The research is pretty clear that constant stress is not conducive to learning, longevity or overall health and wellness. So why do some pre-service academies still believe that running a stress academy, or boot camp style of academy, is somehow going to produce high quality law enforcement professionals who know how to think critically, solve problems and make good decisions in tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situations? Why do some FTOs continue to treat the new officers they are tasked with training and mentoring like crap believing that is somehow going to best prepare them to function at a high level as a solo officer? Why do we continue to scream, yell and punish under the guise of “stress inoculation training”?
A year ago I wrote the below post challenging Training Sections and Academies to Embrace the 5 “No” Rules as a guidelines for their training cadres. Recent stories in the news, and related to me by trainers and officers during my travels made me decide to repost this.
Embrace the 5 “No” Rules
- No Assholes
- No Bullies
- No Dickheads
- No Egos
- No Malcontents
Take a step back and have a long hard look at the people in all positions in your training section and your training cadre. If you have people that fall into the above listed groups then have a courageous conversation with them and let them know this behavior is unacceptable and if they want to continue in their role as a trainer they need to change their behavior. If they are unwilling to change their behavior, then move them out of training positions. This goes for the leadership group as well as the trainers.
It pisses me off every time I hear stories of recruits being bullied, belittled and demeaned by people in positions of trust and leadership under the guise of good training designed to “weed out” the people who do not belong and teach them how to handle stress. Bullies, assholes and toxic leaders will always seek to justify their behavior by saying it is for the greater good.
Why does this piss me off so much? Because these men and women are the future of the profession. As soon as they graduate from the academy and are on the street they are also the face of the profession.
Why does this piss me off so much? Because these attitudes and behaviors in the training cadre do not lend themselves to an environment conducive to learn, retention, recall, understanding and the ability to apply the learning. Instead they create environments of stress, fear and survival.
Why does this piss me off so much? Because what one of us does reflects on all of us. There are a lot of people striving to improve the profession of law enforcement. Treating people like crap in training is not the way to accomplish that goal. If you have that type of training you will damage some people who could have been great cops. You will also inspire future assholes, bullies, dickheads and toxic leaders because now they have role models who have been placed in positions of authority and their behavior is thereby sanctioned by the organization. In their careers these newly empowered bullies, assholes and dickheads will generate a lot of citizen complaints and tarnish the profession. When they end up in a viral video the agency will throw them under the bus, label them as “bad apples” and fail to acknowledge that they own a piece of that behavior. When they become trainers they will perpetuate these behaviors. As they rise through the ranks they will be the future toxic leaders and wreak havoc. Not all recruits subjected to this type of training will be damaged or become future problem employees. Many will see this behavior as a game to try and break them and will focus on What’s Important Now, play the game, embrace the suck, look for the good, look for the learning and still dare to be great.
I would strongly recommend you read The No Asshole Rule by Stanford professor Robert Sutton PhD, and reflect on the TCA (total cost of assholes) in your training and in your agency. If you want to get a better understanding of the impact of toxic people in leadership positions (like training) read Tarnished: Toxic Leadership in the US Military by George Reed PhD, and for context substitute law enforcement for the military. No Dickheads is the mantra of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, which according to author James Kerr in his highly recommended leadership book Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership, was shamelessly stolen from the Sydney Swans. No Dickheads should be a mantra in every training cadre, and leadership program. It is not about you. Leave your ego at the door, make the people you are training and leading the heroes and strive to be a wise and humble mentor for them on their journey.
Make sure you have people with the right character in training positions.
“The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.”
Abigail Van Buren, Dear Abby column (May 16, 1974)
Trainers are in one of the most influential leadership positions in any organization. Being a trainer is a privilege. Make sure the people in your organization who have the privilege and honor to train your people live up to the expectations and responsibilities that come with that position. Implement the 5 No Rules in your training cadre and ensure everyone lives by those rules. If you want to simplify things just implement a “No Dickheads” or “No Assholes” rule.
Teach and model unconditional respect, professionalism, integrity, humility, high standards, hard work, leadership, curiosity and a commitment to something bigger than yourself.
Winning Mind Training – Dedicated to serving the heroic men and women of law enforcement.
The Excellence in Training Academy – A membership site created for law enforcement trainers willing to invest in their ongoing professional development.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Committed to helping aspiring and frontline leaders on their leadership journey through a weekly leadership blog and the online Dare to Be Great workshop.