During my trip to Goa, India, I stumbled across this abandoned, partially completed hotel in the middle of the jungle. It was infested with bats, but gave me a great opportunity to talk about the Twin Towers of Integrity and the Building Blocks of Success.
To understand the important role that ethics plays in accomplishing the police mission, or achieving success in any organization for that matter, let’s look at a model I call the Twin Towers of Integrity. Imagine this model as a five-storied building with a two-tiered foundation. I’m going to describe this building to you from the top – down, although we understand that buildings are built from the bottom – up.
The Highest Ideal of Law Enforcement:
Bringing Peace Out of Disorder
Let’s start at the top-floor, the pinnacle. There we’ll place the highest ideal of law enforcement –
bringing peace out of disorder. That’s what we’re all about. Bringing peace. In fact, long before we were called police officers, we were called peace officers.
And we know officers who are highly talented at this. Some of you reading this page are extremely capable of bringing peace out of disorder. I could take some of you into a highly-charged, emotion-packed, volatile, near-riot situation… and in a matter of minutes you would have a calming influence. You would de-escalate the situation. In fact, some of you are so good at this that we might soon find that we are no longer at a riot at all. Maybe it would remind us of something much more peaceable… like a church picnic.
But we also know of officers… who I could take to a church picnic… and in a matter of minutes they’ve turned it into a riot!
Now, what is it about officer #1 that makes him or her so incredibly successful and officer #2 that makes him or her such a problem child? And is there any way to encourage our officers to be more like officer #1 and less like officer #2? And is there any hope for officer #2… or is he or she a lost cause?
In this dynamic, we’ll attempt to answer these questions. And in the final analysis, we will find that the fundamental difference between the two is their character.
The Next Three Floors:
We learned in the last dynamic that coactivity is the key to restoring peace. Coactivity, in turn, is based on the power of relationships.
Remember our first maxim: the power for effective change rests within our relationships.
And coactive relationships are fueled by something we call trust. Coactivity, Relationships and Trust form our next three floors.
Let’s talk about Trust for a moment. Think back to the illustration I used in the Dynamic of Coactivity where I talked about four-wheel drive policing. We first imagined that your jurisdiction was a passenger car powered by one drive wheel. Now you’ve graduated to a four-wheel drive monster truck – one capable of plowing through the muck and mire of lawlessness, neighborhood decay, and family instability to accomplish your coactive goals. Trust is the fuel that drives the effort forward.
With a full tank of trust, we can take this effort a long way and cover a lot of ground. But if the tank’s dry… or if it’s been dry for a while,… we’ve got some work to do. We’ve got to start pumping some trust into our relationships.
Integrity – a Definition
“being who you represent yourself to be”
We also know that integrity is a key ingredient of this thing we call trust. Integrity is a word that we often use, but have trouble defining.
The simplified Police Dynamics definition of integrity is being who you represent yourself to be. In other words, if you represent yourself to be one type of person, I ought to be able to look into your life and see evidence that you are, in fact, that type of person.
On the other hand, if I was to look into your life and see evidence that you are some other type of person, we have a word to describe you, too. We call you a hypocrite. So, by our definition, hypocrisy is the exact opposite of what I mean by integrity.
Character vs. Competence
There are at least two elements of this thing we call integrity. There is, of course, the character component. But there is also the competence component. Together they form the Twins Towers of Integrity.
Let’s define character this way: the inward motivation to do the right thing regardless of the circumstances… and regardless of the costs. Competence is simply the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to get the job done right.
Both are critically important to our success. But most of our emphasis has been on competence. We have the best trained, professionally competent law enforcement officers in America today that have ever walked the face of the earth.
We have trained you well. But most of our problems lie in the character arena.
Think about it this way: up to this point in your career, what percentage of your training has been competency-based, versus what percentage has been based in character and ethics? Most officers would say 80% or higher has been competency-based training.
Yet on which side of the equation do we have all of our problems? It’s the ethical failures that plague us.
When was the last time someone in your agency was fired for a lack of competency? Maybe they couldn’t qualify on the firing range, couldn’t pass the driving course, couldn’t process a crime scene properly, couldn’t write a decent report.
Sure, these things happen. But compare that to the last time someone was fired because they failed an integrity test. Maybe they lied to a superior, falsified evidence, took something that didn’t belong to them, used excessive force, lost their temper, took indecent liberties with an inmate. These are the failures that are causing our problems.
We must re-establish this character component. Without it, our structure is going to tumble… and then it’s going to crumble. And now what has happened to the integrity, the trust, the relationships… what has happened to the peace? It has dis-integrated.
The Building Blocks of Success
What is the foundation of integrity? It is the individual character qualities that make up a man or a woman of integrity. These are the building blocks of trust-based relationships. Qualities like truthfulness, dependability, diligence, loyalty, gratefulness, and attentiveness.
Technology increases, knowledge expands and the world changes. But character doesn’t change. The same qualities that made successful people, families, communities, businesses, and governments 2000 years ago still make them successful today.