Friday, June 4, 2010

Political Correctness

When did it become acceptable in society to lie to each other under the guise of being "Politically Correct?" It seems we have all become so oversensitive to the words of others that we all walk on eggshells and skirt the truth for fear of offending someone. When cops do it to other cops, it creates anger and distrust. When management does it to their subordinates it leads to low morale and dissension. The bottom line is cops can smell the BS before the delivery is complete.

So why does management continually feel the need to employ the "Politically Correct" answers when every cop with a year on the job can see right through them? Politically correct people are generally your self righteous suck-ups who have nothing better to do than make sure everyone knows how 'caring' and 'thoughtful' they are by being overly polite when it is not necessary.

Consequentialism refers to those moral theories which hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action. In the case of the mayor, who would rather fuel the lies and misrepresentations of those political hot topics, he made a moral judgement that is was OK to lie if the end was getting himself elected to office. There were no consequences for the lies, but telling the truth could possibly result in his not being elected. So he lied and was proud of it.

When someone lives for others, he is often considered, "Altruistic." Altruism is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. Most of us in law enforcement could be considered altruistic by nature and maintain a high level of ethics and morals. But something happens as we climb the ladder and ascend into the management ranks. Political correctness begins to take hold and those ethics and morals we entered the job with seem to wane. Those holding management positions will often say, "You don't understand." We often say, "You have forgotten from where you came." It has become a sad commentary to where we are today.

I said to the mayor when he was seeking election to his first term of office, that his willingness to lie and continue the misinformation and half truths about employee benefits, was what was wrong with politics and politicians. It is what is wrong with society; the willingness to allow such behaviour. But why do we allow it in our profession? Why do we as a group succumb to the political correctness of dealing with issues and people? How did we move so far from honest, straightforward talk?

Holding people accountable requires honest, straight, frank talk. Yet we have watered down the processes and refused to allow for this type of discussion. We became a fragile group who could not handle the truth. When change is desired by management, they tend to struggle with the delivery of why. In reality "Why" does not matter, but if they are going to give a reason, it should be real, honest and straight forward. We can see through the BS and it simply angers and creates disgruntled employees when the politically correct reason is provided over the truth. This is compounded when three members of management deliver three reasons for change, none of which resemble the other.

I have often said, "It is not what is done, but how it was done." We may not like the change of whatever is taking place, but we can accept it and move on if we are part of the consideration for the change and the communication is honest. That honesty requires a different level of communication that needs to be free of the political correctness that has crept into virtually every conversation. The social norm for police management is to take the politically correct avenue, normally the easy way out, to avoid conflict. This is creating a divide and an "us" versus "them" attitude. When those vying for promotion are more concerned with "ME" and how "ME" looks or is perceived, we are all losers. We have lost the "Altruistic Value" that made us special.

We must demand honest conversation in everything we do. Political correctness has no place in government or law enforcement. Do not mistake political correctness with being a caring individual or showing compassion for the feelings of others. We need to learn how to look each other in the eyes when we talk and to be honest with our words. We also need our words to match our actions. We will all be better for it and only then can we begin to grow as an organization. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Where to Start

Many of you have asked where I have been and why I have not posted of late. Truth be told I have not been in the proper frame of mind to write about the things going on in San Diego as well as the Police Department. I have written several pieces that have yet to see the light of day because after proofing them and reading them prior to posting, I myself felt they were either to caustic, negative or would bring a level of discredit to the department or individuals. I made a promise to myself when I began this blog that I would do my level best to keep the posts professional and factual.

I began an internal struggle that lead to me losing interest and not caring about many things going on in my life. This blog was always an outlet for me to blow off some steam, say what many were thinking and give a voice to those who cannot find the courage to speak up. I started to feel as though I was yelling like the crazy guy on the corner of 4th and Broadway. The anger, frustration, pain and sorrow I was fighting internally was making its way into my writing and I could not allow that.

My sanctuary was Internal Affairs. Just saying that kind of makes one wonder how in the hell Internal Affairs could be a sanctuary for anyone, even me. I had spent almost twenty-five years as an employee advocate, representing members of the SDPOA during departmental actions. I handled grievances, poor performance issues, conduct issues and many other personnel related disciplinary issues for the member. I was transferred to Internal Affairs in 2007, and I knew the system and procedures inside out. The job is about getting to the truth, whatever that is, and determining if the actions were within policy. The position of a Sergeant in Internal Affairs is as an Investigator and you simply handle your cases and manage your time. I did not supervise anyone and only had to worry about my cases and help others in the office. It was a perfect fit for me since I failed in my last attempt at promotion. I had lost my desire to mentor, coach or lead others in anything. I just wanted to ride my last months out and be left alone doing a job I enjoyed and excelled at.

