One of the cool things about having worked for the police department and been a police spouse is the ability to correlate them. Both have unique issues and take special care to manage. I've helped develop policy and procedures within a large metropolitan agency which required quite a bit of research into the latest best practices. I have an undergraduate degree in justice and am two classes shy of a master's in criminology and criminal justice with an emphasis on law enforcement. I know some people don't believe education holds a lot of credence on the street, but it did help me understand quite a bit of the paperwork side of law enforcement. I have also studied those who specialize in police relationship matters, including my personal favorites Dr. Ellen Kirschman (I Love a Cop) and Vali Stone (Cops Don't Cry). The merging of these got me thinking one day: What if the model for good police management could be used to strengthen a police relationship? With a little research, I found the correlation interesting and enlightening.
Most best practices for running a department include topics, such as training, technology, team-work, ethics, community relations and communication. How would these items look applied to a relationship, especially one in which one of the parties is a police officer?
Every department depends on good training. From the moment an individual enters the academy to the day they hang up their belt, a good officer is continually learning how to do the job better and safer. In the academy, recruits use textbooks, case studies and scenarios to learn how to keep themselves, their colleagues and the public safe. They also learn policies and procedures, guidelines and laws. Once they hit the street, they continue to learn from their FTO and other officers. They also receive annual training to keep current. In a relationship, often couples forget to continue learning.
When you first meet someone, you want to learn everything you can about their likes, dislikes, history and what makes them tick. You also learn more about yourself and this helps you grow as a couple. As the years go by and - as in many relationships - the newness wears off, many people stop training. This doesn't have to happen. Couples can go to retreats and learn to maintain their connection or how to re-connect. Also, like Stone recommends, spouses of police officers should take every opportunity to utilize spousal seminars offered by the department or family advocates. Just like in the academy and on the street, couples can forge a strong, coherent unit by training together.
Although funding doesn't always permit it, departments which are able to keep current in new technology continue to evolve and don't get left behind their communities and the world. When departments were switching from the old 450 radios to the new 800 MHz radios, people were buzzing. Although the transition didn't come without glitches, the new technology helped most departments become stronger. When a partner decides to join the police department, a lot of changes occur in a relationship. Stone describes how an entire change of lifestyle is brought about by police work. Each person must be aware of the changes and be willing to work on the glitches and rejoice at the successes. Even if the huge change of going into law enforcement during a relationship doesn't exist, growing together as each person matures becomes the current technology. The woman you married isn't the same at 34 or 44 or 64, as she was when she was 24. Neither is the man. Keep current on whom the other person is and continue to evolve together.
This concept is huge in making a department run smoothly. Executive leaders must work well with middle-managers who must work well with line officers. Each of those must also work well with support staff, including dispatch and records. Patrol officers must especially have a sense of team-work if they are to feel safe on the street. If you can't trust your partner, who can you trust? An officer must be able to feel his or her back-up can get the job done. If not... In a relationship, team-work is also a must especially in one where the law enforcement lifestyle is constantly spitting up something annoying. Stone explains it best, "As in any relationship, the parties must work hard to maintain a sense of balance, but in a police relationship where there are added stresses, there must be very much a 'team' effort. Through trust, understanding, determination and love, the entire family will reap the rewards of a very challenging and exciting lifestyle." Love it or hate it, you're in it together. You might as well put your backs together and take it on with locked arms. It's more fun that way.
A buzz-word found in almost any police management conference, seminar and/or article, ethics is an important part of running an efficient, respected department. I love how Stone describes one part of the law enforcement identity, the uniform, and what it represents. Law enforcement is "an old institution with a solid and reliable foundation that can be trusted, one that has been a part of our history for centuries." Because of this tenured identity, law enforcement brings with it the need for a high degree of ethical conduct. One of the things I remember most about my training was when my trainer said to us, "Don't do anything that won't pass the headline test." Basically, that meant we should refrain from doing anything we didn't want to see as the negative headline in tomorrow's paper. It should be the same way in a relationship. Each party should conduct themselves in a way that shows respect for themselves, their partner and their relationship. If you wouldn't want to see your conduct in print, you probably shouldn't do it. I bet Tiger Woods would agree.
Whether a department calls it community-based policing, community-oriented policing or nothing at all because they've been doing it since their inception, working closely with the community is a large part of law enforcement. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. Officers have discovered they can do their jobs more efficiently when they work with the businesses and community members involved in their area. Each offers a unique perspective and special skills, knowledge and resources to help combat those who want to harm others. By working together, the police department joins a strong coalition. It can be the same way in a relationship. Stone and Kirschman both encourage police couples to maintain relationships with friends and family, especially those outside the law enforcement community. Each discourages isolation and hanging out only within the blue wall. By keeping relationships strong with others, police families continue to be a part of the whole community and get the benefit of a broad variety of opinion and experience. It can also help you keep from getting too jaded.
The lines of communication need to flow from the bottom to the top and back up. When my department got their new radio system it was a thrill to realize the officers could now hear each other as well as us. Working a scene became so much more efficient. In a relationship, communication is key. Without it, everything becomes muddled and few needs are met. It's like a crazy pursuit where no one can hear each other and no one knows what anyone else is doing. Try putting a new system of communication in your home and see how the clarity helps dissolve resentments and misunderstandings.
Although there is no perfect model for running a police department and each agency is different, there are certain areas which are recognized as important elements. These elements also exist in a relationship. It would be interesting to take an entire textbook of police management and correlate it to police relationships. I could definitely see chapters on scheduling, funding, time management, equipment, physical fitness... It could go on and on. Happy management.