Is There Power In Adversity?

I had a Chief of Police once say to me, "If I'm not getting complaints about you, I have to wonder what you're doing." (Chief Richard Kollmann, RIP)  What he meant was that ANY cop who actually goes out and works will get complaints filed against them by unhappy citizens.  To avoid excessive complaints, many agencies do their best to filter out the 'problem children' before they've ever been hired.  They seek out candidates who never got in trouble in school; never had any disciplinary issues in the military; never created so much as a minor blip on the "bad behavior" RADAR system our society seems to have today.  My question is:  Do we really want such people enforcing our laws and protecting our society?

Some of the most famous lawmen our country has ever had got in trouble with the law before they become "the law."  Wyatt Earp is arguably the most famous "wild west" lawman our country has ever had, but he was arrested for both running a brothel and horse thievery before he became a constable and then deputy.  In today's world, not only would Wyatt have never become a law enforcement officer, but he'd have been generally degraded by society for his disrespect of the law.  Certainly no Chief today would entertain Wyatt's application; he'd be disqualified right off the bat.

Now, don't misunderstand: I'm not saying we should hire people with serious criminal backgrounds.  But follow me on this for a few minutes and see if I make any sense (if I do or don't, you can share your comments agreeing or disagreeing).

As law enforcement professionals, we have to make arrests as part of our duties.  We have to break up fights, stop domestic violence, etc.  If you are a police/deputy candidate who has never been in a fight, how do you know you can?  Unless you've actually ever 'thrown down' and exchanged blows or wrestled with someone (in anger), how do you know what pain or injury you can function through or what pain and injury you can deliver?  As a police instructor, I've seen academy trainees who have never been in a fight and they have to overcome a pretty big mental hurdle to actually put their hands on someone and fight them into handcuffs.  I've seen the 'preferred' college graduate who gets backed up by the 'bad guy' in scenarios and I've seen the military service veteran who has to know when to 'put on the brakes' after fighting a bad guy into handcuffs.

I once read that a barbarian can never be taught to act in a civilized manner, but a civilized man CAN act in a barbaric fashion.  Let's make no mistake: fighting for dominance or survival is a basic innate drive.  It is a barbaric behavior that predates our use of tools (with the possible exception of clubs).  In today's world we spend a lot of time, effort and energy making sure our children grow up in a violence-free atmosphere, and while I'm okay with that, I think that we may have idealized it just a bit too much.

The Warrior knows he (or she) can fight.  The Warrior doesn't prefer battle, but doesn't shirk away from it when it's necessary.  The Warrior is afraid of pain and injury, but overcomes his (or her) fear to perform a required duty.  The Warrior will, sometimes, strike a blow in anger, and will immediately feel remorse in addition to the satisfaction, because he knew it was the wrong thing to do.

Now, here's the part that is mentally challenging for me:  I don't believe we can create warriors in a six month police academy.  I don't even think we can create warriros with a six month police academy and a one year long FTO program.  I think warriors are created as they are raised, by parents, family, friends and a society that recognizes the occasional need for righteous and justified violence.  What am I talking about?

I'm talking about the kid who is bullied in school and one day turns around to say, "No more!" and punches the bully in the nose.  That kid will no doubt get in trouble with the school, but has he done anything wrong?  While "wrong" depends on your point of view (I don't think he did anything wrong), what is obvious is that this kid is willing to stand up and fight (be a warrior) when the situation dictates it.

I'm talking about the child of a single mom who works full time and manages to keep her home in order as well as caring for her child, and when another kid calls her a whore, her son punches that insulting kid in the mouth.  While the child will no doubt get in trouble, he's proven that, when he feels justified, he is willing to stand up and fight for what he believes in.

I'm talking about the child who sees his sister or brother in a fight, or being picked on, and he jumps in to stand beside his sibling, fighting as necessary to protect them.  While he might get in trouble, he is protecting and defending a member of his family and he's proven he is willing to stand up and fight for a righteous cause.

THOSE kids might not ever become police officers or deputy sheriffs.  THOSE kids will have a 'discipline problem' noted in their school records that might disqualify them from becoming law enforcement professionals.  THOSE kids are exactly the kids I would want to hire to work for me.  I can channel and guide their warrior instincts.  I can provide them rules and regulations under which they can accordingly behave.  I can counsel them and lead them and trust that they will do what's right 99.9% of the time provided I give them the necessary leadership required.  THOSE kids have faced some adversity, in the form of physical altercation growing up; they've faced it, confronted it head on, and not backed down.  THOSE kids have the warrior spirit that can be grown and nurtured and made to blossom honorably.

Unfortunately, in today's society and in the world of 'risk adverse' hiring, THOSE kids might not ever pin on a badge or star.

It could just be me, but I think we're missing the boat when it comes to optimal hiring practices.  What do you think?

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