The following is a post by Roy Bethge - Co-Founder + Lead Instructor at The Virtus Group, Inc.
In reflecting on my 28 years as a law enforcement officer it’s easy to focus on the ugly, messy, dangerous things that happened during my career—especially when so much is being debated about our profession on social media and in the main stream media. But for me and the legacy I want to leave behind, I need to focus on the positives and so do you.

Legacy is often thought of as what you leave behind when you die. But legacy is something you build every day of your career and your life. I reflect on this concept every time I walk down the hallway of my police station. Until very recently we had pictures on the wall of each retiree from our agency. When I look at the pictures I begin to wonder “how will I be remembered when I retire?”  Will people remember me for the positive things I did for the agency and our people or will I be remembered for the mistakes and dumb things I did during my career? The mistakes and dumb things are certainly easier to remember, no different than when I look back at my career and remember the ugly, messy and dangerous things more vividly than I remember the lives I’ve impacted and in some cases, even saved.

Thankfully, we all have some control over our legacy. The control comes in the form of decisions we make each day. During our Growing Courage™: Leadership for Law Enforcement courses, I often ask attendees near the end of the day to reflect and create a professional legacy statement. These are some questions we can ask ourselves about our professional legacy that can help you create your own legacy statement:

1.     Why did I choose this profession?

2.     Why am I sacrificing myself for this profession?

3.     What is the higher purpose for which I serve in this profession?

Ask yourself these three questions and write your professional legacy statement.  As we enter a new year, commit yourself to creating your legacy—today.

Follow Roy on Twitter @RoyBethge
PictureRoy Bethge
The following is a post by Roy Bethge – Co-Founder + Lead Instructor at The Virtus Group

Hanging on the wall in my office is a large print with a portion of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic speech delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris France in 1910.  Most people recognize the speech by a section commonly known as The Man In The Arena.

PictureTheodore Roosevelt
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

During high school or college history class I'm sure I was forced to “study” this speech.  It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that it really began to mean something to me.  While reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown I came across the Man In The Arena section of the speech.  In her book Dr. Brown makes a case about silencing or ignoring our critics unless they are actually in the arena with us. 

In the age of social media and with all the negative sentiment toward the law enforcement profession, we face a lot of critics.  It’s easy to post something negative and inflame the opinions of haters.  We’ve seen it time and time again these past few years.  No need for facts or hard truth.  Lets just jump on the bandwagon and throw flaming spears.

What’s been interesting these past few months is that I’ve actually noticed something unique from inside our profession.  Cops are some of the loudest critics.  Of the public, the media, the job, and their coworkers.  Most of all, cops are critics of their bosses.  I half jokingly told someone at a conference last year that I never really anticipated the level of criticism toward senior command staff officers until I got promoted to that position.  I was half joking then, but it’s not a joke anymore.  I’ve actually never seen or experienced anything like it.

On any given day the number of people who are willing to share their opinions about a decision or mistake made by bosses, especially at the rank of chief is staggering.  Every email is scrutinized and any typo or grammatical error becomes the talk of roll call.  Every staffing decision is analyzed and debated in the locker room, sometimes for days and weeks on end.  An expensive new squad car is put out on the street with the tens of thousands of dollars in the best emergency lighting available and someone feels the need to point out how they would have done something different.

“There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic” ~Zig Ziglar

Some days leave me wondering if it’s all worth it.  For me, even when I have days (sometimes weeks) of being the brunt of criticism the answer is simple.  It is totally worth it.  As a matter of fact, I’m the one who asked for it.  I’m the one who applied for the promotions.  I’m the one who was the critic of the last guy in this position because I thought I could do it better.

That’s why I have the Roosevelt quote hanging on my wall.  It’s not the critic who counts, because everybody’s a critic.  It also helps remind me that it’s easy to be critical of others around me.  But being a critic isn’t what I get paid for.  Being a leader is…

Follow Roy on Twitter @RoyBethge


Who Needs Goals?


