesis of a lack of understanding/respect for constitutional and moral authority. The resultant corrosive effect upon our society appears in local as well as national headlines on a daily basis.

In my view a root cause of all this cultural malaise is the improper “exercise of authority” by those entrusted to act “under the authority” of their jurisdiction. Perhaps we should start with a couple old fashioned definitions from Webster’s. “Exercise”, in the verb form is “to discharge, wield or exert as in influence or authority; to set in action or employ actively.” Our other operative word “authority” is “legal or rightful power; a right to command or act; jurisdiction.”

As we noted earlier today’s headlines are replete with the chaotic and sometimes tragic episodes of our human kind that have a common back story involving authority. Most folks would agree that for the family, our basic unit of organization, to be successful and have integrity that discrete parental authority functions must be “properly exercised”. The many documented cases of child abuse as well as parental abandonement of basic responsibilities required for child rearing, e.g. to love, to instill values, to set boundaries and to invest quality time is demonstrative of the failure to “properly exercise parental authority”.

A major cause of the weakening of many of our other vital cultural institutions is this same failure of duly constituted authorities to “properly exercise their authority”, their legal and rightful power in their particular jurisdiction. Some of these would include government at all levels, business, finance and we must not forget church and religious organizations. These various foibles (say within the past year or two) clearly demonstrate an improper (careless or arrogant)exercise of authority or a reticent and passive assumption of their essential responsibilities within their respective jurisdictions.

Authority is best understood when we simply view it as delegated power as contained in the principle of “acting under authority”. Earlier in my professional life as a naval officer, aircraft commander and commanding officer it was essential that I have a clear understanding of my authority and its boundaries. Whether in combat, at sea or shore command I could never represent myself because when I acted or failed to act I clearly represented “higher authority”. Ultimately I represented the will of the American people as established by the Constitution, US Naval Regulations, various treaties, directives, and the policies and procedures of that particular command.

I was always aware that a failure “to act” within the boundaries of my authority could endanger lives, weaken my command or bring discredit upon myself and the US Navy. On the other hand I was confident that if I simply exercised my authority then I would have done my duty. This simple maximum could find application in the many realms of our culture today.

Authority is a sacred trust, and endowment if you will, to be exercised with alacrity and confidence in the preservation of things we cherish and hold dear. Some of these would include…a strong America, our individual liberty, peaceful neighborhoods, vibrant economy, thriving families, and a general feeling of goodness the timeless companion of greatness.

Submitted by Eye of the Eagle

Editor’s Note: This article was written by John R.”Barney” Barnes and is reproduced here with permission.


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