I was not of the right frame of mind to supervise others. I took not getting promoted harder than I let on or that most would ever suspect. It hurt and it caused me to withdraw. Part of that withdrawal was a slow pulling away from my writing. I still wrote everyday but it was not for publication. My writings became venom and fire and not suited for publication. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself and did my job in Internal Affairs. I helped out whenever asked and took on any case sent my way. I handled criminal cases against officers, internal investigations as well as the normal citizen complaint. I assisted the other sergeants in the office with their cases and answered questions about the Police Officer's Bill of Rights, procedure and the best way to deal with delicate and troubling issues. I was safe in Internal Affairs and could do my job without a lot of interaction with others. I was not supervising others and only had to manage myself. It was my sanctuary that allowed me to continue to do my job without the emotional ties or interactions I became to fear. I did not need a mask to hide my pain and anger. I could be quiet on those days that I struggled and no one was the wiser. Well, except one person.

I was lucky enough to have a great partner while working in Internal Affairs. We helped one another with interviews of witnesses, complainants and officers. We bounced ideas and issues off of each other and we came to trust one another. We don't normally have partners in Internal Affairs. We usually just seek out who is available to assist when necessary and will bounce issues off of one another and generally we as a group had a great time doing a job that at times could be stressful and frustrating. We took care of each other because we could not sit in the coffee shop and talk about our cases or what was going on. We could not get on an elevator and continue conversations from the office. We owed it to the officers to maintain that confidentiality. That left us a band of sergeants that entertained ourselves and ate lunch in our office together almost daily. You become isolated to an extent and while it sounds awful, it was what worked for me.

One day we were having coffee and my partner looked across the table at me and asked me a question that jolted me to my core. "Are you depressed?" I shot quickly a firm, "No" and felt myself looking down rather than across the table. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, and in reality it was maybe a few seconds, as my body started to respond to the next question fired in my direction, "Are you sure you are not depressed?" What was it that was being seen that I was doing or not doing that would prompt such a question? I honestly had not given much thought to this, but now I was being forced to take a closer look into the mirror and what it was that I was projecting that would prompt this question. I also needed to address the question.

We talked for a while about the observations my partner noted and the reasons for the question. The conversation was open, honest and frank, but generally one sided. I did not acknowledge my feelings or fears and would not allow myself to say yes. We walked back to headquarters and for most of the eight blocks we said very little. We would usually laugh and talk about stuff. This time it was different.

Yes, I was struggling with being depressed and really did not know it. Maybe I knew it but was not willing to acknowledge it, especially to someone else. I had experienced a lot in the last several years and the cumulative toll had caught up. No one else either recognized the symptoms or refused to broach the issue, but the cat was now out of the bag and I needed to figure it out. I decided that night to do something about it. I thanked my partner the next day and set out to get a handle on my feelings and what was going on in my head. The process has been painful and enlightening at the same time. I don't like mirrors anymore because I am not comfortable looking at me right now.

Some of you reading this will no doubt have questions for which I have no answers right now. I write about my struggles not to seek pity or sympathy but to enlighten others. The times we are in today have taken their toll on good people and others out there are struggling like me. If you have a friend or partner who is not sleeping, drinking more than before, seems more introverted and withdrawn, struggles to laugh and is quick to anger, don't be afraid to talk to them. My partner saw these changes over time and was not willing to ignore them. You need to do the same. If you are the one who is struggling, it is OK to ask for help and to get yourself back on the correct path. We owe it to each other to look out for one another and to offer help and support.

My sanctuary is being taken away from me. I am being transferred to Northwestern Division effective June 12, 2010. I am fearful of what the future holds but am confident I have friends who will be there to prop me up and offer support when I need it. My partner is also being transfered and we will no longer be working together. I owe my life to my partner and am thankful for the intervention that was no doubt difficult. So, if you ever read this post, Thank You... I owe you more than you know....

I will try and post more regularly about some of the issues generating concern of late. Be patient and take care of each other.