The following post is from Roy Bethge, Co-Founder + Lead Instructor at The Virtus Group

I do, that’s who.  And so do you.  I spent a great deal of my life waking up each day and going through the motions.  No real direction—just jumped on the hamster wheel and was happy when it stopped spinning at the end of each day.  It really wasn’t until 2007, after being encouraged by my wife to go back to school and get my Bachelor’s Degree, that I really set my sights on something specific that would take some time to accomplish.  After reaching that goal, I was hooked and quickly set another.  In 2012, I achieved that goal by earning my Masters Degree.
When I look back at any real success I can claim, each revolves around a goal.  Even if it wasn’t written down, the goal resulted from intentional actions that led me to the goal.  Think about weight-loss for a minute.  I’ve struggled most of my life with weight.  It really is more of a food problem in that I LOVE TO EAT!  At my peak I weighed 231 pounds.  That’s a lot of weight on a 5’11” frame.  Back in 2010 with two young kids, I set the goal to lose some weight and get back in shape.
Sounds good doesn’t it?  It’s now 2016 and I finally hit my goal and am probably in the best shape of my life.  Since 2010 I’ve lost 60 pounds, I run 20-25 miles per week and do body weight exercises three days a week.  It wasn’t, and isn’t easy.  It really did take six years – not just to lose the weight, but to get off the roller coaster that would see me drop some weight only to put it back on again.  Bad choices, lots of excuses, a foot injury requiring minor surgery that stopped me in my tracks, and downright laziness.

Even though I’ve been comfortably at my target weight for some time now I’ve learned that I need a new goal and intentional effort to keep the weight off.  I log food and exercise daily.  I weigh myself every day and hold myself accountable for my failures – yes, I still have them.

Regardless of your goals, you have to set an intentional path to achieve them.  You can only do that by figuring out what the goal is, sharing it with someone else, and stepping through the pursuit of the goal each and every day. 

What are your goals?  Try writing them down, coming up with a step-by-step plan to achieve your goal, and then share it with someone that can help hold you accountable. 

  • Written Goals – help you clarify what the goal is and commit to accomplishing it.
  • Planning – Identify the steps it takes to achieve your goal.  Understand that most goals worth achieving take hard work and time to accomplish.  Give yourself some credit each time you make progress.  Remember, life is a marathon and not a sprint.  You can’t successfully finish a marathon without running the first 5K, 10K and Half Marathon of your way to the finish line.
  • Share your Goal – Research has shown that goals are much more likely to be successful if you tell someone else what you plan to do.  Give the person you share the goal with permission to hold you accountable.  Sometimes what you really need to continue on the road to your goal is a swift kick in the rear end.

Stop waiting.  Today is the day.  Don’t get a year down the road only to regret that you didn’t start pursuing your goals today.

This blog post is written by The Virtus Group member Jamey Gadoury

Maybe that vein in your neck bulges just to hear the question.

You're not alone. Gauntlets are being thrown against both words. Seth Stoughton calls the warrior mentality a "Problem." (CLICK for article) Dave Smith calls a guardian mindset the position of "uninformed activists."  (CLICK for article)
The topic cuts to the core of identity as law enforcement officers. Who are you in uniform? Who are you when you take the uniform off? Who are you at the core?
 It also hints at another question:  what about law enforcement sets it apart from other "jobs?"
High standards, professional behavior, and trust are all familiar concepts. Less familiar might be a holistic view of law enforcement as a profession - both similar and unique among other recognized professions.
My background is in one of those other professions - the military. During my years of service as an Infantryman, I was privileged to learn from leaders who carefully shaped the professional identities of their units. Mistakes and bad behaviors were sometimes warded off from a simple understanding of "that's not who we are."
Still, at the time, I did not fully understand or appreciate what it meant to be part of a profession. A few years ago, the Army went through an extensive, several-year campaign of debating and communicating exactly that: what it means to be part of a profession.
I had the opportunity to learn and to teach during that campaign. And I think the lessons are timely for law enforcement today.
I'd like to share some of those insights and host a conversation for you and your fellow leaders on what that means for the profession of law enforcement. This course gives us the chance to do that:
Warriors & Guardians: Keeping Our Profession
The following is a blog post from The Virtus Group member Laura King, Ph.D.

It happens to the best of us.  One day, we wake up (proverbially) and we realize our actions and our words are not necessarily in line.  I am not talking about extreme hypocrisy or huge indiscretions here.  I am talking about the subtle ways we might not be walking our talk.  The big question is; if this happens to you, will you have the courage to take the necessary action to right the wrongs?

