For the last number of years the controversy regarding the use of the word ‘Warrior’ has been growing in the law enforcement profession. The last two years has seen this controversy intensify and has started a debate regarding the use of the terms “Guardian” and “Warrior”. I do not think the terms are exclusive. It is not one or the other. Law enforcement professionals need the Guardian Mindset and the Warrior Spirit.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chip Huth for the second time for The Excellence in Training Academy. This interview addresses the application of The Outward Mindset within an organization. Following the interview Chip and I spoke about a recent blog post he had written on Public Trust and The Warrior Ethos, which I strongly encourage you to read. The post caused me to reflect on an article I wrote for the Illinois Tactical Officers Association magazine a couple of years ago. That article is below:
An Apology From a Warrior Trainer
By Brian Willis
Around North America the term ‘Warrior’, when used in reference to law enforcement professionals causes many police administrators and members of the public to cringe. In fact in some agencies have told their trainers they are not allowed to use the word Warrior in training. In some cases agencies will not pay for officers to attend training that has the warrior word in the title. The term warrior is part of the outcry by some who are critical of “the militarization of law enforcement”. This outcry is often directed at you as members of the tactical community.
Why has this happened? Who is responsible for this gross misunderstanding? I will admit that am and I am here to apologize to you.
I have been giving presentations on Harnessing the Winning Mind and the Warrior Spirit for over 15 years (including a presentation at an ITOA conference). In those presentations I talk about the traits and characteristics of the warrior and I challenge officers to embrace the warrior spirit and then harness it, foster it, nurture it and help inspire and develop it in others. In those presentations I teach what a warrior is and what he or she is not.
What is a Warrior?
- A professional who has chosen a noble calling and committed to a cause greater than themselves.
- Someone who takes pride in his or her profession.
- Someone who stands up and defends those who cannot stand up for, or defend themselves.
- Someone who is committed to training, to learning, to fellow warriors, to the profession, to their family.
- Someone who embraces the warrior values of honor, integrity, courage, bravery, honesty, humility, compassion and empathy. These warrior values mirror the core values of every law enforcement agency in North America.
- A warrior fights only when it is necessary.
- A warrior trains their skills to a level of competence and confidence so they neither overreact or under react in situations.
- A warrior understands that courage is the ability to do what is right even when it is not popular or expedient.
- A warrior accepts they are a leader.
- A warrior embraces the concept of unconditional respect and treats everyone they contact with respect.
- A warrior accepts responsibility for their choices, their actions and their words.
- Warriors are human and as a result sometimes they make mistakes. When they do make mistakes they admit it and accept the consequences for their actions.
- Warriors embrace excellence and to personal growth by making a commitment to always be better tomorrow than they are today.
What a warrior is not?
- Someone who fights for the sake of fighting.
- Someone who disrespects others by embarrassing, belittling or demeaning them.
- Someone who abuses his or her position or his or her authority.
- Someone who lacks the courage to admit they were wrong and take responsibility for their actions.
If this is my message why am I part of the problem? What am I doing wrong?
I have been a law enforcement trainer for over 25 years teaching use of force, control tactics, officer safety, leadership, mental preparation and excellence in Training. Over the years I have learned some lessons the hard way.
Two keys lessons I have learned regarding the warrior spirit:
- It is not always the content; it is often the deliver that is the issue.
- Sequencing the message is key.
In my one day seminars I would spend the morning talking about Harnessing The Winning Mind and The Warrior Spirit and the afternoons talking about the Pursuit of Personal Excellence. In my mind they were all part of the same message and one simply flowed into the other. In the mind of many audience members they were two separate issues. When I spoke of the Warrior Spirit people too often locked onto the work WAR. I failed in effectively communicating the fact that there is more to the warrior than war. By changing the sequence of the information and weaving it all together the core message remains the same but it is received very differently. People get the message that the Warrior Spirit is about courage, honor, nobility, integrity, honestly, humility, compassion, empathy, and professionalism. They better understand that being a Warrior is about service, passion and commitment. It is about the commitment to always be better tomorrow than you are today. It is about a commitment to your family, to learning, to training, to your fellow warriors, to those you serve, to a cause greater than yourself.
Warrior values are the core values of every law enforcement organization in North America. By simply changing the sequence and delivery of the message it become clear that core values, warrior values, community policing, officer safety, the law, use of force, tactical communications, mental preparation, incident command, and emotional survival are all interwoven concepts and philosophies.
Why use the word warrior or talk about the warrior spirit?
The answer is simplicity and emotional impact. The above list of traits and characteristics is very lengthy and far from complete. In most law enforcement agencies officers are not able to recite the ‘Core Values’ of the organization. In some agencies officers mistakenly believe that core values and mission statements are somehow at odds with officer safety principles. In some cases officers mistakenly believe core values are fluff stuff, or management stuff. Executives in many agencies mistakenly believe what is being taught in officer safety and use of force classes is in conflict with the values and missions of the organizations. Community policing principles and officer safety principles are very seldom taught by the same people and are therefore seen to be at odds with each other.
The word Warrior provides us with one word that embraces all of the desirable traits and attributes we seek in law enforcement professionals. If we embrace the concept of the Warrior Spirit it reflects the spirit of service, the spirit of commitment, the spirit of professionalism and the spirit of the law enforcement profession.
The warrior philosophy has emotional impact and brings with it a powerful image. The key is to train officers at all levels of organizations what that image truly represents and reinforce that philosophy through every aspect of the agency.
The warrior concept does not allow for officers to be heavy handed, deceitful, disrespectful or unprofessional. The philosophy itself serves to hold officers to a higher standard with one or two words – Warrior and Warrior Spirit.
Responsibility and accountability are key to ensuring the message lives on in the light it is intended. Hold those people who would violate this and tarnish the name Warrior accountable. Too often when officers do something inappropriate in the heat of the moment and are challenged on their actions instead of admitting they made a mistake they throw the term Warrior in the face of their supervisor or commander. They claim this was what they were taught in the academy about the “Winning Mind and Warrior Spirit”. Their actions are often the exact opposite to what is taught regarding the Warrior Spirit and their peers and their supervisors must hold them accountable.
We must do a better job of educating the public through Citizens Police Academies and training sessions for the media, city council, police commissions and other oversight bodies.
My mission is to get to the point where the term Warrior is understood, embraced and accepted as a word that reflects all that is good about the law enforcement profession.
That is my confession. I apologize for any grief I have caused you through my teaching.
I do have a question for you however. As law enforcement professionals, tactical officers, leaders in the profession, role models and mentors are you willing to step back and ask yourself, “What piece of this do I own?”
While I now focus on the Heroes Path to Excellence in Law Enforcement I do still speak about the Warrior Spirit as I feel it is important to clarify any misunderstandings of the term and the meaning.
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