A Timely, Personal, Essay From Chief Steve Staveley
A MESSAGE WORTH CONSIDERING
Today my friend, Steve Staveley, published a very personal essay on Facebook that I thought should be shared beyond those borders.
HE SERVED COSTA MESA WITH DISTINCTION - TWICE
As most know, Chief Staveley was the interim Police Chief for the City of Costa Mesa twice within the past several years as city officials went through the process of searching for and selecting a permanent chief. He served my community with great professionalism and skill both times.
A LAW ENFORCEMENT LEADER FOR FOUR DECADES
Chief Staveley has more than four decades of law enforcement experience under his belt and is widely recognized as a true law enforcement leader. He has retired, but remains a cop to the core. Considering all the recent unpleasantness involving law enforcement across the country I though I should share his observations with you. Here is his essay:
I was not born a policeman. I became one in 1967 - and yes policeman was the title. Like all police officers, I learned in the academy, in classes after graduation but mostly from colleagues, mentors, leaders and experienced police officers like Gene Shields, Dave DeSoucy, Neil Wyman, Dale Wilson and so many others. I learned what not to do and what to do to be good. I watched those who I would later see as utter failures, rude, biased, unprofessional. I learned from those like Bill Hamm who always tried to do the work the right way, but have fun doing it. I had to learn some of it over a couple of times because it just did not take the first few. I learned from peers, subordinates and supervisors. People like Dorothy Nelson, Don Martin, Ken Baguley, Bob Reber, Billy Cox, Pat Black, and many more. I found in my first department and in my other agencies that I could learn as much by those I supervised as those that I worked for. Vic Pobis and I worked together for several shifts and I was amazed how much I picked up from him. I thought I was pretty good when I got to about 3 years of service only to learn by 7 or 8 years on the job that I had been a babe in the woods, not very good at all. Somewhere between 5 and 7 years most police officers become what leaders would consider skilled. That is they can handle any call without having to seek help of sergeants but they know and will ask when they need help and guidance - its experience, education and a consistent positive culture of ethical conduct to guide them that makes the difference. Its one of the reasons great supervisors, Internal Affairs, and thoughtful discipline is so important in police agencies. Somewhere in that 5 to 7 year time frame, cops often begin to see the true role of the police. They understand and can accept the idea that their profession is not really law enforcement (as everyone including the cops say ), but the police service with more effort needed in community building and community outreach to all the members of the community. They begin to understand the concept of Justice in society and that some folks should not get arrested (where the officer has the legal authority which is often the case ) and others should be held before the courts. A kid who makes a stupid mistake might be diverted to an in house program for redirection and a harden gang member sent straight to the next level because of his history of failure to follow societies and the communities rules. I third kid with the same history and offense might well be best served and Justice best serviced by taking him home and letting mom and dad dispense the lesson. That may not be as possible today as it was in the 60s and 70's and if so, that may well be a loss to the learning process. Today, long retired, I still carry on my keys a handcuff key first put on my key ring in 1967. My badge, uniforms, Sam Browne are all put away. I can still carry a gun, and I do sometimes. It was something I always did when working full time and seldom do now. What is funny is I still consider myself a policeman. True, at my age, I don't possess the physical skills necessary to be a street cop. I do still think of myself as one however, and recognize that, like many of my fellow retired cops, I know how to do community outreach, to build the quality of life in a community, to reach out to people and treat them with respect and dignity while still doing the job. Mike Mitchell who is retired and I had this kind of conversation recently. Like Mike, I know how to work toward Justice in our society and what ethical police work looks and feels like. It is not surprising then when neighbors say to me, as they did last week, that they are sorry about the Dallas cops. They know that the only thing that keeps society moving forward ultimately is good police work. They know, in their heart of hearts that police work done correctly is about defending the community, growing the community, insuring Justice is done in our society for all its members. They know too, although I have never said it to anyone, I still see myself as a policeman. I was not born a policeman, but when I die, I surly shall still be one, as will many of us. Thus we are all hurt when a cop does not do the job correctly and equally hurt when one is harmed trying to do the job the right way. But its not up to us old retired guys its up to those still doing the job. Do it right ladies and gentlemen, do it with vigor, do it ethically and without bias and if you have a bias, whatever it might be, keep it out of your work and to yourself. No cop ever got paid to show a bias, only to be fair, straightforward, and engaged in the community for the betterment of that community, society and the profession. Having someone say " your a good police officer" is just about the highest praise anyone in any profession could possibly receive. Ultimately its not medals and awards that police officers seek, its knowing they are appreciated for doing a difficult and at times, impossible job. Appreciated by their leaders sure, but most importantly by the community they are engaged in building.
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