So the other day I am giving a presentation on the concept of simplification. The content was designed to bring about self-reflection for the attendees.  There was deep exploration of exercises designed to identify core values and priorities.  Then there was a discussion on how we spend our time, and if the way we spend our time was in line with what we claim our priorities to be (an authentic life) or if it was not (living our life according to someone else’s agenda). 

I found myself fascinated with the content.  The research was complex and brought me to places I had never even considered.   It was not until the presentation was over that it really started to sink in that I was doing very, very little of what I was presenting.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine and she said something that struck me.  She stated when a researcher was allowed to choose a topic; the subconscious always guides the researcher to an area where the researcher needs the lesson more than the audience. As I considered what my friend said, I realized when it came to my research into simplification, she was right. 

Uh-oh, what do I do now? Do I admit it and stand to say, “I am ashamed.  I failed to lead by example. I stood here and told you to do something and I was not doing it myself.”  Or do I pretend everything is fine and keep on going along as if I never had this revelation.  If I were to just keep going and I keep doing the things I have been teaching on this whole time, maybe nobody would realize my indiscretion.  These subtle matters are more difficult that they appear when presented in the written word.

It is fully possible no one outside of my closest inner circle would even notice where I was failing, but I knew the truth.  I admitted my mistakes and the changes I needed to so that my actions came in line with my words.  This was no easy task but it was the right thing to do. For each of us, those internal decisions are ours to make.  This is the true test of our character.  When you make a mistake, do you own it and have the courage to change yourself; or do you excuse it and keep living the lie?

Those questions and answers occur within each of us from time to time. Often the people in our lives we interact with everyday do not even know we are engaging in this important internal dialog.  You see the hardest person you will ever lead will be yourself. It is easy to see how other people are imperfect in what they say and what they do.  It is much more difficult to see the subtle flaws in your own behavior. When you want to look at how to make your work experience better, instead of looking around and blaming your environment try looking inside and seeing what part of the problem you can own.  Then take the next right action to fix it.

Doing something to make you better makes the entire profession better.  In fact, it is impossible for any part of the profession to improve without each and every person taking small steps of personal growth.  We all need to commit to adjusting our behaviors to be better tomorrow than we are today.  It is time for each of us to take a hard look in the mirror and see what we can do to improve ourselves.  This will help heal our profession.  Blame is easy, responsibility is hard.  If we continue to look outside for the source of the problem we will continue to identify with how others are the cause of the problem.  If this continues we will continue to deny responsibility and things will remain as they are today.  Through a consistent series of courageous action, we can make changes that can make a difference.   

This is a post from Lou Hayes.


Next week, police instructors from around the globe will be converging on Chicago. The International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (more affectionately known as “ILEETA”, pronounced eye-LEE-ta) brings 800 cop trainers together for a six-day conference, with incredible networking and information sharing opportunities.

This year, The Virtus Group will be presenting a 5-part series of breakout sessions under the “Growing Courage™” banner. The Growing Courage™ program is built upon five fundamental tenets: Mindset; Vulnerability; Respect; Self-Reflection; and Resilience. Each of our five courses applies the Growing Courage™ philosophy to the group’s interconnected web of ideas, theories, and concepts…with the sole purpose to develop better instructors, teachers, trainers, and educators. The courses are:

•    Growing Courage™ for Trainers; Roy Bethge
•    Growing Courage™: Nurturing Adaptive Learning; Louis Hayes
•    Growing Courage™: The Adaptive FTO; Thom Dworak
•    Simplify: Getting Back to Basics; Dr Laura King, PhD
•    Human Factors in Training & Performance; John Bennett
Each two-hour portion of the series will be offered two times during the week. There is no need to attend them in any specific order. And while they are all related to one another with a consistent theme, they are each designed as stand-alone courses for those who cannot attend them all. Conveniently, ILEETA has scheduled many of our sessions back-to-back in the same room!
I will also be intermittently live-video broadcasting from the conference via the live-streaming Periscope app. Find me on Periscope at @LouHayesJr. The event’s Twitter hashtag is #ILEETA16…which I’ll be using throughout the week.

If you’re attending the ILEETA Conference next week, come find us. In the meantime, text COURAGE to 66866 to sign up for our e-mailing newsletter.

See you in Chicago!

