Is Firing an Officer Enough?

A quick google search of “fired officers” will result in a plethora of stories in which departments were left with no other choice but to terminate an employee. Well, maybe the police administration could have taken less drastic matters, however, firing they believed, was the best option. Most notably is recent the termination of the Phoenix PD Officer Chris Meyer. He lost his job for his actions in the viral show of force that he and other officers displayed in trying to take a couple believed to have shoplifted a doll from a dollar store into custody. Officers should understand that whenever they draw and point their firearms at people they are threatening the use of deadly force. In hindsight, I would hope that all who view the video are willing to concede that threatening a family with death over a doll was just a tad excessive. Yes, officers are justified in displaying and using just about whatever force in necessary in order to overcome resistance. But in this case, there was no resistance to their authority.

In past weeks and months, we have seen the termination of Amber Guyger, officers from Louisiana fired for suggesting Alexandra Ocasio Cortex receive a round, and not the served kind. We have also seen another officer from Phoenix fired for controversial Facebook posts. Officers from Dallas were also terminated for failing to follow departmental rules and regs. To those nay-sayers out there who believe police departments are havens for illicit and criminal conduct without any oversight, I would suggest they actually read and think before they speak. These are clear examples that many departments and administrations are transparent and believe in accountability.

However, now I must ask the questions, what is the point of termination and is it enough? The purpose of discipline in any organization is to foster a culture that is positive and reflects the values of the organization. When there are breaches of codes of conduct within any organization, whether they are private, public or social, swift action must be taken to ensure a number of things. Primarily the offender must be placed on notice that action was not acceptable to the standards of the organization and that there is a penalty for failing to live up to the stated obligations. Second other members of the organization undoubtedly know that there was some type of malfeasance and believe they are watching. In the case of public officials, the public is also watching and waiting to see what, if any consequences will follow. Allowing any offender to get off scot-free will only embolden others to do the same things or sometimes worse. There’s a little more to discipline, but I will move on for brevity’s sake. If you want to know more you can always hire me for some of my consulting services. Wink, wink, like how I worked that in?

Let’s face it, we will never get rid of bad behavior. We can however drastically reduce the frequency of occurrences.  A major theme that I have noticed in many of the termination cases is a clear lack of supervision. And when there is supervision, it is woefully lacking. In the Phoenix doll debacle, a supervisor should have arrived on the scene, assessed the situation gathered the facts and taken command. His instructions and questions could have been something like; what do we have here? A doll was taken? Why are there all these officers here for a doll? Why are our guns drawn? Where is the doll? In the girl’s lap? Did the family take anything else? So all this for a doll?  Taking charge of the scene and asking these pertinent questions can start to make officers see what they are doing and hopefully diffuse the situation. Getting caught up in the frenzy is easy, it takes experience and wisdom to calm the situation.

So, to answer my own question is firing an officer enough? No, organizations need wise, seasoned leaders who will take command of tense scenes. Furthermore, they need training on how to deal with those of other communities, de-escalation training, (that actually sticks), shoot don’t shoot scenarios and this is just a start.

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