The Way of the Jedi Webinar Recap

On January 14, Dr. Kimberly Miller, licensed psychologist and law enforcement consultant, and Lieutenant David Pearson of the Fort Collins Police Services in Colorado, delivered a thought-provoking webinar titled, The Way of the Jedi: Developing the Balance Between the Warrior & Guardian. In a time where negative sentiment of the public toward law enforcement is growing and the image of several law enforcement departments around the country have been tarnished by the acts of a few, this webinar helps identify key elements of the Jedi mindset and proposes steps to transform your organization.

Recent events and pubic hostility have caused law enforcement to have a reactionary response to accountability, which in turn leads to a lack of clarity about procedure and responsibility. But if we embrace Jedi teachings and are proactive with goals, training and leadership, we can be much more effective in building relationships with the public and deescalating future incidents. Communities want us to be guardians, and we should be. But the training we receive emphasizes warrior qualities. How then, do we find our balance?

Jedis go through intense training, are governed by explicit morals, take responsibility for themselves and their actions, are honorable and remain focused on their purpose: to guard peace and justice. Although they are trained to battle, they do it as a last resort. They embody qualities that law enforcement should embrace in order to find balance in their roles for the communities they serve.

So how does the Jedi way help us? We start by changing law enforcement culture.

  • Balance hard (warrior) and soft (guardian) skills: encourage compassion
  • Respect life and community using rational thought, patience and benevolence
  • Acknowledge the dark side, but avoid dark side emotions (hate, fear, anger) - nothing is personal
  • Focus on self control and self care: be self aware, and take care of yourself, so you can be your best self. Your physical and metal health affect the way you do your job
  • Leadership qualities are important, and promotions must be earned by proving yourself
  • Focus on building relationships, not just within the community, but also with people you mentor
  • Make mentoring the standard
  • Accountability is key: with a mentor-mentee standard, each should hold the other accountable

This benefits of this approach will be evident in:

  • Well rounded, complete employees
  • Strong community relationships 
  • Improved sentiment from the public
  • Less use of force incidents, complaints and liability to law suits
  • Improved morale and camaraderie in the agency

What are some ways law enforcement can adopt the Jedi mindset?

  • Create a strong identity. If an organization does not know who it is, or what its values are, all its employees will operate on their own set of morals and values, which presents an identity crisis for the organization. So do it. Define your organization’s identity and culture: Who are you?  What do you stand for? What should people expect from you? What do you expect from your employees? All these answers will build your identity and help present a distinguishable, cohesive and grounded face to all your customers.
  • Revise your skills training. Yes, we need the hard skills; that’s mandated by law. But if we only train employees in the hard skills, that’s what they will default to when it’s go time. So focus just as much, if not more, on the skills and tools you want them to reach for first: social IQ, decision making, leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution, etc. Everything in life deals with relationships and these soft skills are the greatest liability reduction tool. Over learn and over practice them. Make training part of your culture, so regardless of how long someone has been on the job, they should constantly be practicing hard and soft skills.
  • Develop coaching and mentoring. Base coaching and mentoring in your organizational identity, tailor it to everyone’s strengths and goals, and start it right after FTO. Be sure to formalize the process so everyone involved understands the expectations and success measurements. 
  • Improve community and media relationships. There’s no substitute for a great relationship with your community and the media. You organizational identity – not just what you say it is, but rather, what your employees are living and showing the public each day – is going to determine their sentiment toward your department. Find ways to proactively engage the community, get out front on every headline and controversy, expect negative reactions and emotions, own up to mistakes, and continuously seek to improve understanding. 
  • Implement it. Start with your organization’s identity. Infuse the changes into all you do: policy, debriefs, documentation, evaluations, training, discipling and so on. Accountability is critical.