What Represents a High Level of Professionalism?


“The essential thing is action. Action has three stages: the decision born of thought, the order or preparation for execution, and the execution itself. All three stages are governed by the will. The will is rooted in character, and for the man of action character is of more critical importance than intellect. Intellect without will is worthless, will without intellect is dangerous.” ~Hans von Seeckt

Law enforcement demands professional competence among its leaders. As law enforcement professionals charged with protecting and serving communities, law enforcement leaders must be true experts in the conduct of policing. They must be individuals both of action and of intellect, skilled at “getting things done” while at the same time conversant in the law enforcement art. Resolute and self-reliant in their decisions, they must also be energetic and insistent in execution.

The law enforcement profession is a thinking profession. Every cop is expected to be a student of the art and science of conflict, crime and justice. Leaders are expected to have a solid foundation in police theory and, knowledge of law enforcement history and the timeless lessons to be gained from it.

Leaders must have a strong sense of the great responsibility of their position; the resources they will expand in conflict or crises are human lives.

The United States Policing style of dealing with conflict and crisis requires intelligent leaders with a penchant for boldness and initiative down to the lowest levels. Boldness is an essential moral trait in a leader for it generates power beyond the physical means at hand. Initiative, the willingness to act on one’s own judgment, is a prerequisite for boldness. These traits carried to excess can lead to rashness, but we must realize that errors by frontline street cops stemming from over boldness are a necessary part of learning. We should deal with such errors leniently; there must be no “zero defects” mentality. Abolishing “zero defects” means that we do not stifle boldness or initiative through the threat of punishment. It does not mean that leaders do not council subordinates on mistakes; constructive criticism is an important element of learning. Nor does it give subordinates free license to act stupidly or recklessly.

Not only must we not stifle boldness or initiative, but we must continue to encourage both traits in spite of mistakes. On the other hand, we should deal severely with errors of inaction or timidity. We will not accept lack of orders as justification for inaction; it is each police officers duty to take initiative as the situation demands. We must not tolerate the avoidance of responsibility or necessary risk.

Consequently, trust is essential traits among leaders…trust by leaders in the abilities of their frontline and by frontline in the competence and support of their leaders. Trust must be earned, and actions which undermine trust must meet with strict censure. Trust is a product of confidence and familiarity. Confidence among fellow officers results from demonstrated professional skill. Familiarity results from shared experiences and a common professional philosophy.

Relations among all leaders from street cop to chief should be based on honesty and frankness regardless of disparity between ranks. Until a leader has reached and stated a decision, the street cop should consider it their duty to provide honest, professional opinions even though these may be in disagreement with leadership’s opinion. However once the decision has been reached, frontline personnel must support it as if it were their own. Leaders must encourage candor among the ranks and must not hide behind their rank. Read y compliance for the purpose of personal advancement, the behavior of “yes-men” will not be tolerated.

I adapted this piece from the United States Marine Corps manual, Warfighting. I think it fitting to strive for in law enforcement.

Stay Oriented!

Fred