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The Tension Between Today and Tomorrow

I’ve met a lot of great, impressive people in PFI.  One of the more impressive figure is Rick Myers, a former chief in a number of departments, a CALEA commissioner, a former president of PFI, and a colleague in the Futures Working Group.  Rick has graciously agreed to do a guest post on the blog titled “The Tension Between Today and Tomorrow.”  Drawing on his experience, Rick draws attention to the fundamental challenges facing every chief in their battle to lead for tomorrow while managing today.  His insight follows:

Being a charter member of PFI, and having been fully indoctrinated by Dr. Tafoya way back in 1989, I’ve been thinking about the future for a long time….so long that some of it has come and gone!  I enjoy thinking about the environment of policing 25 years from now and what we need to do to prepare.  However, I’m finding a definite tension that draws me back to dealing with today’s crises, which often have little resemblance to what the forecasts say lie ahead.

As a chief, I often had to fight off being bogged down with today’s crises, personnel issues, nagging policy snafus, etc.  Even tougher was getting my staff out of the daily funk and thinking forward.  I believe it is a forever battle.

But, now, as someone who finds himself consulting at different agencies, I’m really drawn away from the future as I attempt to assist agency leaders try to fix what’s broken today.  And, there is plenty out there that’s broken.

In one setting that I’m assisting at, they’ve set a goal to become accredited in the next few years.  Now, as a CALEA Commissioner, I’m all about encouraging more and more agencies to achieve this proven demonstration that they’ve crossed the bar and sustain adherence to best practices and high standards.  But, in this setting, the agencies involved have so many issues to address, I’ve had to express my sincere observation that they’re wasting cognitive energy worrying about accreditation that should be poured into just basic requirements of a police agency.  In other words, I’m discouraging futures thinking! 

Lest you think, good reader, that I should turn in my membership card, I assure you that I haven’t stopped thinking forward.  In this setting, I’ve engaged some of my colleagues to be thinking about how we could help the struggling leadership totally re-think how policing is done and organized in this setting.  Are there alternative structures?  Are there services that “the police” won’t or shouldn’t be preoccupied about in the future?  How can emerging technology improve services there?  And, what about the human equation, what future recruitment, training, and accountability processes might benefit in this setting?

I recall in my second chief’s position, going from being “the dayshift” to actually having a quiet office where I could think.  It was during this time that I attended the NA and met Dr Tafoya.  I’ve been thinking ever since. Futurists know about this tension between today and tomorrow.  As leaders, there is no way to abandon the problems of today simply to dream about tomorrow.  The key may be to use that tension to CONNECT today and tomorrow. Bridge builders sometimes use tension as a key ingredient of constructing spans that last a long time.  While I don’t think like an engineer, I am thinking that this tension might be a bridge for us to say, “ok, here is one of today’s major issues; if we do nothing, what might it look like in 5, 10, 20 years?  If we do X, what might it look like?  If we do Y?, etc”  Similarly, something that might resemble a minor concern today might appear more like a major crisis in the making from a forecast perspective.  So, instead of struggling with the tension between today and tomorrow, it can serve as a daily reminder that no matter what we’re up against now, there are implications and, if we’re lucky, maybe even strategies lurking ahead.  Likewise, if we’re scanning today’s environment and see a trend that has little impact on us today, let’s not overlook it until it blows up; perhaps we can roll it into our strategic thinking.

If we do a little less structured Strategic Planning (I believe in it, but hate going through the process) and instead daily use the tension between today and tomorrow to think more strategically every day, we might find that we benefit both today AND tomorrow.  Just a thought…


Rick Myers


Where’s the Bologna?: Wannabe Sociopaths, Psychopaths and CEO’s.

One lazy day this summer, having read about socio/psychopaths being highly successful as CEOs, my teenager asked me it was really true that there are many of them out there. I acknowledged it happens and tried explaining as far as I understood. My didactic thoughts on toxic and good leadership fell short of the teen imagination because weeks later, having scanned the internet and poured through our old university texts, he broached the subject again. What he shared was an insightful glimpse at pop thinking. Ironically, there appears to be both blatant and tacit appreciation for disordered personalities in the workplace. More to the point, it seems our inchoate workforce are being exposed to the ideas that personality traits of socio and/or psychopaths are something to admire and even aspire to as a model or means to success.