Louis Hayes, Jr is a system thinker and provocateur for The Virtus Group, Inc, a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. He is a law enforcement trainer with biases in Constitutional law, crisis intervention, and tactical policing. Lou can be reached on Twitter @LouHayesJr and under #ThinkLE.  

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.


The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Thom Dworak.

“Strive for progress, not perfection” ~Unknown

Perfection is a lofty standard. Many have tried and failed. They have failed for a number of reasons but most of all -- for being human.

Humans are fallible. What differentiates humans from all other mammals is the ability to THINK.  With thinking comes error. Expecting a person to absolutely correct 100% of the time is unreasonable.
A probationary police officer (PPO) in training with his field training officer (FTO) is fired for a mistake in judgment and violations of policy and procedures.  In his second day of training the officer used deadly force in response to a subject who had driven a vehicle through a window of a car dealership and then attacked the officer.
In the current fish bowl environment of law enforcement, the decision to fire the PPO was fairly easy.  But at what cost? The city is out $30-40K in training cost, salary, and equipment.  There will be a lawsuit with a quick settlement. The Chief can wipe his hands clean and say the incident is over and has been dealt with. Or has it?  

For all the posturing to look good, it doesn't address how the PPO was trained in decision-making.  Or the not-so-subtle message reverberating throughout the organization about the rejection of mistakes!

For many months now, I have been designing a completely new police field training model for training new recruits. It’s called The Adaptive FTO™.  This program accounts for properly addressing mistakes, errors, and failures. Molded from the John Maxwell book Failing Forward, this new FTO training model addresses how screw-ups and errors in judgment are remediated.

Early in life, small children find their way through trial-and-error.  Look at the toys small toddlers play with. One comes to mind is the Shapes Box.

The object of the game is place the correct shaped block in the box through a correspondingly shaped hole. Through multiple attempts (and failures) the toddler eventually manages to get all the blocks inside the box -- through the correct holes. Praise is given with each correct match-up of blocks through the holes.  As the child become more proficient and adept at identifying shapes, each attempt to "win" takes less time.  As a learning tool, this game is great for early child developmental learning.  The game teaches shape identification, color identification, and more importantly… success through trial-and-error.  

Fast forward to the probationary police officer. The current crop of PPOs are from the millennial generation -- the babies of “helicopter” parents and products of everyone-gets-a-trophy mindset.  These Millennials were taught to ask “Why” and to spread their little creative wings and…try.
The word “try” is important in understanding the new PPO. Encouraged from an early age to try and try again, failure is a pathway to success. For the FTO, understanding this concept is as important as providing proper feedback.
Entering the workforce in law enforcement, the new PPO brings his/her attitudes, values, and beliefs…just as every generation has before.  This infusion changes the workplace, often for the better. (For all you veteran FTOs, trainers, and supervisors issuing a collective sigh: Think back in time when you walked into your department for the first time and what your goals and ambitions were for the greatest job in the world.)
Mistakes are part of life. Deal with it and move forward.
Mistakes are part of life. Deal with it and move forward.  That is how courageous FTOs should view errors.  But sadly, more often than not, mistakes are viewed as the worst thing a PPO can make.  This leads to mental paralysis, failure to make a decision, over-analysis, delay, second-guessing, and the death of creativity.
Creativity is the lifeblood of our professional. Stifling creativity sustains the "that's the way we've always done it" attitude. For the FTO, the concept of failing forward is an important teaching and developmental tool.  Mistakes are not failure; they are an opportunity for growth!
Non-critical errors should be tolerated and addressed during post-incident feedback, with some re-training. Critical errors must be stopped immediately. Critical errors include:

•    Civil Rights violations;
•    Criminal law violations;
•    Unreasonable Use of Force;
•    Actions (whether addressed in policy or not) that effect personal and public safety;
•    Delays in medical aid or protection of human life;
•    Incidents that cause serious embarrassment to the department.

PPOs are going to make mistakes. It's the FTO's responsibility to reduce the impact of those mistakes.  The FTO must apply feedback, remediation, and review of the PPO's critical thinking/decision making skills.

PPOs need to play with the proverbial Shapes Box. And FTOs need to become more comfortable with cleaning off the slobber before putting the toys away for the night.

