Applying “Aloha”

Learning the race is a marathon and not a sprint, and valuing the small triumphs along the way, is one of the biggest keys to not only surviving but thriving in law enforcement.


The premise behind most modern community policing models is based upon the not-quite-so-modern adage that “the police are the people, and the people are the police.”  This came from Sir Robert Peel who, while serving as British Home Secretary in 1829, created the Metropolitan Police based upon his nine “Peelian Principles” to earn the title of “The Founder of Modern Policing.”        

Where the “Us vs. Them” mentality exists strongly disunity between the police and public - where law enforcement is acting on, rather than in concert with, the people they serve – builds walls between cop and citizen, fosters mutual distrust, diminishes respect for the rule of law, and generally gets in the way of effective policing.  Dissatisfaction and burnout abounds among the police.  The ability to focus on “The Big Picture” is lost.  Isn’t it time we refocus on increasing unity with the communities we serve?

‘Olu’olu (Agreeable) – Being pleasant or friendly in our dealings with others, especially the citizens we serve, should be a no-brainer.  The reality is sometimes quite different.  I’ve worked with and observed certain officers who seem compelled to let all the world know how much of a hard guy they are, how stupid they believe someone’s complaint is and how unfair it is they have to deal with it, how deep is their contempt for the person standing before them, or apparently how personally they take even the most minor violation of the law. 

Understand, I’m not talking about being a pushover or complacent – neither has any place in law enforcement and will only make you ineffective at best, or dead at worst – I am talking about maintaining a bearing that ranges from professional to personal while never losing sight of officer safety or your mission and duty as a law enforcer.

Despite the howls of protest a few of you are probably unleashing at the very thought of such a thing (we eagerly await your emails!) it’s really not that hard.  In fact, cultivating positive interactions, even with offenders, can reap great rewards. 

Ha?aha?a (Humility) – I once heard the story of a supervisor, well-respected and popular with his officers, who received a dressing down from his captain.  His offense?  He had apologized to some of his officers for what he believed to have been a mistake in his judgment and promised them to make things right.  “Never apologize to a subordinate,” he was told, “it show weakness and they won’t respect you.”

Oh, really?

We will all make mistakes.  We will all exercise poor judgment.  We will all allow our egos to get the best of us.  We will all owe someone an apology and, if we’re wise, be willing to admit our fault and seek forgiveness.  We will do this at home, in our personal lives, and professionally.  The truly humble know this and constantly evaluate and adjust their actions and words to accommodate their weaknesses to best avoid unfairly injuring or offending others. 

Humility will never diminish a cop.  Arrogance?  Well, that’s another story.

Ahonui (Patience) – The “Aloha Spirit” statute calls for patience to be expressed through perseverance.  When you entered law enforcement, you knew this was likely a long-term commitment; it has to be if you want to reach retirement with a solid pension and savings, sure, but you also knew that crime wasn’t really going anywhere, right?  The good each cop does over a career is revealed in the series of small victories tallied in his or her “Win column.  The thieves and burglars caught and charged, abusers held accountable, murderers and sex offenders brought to justice and the innumerable other crimes charged and thwarted.  But no one expected you to make theft and burglary extinct, or that crime would magically disappear shortly after you hit the beat.

Cops become jaded when they realize human nature doesn’t really change (why do we study history and the classics if not to see how familiar we really are with those who came long, long before us?).  They get depressed when they believe all their effort pointless and wasted.  They burn out when they lose sight of “The Big Picture.” 

Learning the race is a marathon and not a sprint, and valuing the small triumphs along the way, is one of the biggest keys to not only surviving but thriving in law enforcement.  There are plenty of threats you’ll face on the street.  Make sure to manage the far more dangerous threats from within, and never lose sight of your own humanity.

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