I cannot offer scientific proof that a trend is occurring, but instead offer the supposition that is worth taking a good look at how the concept of wannabe socio/psychopath CEO intersects with current and future pools of job applicants. If personality disorders, mimicked or innate, are being seen as a way to get ahead, despite the widely known hallmarks of narcissism and egocentrism, then it’s worth looking at the implications this may have for the future of the very public service of policing.

Not long after that illuminating conversation, I was reading an author’s note at the end of The Malice of Fortune. A particular paragraph jumped at me off the page. I won’t divulge the novel’s storyline, but must first explain the book entertains intriguing elements of Machiavelli’s admiration (as well as distaste and later condemnation in Discourses) for the Duke Valentino’s persona (aka Cesare Borgia). The Duke was later immortalized as Machiavelli’s “Prince”.  Ennis, who is a historian, comments on the plethora of documentation showing Valentino was what we would call a psychopath in today’s world. Yet, he was stylized as the epitome of a necessary evil … for the times (i.e., 16thC Italy when chaos reigned supreme between city-states).  Context is critically important because he lived in a world where free republics were still dreams, pre-dating the rebirth of democracy through the French and American revolutions.

Connecting this to my thoughts about wannabe disordered CEOs, Ennis notes that with all of the Duke’s antisocial tendencies:

“Valentino was the first modern leader, his conscience-free, lethal expedience providing a remarkably effective and enduring template for sociopaths seeking power in any time, place, or organization; the same amoral realpolitik that has guided mass-murdering dictators is now studied by corporate CEOs and marketed as career advice for middle-management schemers.” (p.393)

Ennis suggests a trend is in progress, linking the socio/psychopathic leader to the 21st Century. This may or may not be conjecture, but it is terrifying all the same; especially given that the Prince was extolled as a necessary evil in ruthless, pre-democratic times. Yet, what remains shockingly lost is that the Prince was not actually the preferred ideal. Rather, he was imperfect in the context of a free world model (refer to Machiavelli’s discourses on radical egalitarianism in The Prince and The Discourses, as well as Machiavellis True Views, The Discourses vs. The Prince).

Personally, I think Machiavelli had an ingenious talent for reading people. If I were on the path to CEO-hood, I would re-read The Prince; to understand socio/psychopaths as leaders, not to become one.

Has a fad emerged, creating a trend? Last year, a psychologist I know included me on a blast-out article about executive sociopaths, claiming “Hey! For all you sociopaths, it’s now okay to be one!” (Really?) Popular links between socio and/or psychopaths and CEOs has become mainstream. Not surprisingly, it’s so common that it appears as regular repertoire in the Dilbert comic strip series; the ultimate dysfunctional workplace. When satire happens, it’s a good indication we ought to pay attention to the reality.

Consider the eager young professional developing a career strategy. Surfing the internet, with no dearth of information extolling “attributes” of the sociopathic CEO (e.g., Forbes: Why some psychopaths make great execs). Granted, there are equally many articles and interviews on the need to guard against socio and psychopathic traits and types in the workplace (e.g.,  Faculty Research in Progress ), but what’s startling are the undertones of the “sexier”, more youthfully appealing sites that appear to tacitly endorse acceptance of the sociopathic persona, simply because they hold out promises of success. For some, they strike the deeper chords, pitching to and/or portraying people who are already successful (e.g., Popular business courses for execs,   Forbes: Machiavellian business lessons from a billionaire, Machiavelli on modern leadership , as well as myriad Youtube videos). Cool?

While a long-term foothold in executive boardrooms by these wannabes may not be pervasive, there is still potential for havoc and caterwauling anywhere it is left to proliferate. What ought to be clarified are the differences between “monsters” and leaders. This, it seems to me, overlaps the toxic leadership conversation.