Thomas Dworak is a consultant/trainer for The Virtus Group, Inc., a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. Thom can be reached on Twitter @DworakT.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.

The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Louis Hayes, Jr.


The Reasonable versus Necessary argument continues to poke its head out from time to time. This month is one of those times when the battle is more heated than usual. (Heck, even I’ve been interviewed by the press on this!)

I’ve been teaching police use of force for sixteen years now. As a young police officer in the 1990s, I was given a few violent street experiences that encouraged me to really delve into and study the complexities of law enforcement powers of force. My research eventually landed me some broad platforms to train and write about it.

I came into law enforcement at a time when use of force policy was undergoing a radical shift. The trend was that agencies were dropping use of force policy “continuums” and picking up the court standards of “Objective Reasonableness.”  

Much of the thinking regarding the shift revolved around this argument: Linear continuums do not account for the complexities and uniqueness of each possible street encounter. For example: an assaultive elderly lady and an assaultive professional boxer would BOTH be lumped together in “assaultive” behavior categories. Essentially, the continuum model promotes (even if unintentionally) an if-this-then-that robotic programmed response.

Progressive agencies realized this non-thinkers model was getting their officers into trouble…by NOT analyzing each situation as unique. These agencies turned to the case law opinion of the US Supreme Court in Graham versus Connor (490 US 386; 1989). In a highly condensed summary, officers would be held to a standard of “reasonableness” in response, given the “totality of circumstances” known or believed by the officer. The idea of “objectivity” was that the police response was either reasonable…or not. (Think: Pass-Fail.)

This shift in policy allowed officers to exercise discretion and creativity to match the actual situation at hand. Most every progressive police executive and research group in the nation has endorsed this case law standard. (However, even as I write this today in 2016, there are still police agencies that subscribe to the outdated linear continuum policy model and cultural mentality…some of which are very large urban police agencies!)

My view of the Objective Reasonableness standard is that it was never meant to be a gold tier of policing. It does not shape what ideal or perfect law enforcement force looks like. It is essentially a benchmark ruling as to whether or not the officer or agency Passed or Failed. In some cases, the officer’s actions pass the test…but are hardly examples of great decision-making in policing. (Think: D- grade…passing but you were almost punished.)

However, we as a nation NEED the reasonableness standard to effectively police our communities. Officers are put into situations that are emotionally-charged, tense, dynamic, confusing, and outright fearful. To expect (or demand) some sort of exacting or mechanically-applied perfection is to ignore how humans behave in times of stress. We must give our police officers some flexibility and some allowances to make split-second decisions. Basically, we evaluate the officer on the decision made and determine whether or not that decision was fair enough. Not perfect. Was it OK enough?

So where does the necessity standard come in?

Complaints against the police force often arrive in questions of, “Was that shooting (or force, or Tasering, or batoning, or K9 bite, etc) really necessary?” The questions poke at whether or not there were other options available. And why weren’t those options attempted? Could lower levels of power or shorter duration been successful? And what else could have been tried? Why didn’t you call in a crisis negotiator? Or his family? Or just wait twelve (or twenty) hours until he tired out? What the necessity standard gets at is whether or not the force used was the last possible option.

The problem with this necessity standard is that we will never know what else COULD have happened with other alternatives. (In fact, the outcome with another option could have been WORSE.) The only way we’d know for sure whether some police action was necessary or not would be through the use of a crystal ball or a time machine.  Necessary or needed is defined as an absolute requirement. That’s simply impossible to answer. There are way too many unknown and unknowable variables.

One of the buzzwords accompanying the necessary force argument is “legitimacy” – the theory that the police are seen as a legitimate and responsible authority by the community. And a very vocal segment of the community is voicing their concern that police should hold themselves to standards HIGHER than that which is “reasonable” – and be held to that which is “necessary” – by binding or punishable agency policy.

So where do we move from here?

Current case law does not require officers to exhaust other less-forceful options before employing a “reasonable” option. For example, an officer does not first have to try a Taser on a knife-wielding suspect before shooting him/her, if deadly force is lawful option. So if the officer does NOT attempt the Taser, and decides on using his/her firearm, we do not truly know if the firearm was necessary or not. The officer would have had to experience a failure with the Taser (and every other strategic, tactical, and force option!) before moving onto deadly force. We can’t call a do-over to recreate the event to see whether or not these options might have accomplished the goal.

