'It's Not Us vs. Them'
One police chief's humble solution to violence
On patrol...Posted by Kenyon (MN) Police Department on
From the tiny town of Kenyon, Minnesota, Police Chief Lee Sjolander has a message for the 12,000 other police districts across the country.
Writing from his department’s Facebook page this morning, he advocates a humble role of public servitude that is antithetical to the toxic masculinity with which some police departments have been infected. “If I were your chief,” he writes, “and we worked for the same agency, serving the same great community, I would attend roll call, and here is what I would say”:
We have calls for service that we need to respond to. We have a grateful public that needs us, we have responsibilities. Yes, there are those out here who do not like us, or what we represent. It's been that way long before I or you became officers, and it will be that way long after we're gone.
I, as well as the public we serve have certain expectations, and we would all like them met when you can.
Here are just a few...
We expect you to be kind, we expect you to be fair, we expect you to be professional, and we expect you to do the best you can on every call for service.
We expect you to know the difference between the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law, and when to use your best discretion.
We expect you to leave people better than you found them when you can, and never take away someone’s dignity.
We expect you to be well-trained, and to know when, and when not to apply your training.
We expect you to be human. That means it's ok to laugh, cry, and be scared at times.
I want you to remember why you chose to answer this public service calling. I hope it was to be part of something bigger than yourself, I hope it was to serve the public that we love, and I hope it was to build relationships with coworkers, as well as our public.
I hope you chose this calling because you love having a front row seat into the lives of people, love problem solving, and know that what you do makes your family and friends proud.
Yes, we are all sharing in some dark times right now. But, we still expect you to be brilliant at the basics and do your job to the best of your abilities. ...
I expect you to patrol your areas with a smile on your face, kindness in your heart, calmness in your soul, and a wave to those you see. I expect you to get out of your patrol car and visit. I want you to listen to the compliments, the concerns, take them all in, and remember, it's not "us vs. them"
I expect you to show others that we are better than these tragedies, and we are striving to be better in so many ways.
I expect you to be safe at work, and at home. I hope you visit with your family openly about the current state of our nation, and how if we give into fear, violence, propaganda, etc. we will not be part of the solution.
If you or another member of our public service family is struggling, I expect you to get help, and I expect you to help others. I promise you, there is no shame in seeking help and being well.
I, as well as so many others are here for you. If you need me, I will be just a phone call, or radio call away.
I truly appreciate, and love each and everyone of you.
“I promise you that there is no shame in seeking help.” That may be the fundamental dilemma behind violence among police and otherwise, in a culture that loathes weakness, fetishizes independence, and shuns interdependence. The rules for officers and civilians alike: Seek help at the first impulse to harm another human, at the first instance of rage that you cannot easily control, at the first sign of sadness that does not subside, or at the first notion of loneliness before it becomes any of these things.
Cultivating interdependence in life is no sign of weakness, only wisdom.
Law enforcement is so decentralized as an institution that these granular movements—the leaders in every single department—will need to adopt similar stances if they are to collectively ensure that police officers resemble doctors, nurses, spiritual leaders, or teachers, whose charge is to serve as a part of the community, not apart from or above it.
Sjolander has taken a lead in this, writing with similar candor in hundreds of “Thoughts from Chief Sjolander” posts that have earned 25,000 fans for the Facebook page of the Kenyon, Minnesota Police Department. Which is impressive, in that there are only 1,833 residents of Kenyon, Minnesota. His words are resonating.