I just received notice, Officer Mike Amiott of the Euclid (Ohio) Police Department had just been awarded his job back after losing it almost a year ago. The media attack and lack of perspective on police work and use of force is chasing good people away from law enforcement and the lack of leadership in the ranks just incites the mobs to cause more chaos and shrink the ranks of those who might serve.
It was about 20 years ago that I was involved in a use of force situation that cost me my job in law enforcement. The attack at the time came from a cowardly captain who wanted a feather in his cap more than he cared about his integrity and honor. Try as they might, they could not get the ranks to drink the Kool-Aid. Without going into the cowardly details, they exonerated every supervisor present, there were three, and then got caught lying on tape. Winning my job back caused me to study use of force so this would not happen to me again. I have worked since that time to convince and train cops that they should understand use of force law because most cops, and that includes the supervisors, don’t know or understand the law, the dynamics of force or how to explain it.
I have often joked that most police chiefs don’t know the difference between Graham/Connor and a Graham Cracker.
It is this passion that led a local news station to reach out to me on the Amiott case. I was contacted by Paul Kiska of News 5 in Cleveland. This is important because of two vital issues. First, I refused to speak with them unless they were willing to have a discussion about the law, not just a soundbite. I found Paul willing to be educated and fair which is not often found in mainstream media. Second, I have always made myself available to media because someone has to speak for cops since we usually only respond with a “No Comment.”
It was after the airing of the news story with my comments, that I received a phone call at work the next morning from “that cop on the video”. I spoke with Mike and that first conversation was just a “thank you” for being willing to stand up for him and law enforcement. He felt betrayed by those who said he was part of their family. I later learned that the department had informed him that they had reviewed the incident and that he was “reasonable” in his actions. It wasn’t until the media turned up the heat that his department changed their thoughts on the topic. Nowhere in the story does it mention that he was injured during the incident to include a ruptured tendon in his hand, a broken finger, and four pulled muscles in his shoulder along with months of physical therapy that he had to work through. Nowhere does his department talk about the training they had provided its members to react to a resisting subject or their initial ruling of reasonableness. And after the department acquiesced to media demands for his job, the department brought up settled complaints by singling out Officer Amiott’s prior involvement in a couple of incidents trying to paint him as a rogue cop when witnesses exonerated his conduct and dismissing the actual arresting officer’s involvement. There have been no criminal charges against the officer because his use of force was reasonable under the law.
I have written about these cowardly acts by chiefs and supervisors before but this one is fresh and has once again been overturned by an arbitrator who is willing to look at facts and not be submissive to the mob mentality that scares those who refuse to stand up for and support the thin blue line. The charges were not about his use of force but rules violations separate from legal issues. The arbitrator ruled that there was no progressive discipline. The point to progressive discipline is not to show a pattern against officers but to correct behavior with the hopes of helping every officer succeed.
Isn’t the success of our people what we as leaders are trying to accomplish?
I was talking to a criminal justice college department head who spoke of the declining enrollment in our local college. Other rank chimed in about the declining number of candidates who seek employment in this profession. I know that a large part of the fear of professional policing choices have to do with the media scaring away good people by the lies and slanders they spew daily, BUT I also know of departments that have no problem finding enough candidates to fill their ranks. I attribute this to the leaders’ reputations who have the backs of their people and are willing to stand up for their officers. That does not mean overlooking bad judgement or mistakes. It does mean understanding this profession, the risks and the human factors that go along with it and trying to develop people, who when they make mistakes we help them improve. Professional sports athletes receive millions of dollars, have the best trainers, doctors and coaches and they miss a catch or botch a play in a game. IN A GAME! Cops don’t have any of those perks and they aren’t playing a game, this is real with real consequences for them as they go against real opponents who are breaking the law.
Good leadership should be working hard to make their people feel as if someone cares for them and that they want them to succeed. Poor leadership sells its people out because they don’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the mob rule that grows ever more aggressive with each media battle they win. Chiefs, mayors, prosecutors and management that continually lose arbitrations are not being fair to their people.
If you want your people to fail, sell them out every time someone turns up the heat.
If you want your people to succeed and prosper, let them know that you will back them when they are right, correct them when they are wrong but always care about them like you told them when they got the job, “Welcome to the Brotherhood”. Otherwise the thin blue line will disappear completely. It is time for us to develop leaders in our ranks and raise them up to positions of authority and stop the bleeding, both real and figurative before there are no more heroes.
Find out how to become a Courageous Leader here.
What others are saying about “Courageous Leadership For Law Enforcement”
“This class is absolutely outstanding.” Nathan Mendes, California Narcotics Officers Association
“This class should be required for every single police officer in America.” Officer Jason Cummings, Claremore PD
“In my 12 year career, this was the best class I have ever taken on leadership.” Sergeant Josh Johnson
“The best presentation I have had in over 22 years in law enforcement.” Sgt. Michael Huber, McMinnville (OR) Police Department
“This is some of the best training I have attended in over 40 years of law enforcement.”
Scott Johnson, Chief of Police – Grand Rapids (MN) Police Department
Tim Barfield is in his 35th year as a police officer. He started as a police officer in a rural village before transferring to an inner ring suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. He spent 32 years in that department gaining experience in many areas of police work. In 2014, he accepted a position as police chief for another department. He is a husband, father and grandfather who has a love for police work and police officers with a goal of helping them succeed in a great profession. His responsibilities and desires have included patrol, traffic, DARE, SWAT, training and supervision. He is a member of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. He continues to learn and instruct on subjects with an emphasis on awareness, police survival mindset and ethics.