Attempting to exhaust every other less-forceful alternative…and waiting to see if they work or not…can be a very costly experiment. US courts acknowledge this danger and humanly impossible task…and therefore do NOT require it.

But I am going to suggest something that splits this argument:

Officers should, WHEN THE SITUATION PERMITS, exhaust other less intrusive strategic, tactical, and force options.

Read that again. Let that sink in.

This approach of exhausting other less-injurious or less-forceful alternatives is about restraint, not reluctance. It maximizes the opportunities for a suspect to comply. It even proves to the officer him/herself that the options are waning. (We in LE are often our worst critics in serious uses of force, especially those that result in death, when it comes to “what if I woulda tried _______?”)

This is not for every situation. Some unfold at millisecond speed at “bad breath” distances. However, sometimes we officers are the ones who put ourselves in those compressed timelines too. When possible, we CAN hold ourselves to standards HIGHER than mere reasonableness. We can try other “stuff”…just sometimes opt not to.

I’m not exactly sure what “necessary” force looks like. It’s a crap shoot of personal opinion and conjecture. But I know this: necessary is higher than reasonable. And maybe if we in policing began exhausting some of our strategic, tactical, and force options…just maybe…our actions would be viewed at being a little closer to the invisible “necessary” line.

Necessary is an ideal, perfect, but abstract standard. To punish our officers to this abstract, clouded, emotional standard is completely off my table. We cannot hold our officers accountable to blurred parameters!

However, if purposeful, thought-out, restrained, compassionate, and last-ditch strategy, tactics, and force bring us a few steps closer to legitimacy and trust, I’ll give it a try. When I can. Not always.

But I’m also not going to promote suicidal risk of our officers who are holding the line for us tonight. That’s asking too much.

Addressing the gap between reasonable and necessary force is vital to the future of building trust. I hope you’ll consider my thoughts. Try something that's not required by law. That’s a reasonable request, isn’t it?


Louis Hayes, Jr is a system thinker and provocateur for The Virtus Group, Inc, a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. He is a law enforcement trainer with biases in Constitutional law, crisis intervention, and tactical policing. Lou can be reached on Twitter @LouHayesJr and under #ThinkLE.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.

The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Thom Dworak. 
"I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself. "
~ Robert E. Lee
6 Seconds, an international corporation invested in building emotional intelligence (EQ) around the world, presented a webinar on gender and leadership.  The online session examined the differing emotional competencies between men and women in leadership positions. 

High performers of either gender displayed a high level of EQ.  But the breakdown between men and women were inverse images!  EQ categories in which men scored high, women scored low; and visa versa.
The women are:
  • More empathic;
  • More reflective about their emotions;
  • Consider the impact of their decision in the future.

The men:
  • Make quick decisions, whether right or wrong;
  • Were not very introspective about their emotions;
  • Were less empathic.

When looking at the events that have transpired over the past year involving deadly interactions between law enforcement and citizens, a glaring light shines forth.  The majority of the police officers were male. Let that sink in for a second.

Now I am not saying that these male officers did anything "wrong"…as many of these incidents have been justified through internal and criminal investigations, grand jury processes, and US Department of Justice scrutiny. Those are all objective, legal, and policy issues. But let’s look elsewhere -- the emotional responses that may have allowed events to spiral downward, ending with a tragic outcome. Not a popular perspective from which to examine police actions!

Even in 2016, law enforcement is a still a male-dominated profession. When I entered law enforcement in the early 1980s, most every officer was a male…and a white one at that!  They all looked like me. In my agency, the only person of color was the animal warden; the only females were office records clerks or telecommunicators.  This changed slowly over time, but the culture change was not without stress (mostly to those non-white male minorities).

I was a Field Training Officer (FTO) for 22 years of my career. During that time, I trained several female recruit police officers. Those experiences surely confirmed my suspicions that men and women are wired differently! Many times while working with female recruit partners, the females chose courses of action that I had not even considered. It is not about right or wrong; it is just different!

This should not come as a surprise.  I was trained by male officers and worked with male officers. Until then, I had just not been exposed to females in law enforcement. When the female trainee's decision seemed reasonable, I would let her put it in play. I had my “male approved” back-up plan ready if things broke bad.  By allowing female recruits to make their own decisions, I learned another way to do the job from them. At the same time, it provided the female trainees with opportunities to develop confidence in their decision-making skills.

