How to Fix Policing – By: Larry Lawton


  1. Hire the right people – Values
  2. Implement community policing in the right way.
  3. Training, Training, Training
  4. Use the right equipment and tools.
  5. Understand and use the media as a partner, not an enemy.

As an honorary police officer and also an ex-con, (only one in the United States) I see policing from both sides of the equation. Policing can always improve, but only if police leadership understands how to be true partners with the community. In short, egos on both sides need to be checked at the door, but sadly, that is easier said than done.

Understanding community policing, hiring the right people with values that represent the community, training them in the right way, plus use the right tools and the media and community will be partners, not enemies.

What I have seen over the years is a lot of police leaders give
community policing lip service. They believe new cars, more tanks, more cops are the answers. The old lock’um up and throw away the key mentality, shoot first and ask questions later and hire muscle heads instead of brains. All recipes for disaster.

It usually takes something personal for a police leader to change. Take Bernard Kerik, former NYC Police Commissioner and Corrections Commissioner. In 2009 Kerik plead guilty to eight federal charges, including tax fraud and false statements and was sentenced to four years in federal prison.

Upon Kerik’s release from federal prison, he became a prison reform advocate. His own personal problem gave him a different perspective on jails, prisons and how rehabilitation works, or should I say, doesn’t work. Sadly, it took Bernard’s personal situation to change his thinking.

There are so many stories of officials who have kids, relatives or friends, in jail, on drugs, doing illegal things and in essence making bad choices. It usually changes their mind, they see things from a different perspective because it is someone they know personally.

Hopefully, the law enforcement leader looks for answers and sees things from the compassionate side, if he or she doesn’t, you have a heartless leader and that is scary.

Seriously, a person who doesn’t have a heart and doesn’t look for ways to HELP the community is ignorant and dangerous. If that is your law enforcement leader, you have a problem.

While Law enforcement needs to stay updated with equipment, (body camera’s, materials, etc.) the most important thing a law enforcement leader can do is hire the right people with the right VALUES. That usually solves any problems.

Without the right people and community policing, negative interactions with the community will only continue and get worse.

Why officials in some cities wait to make changes boggles my mind. You see it all the time. A new leader gets hired and does the same exact thing his predecessor did. Nothing! They aren’t leaders, they are managers.

Great leaders recognize the problem, look for answers and make the changes necessary. True leaders accept responsibility for whatever goes on in his or her department. President Harry Truman had on his desk a sign that said, “The Buck Stops Here”

In law enforcement, change comes from the top down, not from the bottom up. With cops, how you treat the community, is how the community will treat you. That is where values come in.  

All the negative police incidents that happened around the country over the past five years could have been avoided with hiring and training the right people, working with the community and understanding and using the media in the right way.

When I see an incident happen on the news the first thing I look to see is, how does the Chief or Sheriff handle the media and what could have the police did differently.  

If the Parkland tragedy showed us anything from a media point of view, it is how you communicate with the media will shape the narrative. The kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School recognized that quicker than some officials. Media training should be mandatory for all police leaders.

A Sheriff is a very important figure in a community. When you read about a Sheriff who takes inmates food money to buy a condo in Alabama, or a jail that doesn’t give out sanitary products to woman, it is no wonder the community has a distaste for law enforcement.

A lot of Sheriffs have become way to political. They are baby kissers and not leaders of law enforcement professionals and until elected officials who hire and fire the police chief, or the public who elects a Sheriff demands a community-minded, intelligent compassionate leader, we will continue to have bad policing.

If the leader of a police agency doesn’t have the right values, isn’t embracing community policing in a positive way, or doesn’t understand how the media works, they need to be removed. Plain and simple.

Larry Lawton – Wikipedia

About the author: Larry Lawton is an Author, TV Personality, Speaker, Teen/Young Adult Expert and Law Enforcement Consultant. Larry developed the nationally recognized Reality Check Program and Reality Check Video Card Program.

Larry Lawton appears regularly on national TV and Radio as an expert on teen issues, crime, schools and community policing. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC  —  CLICK HERE to see Larry Lawton on TV

In August of 2013, Larry was the first ex-con in the United States to be sworn in as an Honorary Police Officer in the city of Lake Saint Louis, Missouri and in November 2013, Larry was the first ex-con recognized on the Floor of the United States Congress for his work with helping young people and law enforcement agencies.