We know toxic leadership exists and prevails. Many of us have witnessed its effects. We may be taking steps to get past the horror stories, injustices, and weeding out the caustic individuals, but if a movement is afoot where disordered personality traits are being revered, then it’s plausible others are grooming themselves in the wings to fill those vacancies. These wannabes, however, may be better armed with articulated purpose, and not so easy to weed out.  

Are the possibilities of this happening in policing any different than in executive boardrooms? Current police/rank structures both allow and deter the promotion of personality disordered candidates. The difficulty is recognizing them when there is a blurring of lines; when they are particularly adept at manipulation. And then what do you do once they’ve achieved their aims and are confirmed in ranks?

 What is particularly relevant to the policing culture is whether we are succeeding at pointing out the differences between acceptable and egregious traits or behaviours among personnel, and whether more needs to be done. Wannabe or actual socio/psychopath CEOs in private business may or may not wane, depending on the power of economic times, but, as with all things, we need to be mindful of what will shape the future of public service, law enforcement, and policing in entirety.


The bologna? You’d have to ask Machiavelli.

Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Julie Grimaldi,MA
(Retired Strategic LE Planner)


The Silver Crisis

The Silver Crisis

The Silver Crisis – if you’re thinking this crisis has to do with metal and money – wrong. Over the next 15 years, a real human crisis is headed our way – 78 million, or what is left of them, baby boomers, and a good number of older Generation X citizens, will be almost fully retired and heading into the sunset. On its own that may not seem like a huge issue, but consider that many of the caregivers for these people will either be senior citizens themselves or, and this is the worst case scenario, they have no children or relatives to care for them. In that case, who or what public agency will be there to help them? You guessed it, police. Many of the younger Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are sandwiched between caring for their own parents and their children.

In most states, there is some kind of public agency, in Texas it is the Adult Protective Services which is under the Department of Health and Human Services or some other state agency, that provides a safety net for these citizens. This service has a very limited role in “protecting” a citizen who has reached his or her 65th birthday and is a danger to themselves or others. Wanna bet that when the silver crisis hits the fan, it will be woefully understaffed and under motivated to deal with the influx of “clients?” For argument’s sake, let’s just say they are and those golden oldies will have a safety net to look after their best interests in APS, or similar agency, what about those older Americans who clearly are competent, in the eyes of the law, or who may be borderline, and their family or other caregiver has no money to have them declared incompetent? What then? Is the state going to sue the “client” to have them declared incompetent so that it can take care of them? Doubtful.

Police departments all over the USA, the world in fact, will have demands placed on them that will not only stretch their resources but challenge them to find “ways” to be able to help them or their caregivers. Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: A citizen calls the police department asking for help to keep their aging parent from driving. Seems the parent still drives, but clearly shouldn’t by virtue of the dents and dings the car. One problem, the parent still lives on his or her own, but clearly are showing signs of dementia or other physical limitations, but not yet incompetent, at least no labeled as such by a competent court. What do you do? Sue your own parent for conservatorship – maybe – assuming the citizen has the financial resources to do that. Have them assessed by a court to have their driving privileges revoked. Maybe, if an officer can articulate with sufficient facts why his or her driver’s license should be revoked. Bottom line, if you try and have APS intercede, good luck with getting a live human to assist you. Chances are, if your department has not already established a connection with an APS operative, you will not be getting much help from them.

Or, consider that the senior citizen lives in an assisted living community; however, they have become abusive or aggressive and he or she is asked to leave the community – polite for thrown out? What happens to them then? Are departments going to send officers to evict him or her…throw him or her into the streets?

The silver train is on the tracks.

Chief G. M. Cox, Ph.D.

Murphy PD, Texas

Ten Reasons Why First Responders Aren’t Buying UAVs

@Tony_Hallett, CEO, Unmanned Response

Spurred by military spending during the Second Gulf War, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market has experienced sensational growth. As the conflict subsided, manufacturers turned their attention to the domestic market. A March 2013 industry report concludes “… agriculture and public safety are the most promising markets” for UAVs, estimating a $13.6 billion economic impact and the creation of 70,000 new jobs in the first three years.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for the safe integration of UAVs into national airspace by September of 2015 as set forth in sections 334-336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The Act includes an exception that allows public safety agencies to immediately utilize UAVs if granted a two-year Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA.

