Have you ever walked into a police department and saw a beautiful mission statement prominently posted on the wall for all to see and admire? Then you ask the officers if they know what the mission statement is and nobody knows. Worse, they can’t even give a general summary of what the mission statement is.
Perhaps, the way too lengthy mission statement meant something to the people now long dead and retired who developed it, but over time it has changed into a vague statement which means nothing. The scenario above is all too common.
Every action an organization takes should complement and carry out the mission statement. Failure to have a clear mission will create inconsistent enforcement and treatment of citizens. Having a clear sense of mission is what unifies the organization into an effective mission focused team.
I have a friend in law enforcement who has the below statement hanging on his wall (as a joke).
The truth is in law enforcement nowadays, there is not a great incentive to provide proactive enforcement. As a result, more officers have become passive by doing the minimum and just responding to calls for service. Increased passive enforcement has been called the “The Ferguson Effect” and I am not blaming officers for passivity. However, as a leader, if you don’t want passive enforcement, you must be intentional by constantly focusing on the mission and being courageous enough to back proactive enforcement when issues arise from it. It is always better to be intentional about the mission rather than have the mission chosen for you by passive default.
I have been lucky to be involved in strategic planning sessions for public safety departments, businesses and non-profits. The common thread I noticed while examining any successful organization, whether in business or police departments, is they have a clear mission statement and everyone knows what it is. All organizations exist to accomplish a mission. If they did not have a mission there would be no need for them to be an organization in the first place.
Worth Dying For
Law enforcement is truly unique in that officers need enough loyalty to the mission to die for it. For example, officers respond with unflinching loyalty to difficult situations placing their own lives secondary to the mission. We owe it to our officers to have a culture unified around a relevant mission statement.
Benefits Of A Mission Statement
Mission statements tell the organization not only what to do, but what NOT to do. Many good things exist, but just because it is a good does not mean a police department should be doing it.
Good can be the enemy of great.
Mission statements are particularly useful in times of indecisiveness— the mission statement gives the organization a guide to consult with when making both little and big decisions. Do not think mission statements restrict your freedom; instead, think of them as a guide to focus on what is most important.
How To Develop And Maintain
As a leader, don’t develop a mission statement completely on your own. You will never get the buy in from those you lead.
Remember, people like to follow something they helped create because they are invested in it.
Make the statement(s) short and memorable. Put the statement(s) where everyone sees it. Quiz the employees in the department on it and talk about it. Reward and praise those who exemplify the mission. It will make life so much easier because many of your decisions will be pre-decided based on the mission. To get started, ask the following questions with those within your department.
- What have you come together to do?
- Why are we doing it?
The bottom line is, if organizations are going to accomplish their mission everyone in the organization has to know what the mission is! Why not determine your stance with decisive words rather than have it chosen for you by passive default?
Be proactive not reactive.
Matthew Loeslie is the Criminal Justice Program Director at a State University. Prior to the University, Matthew was responsible for Law Enforcement Training at a Community and Technical College where he coordinated and instructed law enforcement classes throughout the Midwest. Furthermore, Matthew has experience working in law enforcement. In addition, Matthew helped launch the law enforcement training program at the MERIT Center in Marshall, MN. Matthew enjoys spending time with his family, reading, shooting and motorcycle rides.