The female trainees' interactions with the public were different, including those suspected of committing crimes. There was a respectfulness that was missing from some of their male counterparts.  The female officers demonstrated an empathic understanding toward others.  Early on, and based on my male thought process, I may have thought they were not being aggressive or assertive enough. But we got the job done, usually without a lot of yelling, name calling, or cursing – staple police tactics at the time (and sadly still today in some places!).

During an amygdala hijacking, the decision making
part of the brain goes out to lunch. You become irrational.

Being in control of your emotions (and more importantly being self-aware of your emotions) is becoming increasingly important. For male officers, this self-awareness includes knowing what pushes your “amygdala button.”  Once you can identify those emotional triggers, you are on your way to controlling how you respond emotionally. During an “amygdala hijacking,” the decision-making part of the brain goes out to lunch. In short, you become irrational.
This self-awareness lens of emotional intelligence allows you to feel and know what pushes your buttons. When you can identify either the cause or your emotional response to it, you can reduce the impact emotion has on your decision-making process. Being self-aware provides an opportunity to make conscious, rational decisions. A situation that requires a decision to escalate or deescalate an encounter can only occur when the thinking part of the brain is active.  Without that ability, your response is emotional, primitive, and relies on the subconscious.

So gentlemen: I'm not talking about shaving your legs or wearing a skirt… but it's time to take a little side trip to Venus.  Be courageous and unleash the hidden women inside of you. Develop your ability to be self-aware of your emotions, to gain control of them, be more empathic in dealing with others, and consider how your decision may impact yourself and others in the future. It may save your career and possibly your life!

Thomas Dworak is a consultant/trainer for The Virtus Group, Inc., a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. Thom can be reached on Twitter @DworakT.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.

PictureRoy Bethge
The following is a post from The Virtus Group Co-Founder and Lead Instructor Roy Bethge

Leadership is an interesting topic.  One that I’ve been studying for the better part of eight years.  I’ve read dozens of books, lots of research articles, hundreds of blog posts and watched hundreds of videos related to it.  The sheer volume of theories and ideas around this topic is numbing.

During that same time frame, I’ve also been on an interesting personal journey.  One filled with failure and success, disappointment and joy, sadness and happiness.  While some parts of the journey were very personal and private, others were very public.  My beliefs and views on many topics have been challenged and things that I once thought certain became obviously wrong. 

But wow, has the journey ever been a growing experience.

I’ve come to understand a few things over these years and I wanted to share some of them in a quick, simple blog post:

  • The most difficult person to lead is yourself.  No doubt about it.  Waking up every morning and making the decision to stay true to yourself, whatever that means to you, is tough.
  • Failure is inevitable.  As researcher Brené Brown says “If you’re brave enough often enough, you’re going to fail; this is the physics of vulnerability.” You have a choice though.  If you choose not to try anything new or different, you can stay safe and comfortable.  But is that really going to make you happy?
  • The only constant in life is change.  Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you better brace for change.  The number of things that we don’t have any control over is staggering.  Many of them will derail even the best of plans or intentions.
  • Perfection is unattainable.  Stop wasting energy trying to get there.  Life is complicated and it’s filled with choices.  Choose to pursue excellence.  That leaves you some space to be human.  Perfection does not.
  • Forgive often.  Not just others, but yourself.  Know that you have and will make mistakes.  Everyone does.  Get over it.

I believe the two most important aspects of leadership are much simpler than some people would like you to believe.  There is a reason that the field of Leadership Training is a billion-dollar business around the globe. 

Here are the two things I believe are the most important lessons on leadership:

  1. The sooner you learn how to get back up when you fall, the happier and more successful you will be.  Trust me, I know it isn’t easy.  Sometimes the fall is just a couple of feet, sometimes the fall feels like you jumped off the Grand Canyon.  Either way, learn from the ways you’ve overcome failure and disappointment in the past and come up with a strategy to help you for the next time.
  2. Leadership is about relationships. Period. The End.

Bonus idea:

Leadership is born and bred in the little things.  No great leader ever set out to change the world.  It happened as a result of small, incremental changes in themselves, their families, their companies or their countries.  Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.