UAVs are remarkable tools that can assist first responders with a wide range of tasks. Yet, the latest data from the FAA show only 25 out of more than 65,000 state and local police, fire, and EMS agencies have applied for a COA. Why aren’t first responders integrating UAVs into their operations? At least ten clear reasons emerge:

FAA REQUIREMENTS. First responders who want to start a UAV program must navigate a complex, confusing, expensive, time-consuming, frustrating process to even apply for FAA approval. (Just finding a comprehensive list of requirements is challenging.) After spending considerable time and money, the COA application might be denied. If approved, it’s only for a two-year period.

VOLATILE LEGISLATIVE ENVIRONMENT. The image of UAVs has been badly tainted in the media resulting in a contemptuous attack on the integrity of the law enforcement profession. Irresponsible overreaction by several lawmakers (and at least one city mayor) shows that political understanding and support are fragile. Why buy a UAV today when your state legislature might ban it next week?

LATE ADOPTERS. First responders are neither impulse buyers nor early adopters of technology as evidenced by the dependence on legacy systems. Consider this: If a child takes a cell phone picture of a creepy stalker, most 911 centers do not have the technology in place to receive the photo.

KNOWLEDGE & EXPERIENCE. Most first responders are not familiar with the capabilities, options, and features of unmanned systems. There does not appear to be any UAV orientation embedded in academic curriculum or public safety training centers. Media coverage provides little substance. The only in-person exposure for most first responders is at crowded exhibit booths during conferences. While these encounters spark a novelty interest, they do not adequately demonstrate the capabilities or value of UAVs.

STANDARDS. Most public safety agencies (especially fire departments) deploy resources that conform to applicable performance, licensure, or accreditation standards. Moreover, agencies will need to adjust existing protocol to accommodate UAVs. Until unmanned systems are fully integrated into external standards and internal policies and procedures, they won’t be widely integrated into first responder operations.

RELIABILITY. There are five characteristics of any new technology that concern first responders: (1) It is more complex to operate than promised; (2) it can be hacked or virus infected; (3) the company that sold it won’t be around within six months; (4) it will malfunction/break in unimaginable ways within seven months; and (5) it will be obsolete within eight months.

LIABILITY. Public safety agencies will not introduce an “unknown” factor into time-tested emergency response protocols. The UAV failure (crash) rate is dramatically higher than for manned aircraft, a fact not lost on public safety risk managers.

PERSONNEL. Small public safety agencies will likely rely on innovators from within the ranks to launch UAV programs. What happens if the innovator leaves the department? Many large agencies must navigate personnel issues such as union work rules, assignment bidding, and reassignment of manpower.

SUPPORT NETWORK. First responders who see the value of UAVs have limited opportunities to share ideas, information, and insight with other public safety professionals who are operating or interested in unmanned systems.

COST. Most first responders have no experience with UAVs and, therefore, no reference point for costs such as RFP preparation, acquisition, training, insurance, staffing, transporting, operations, maintenance, and certifications. Since first responders are unfamiliar with costs and benefits, they are unable to conduct a realistic cost-benefit analysis.

The implication for first responders is disheartening. UAVs could have an immediate and dramatic impact on public safety training, planning, responses, rescues, and investigations. Polls show overwhelming public support for the use of UAVs by first responders. Sadly, because of the reasons above, few communities in the United States will benefit from this marvelous technology in the foreseeable future.

The implication for the unmanned systems industry is alarming. Several market research reports have painted an optimistic multi-billion dollar picture for the years ahead. However, the fact that only 25 of the 65,000 potential (public safety) customers in the U.S. have applied for a COA is telling. Underperformance in the public safety market may be an omen of similar challenges that lie ahead in commercial markets.

The integration of UAVs into the public safety market is being closely watched by many stakeholders. So far, there’s not much to see.