As I listen to news outlets, pundits and everyone who feels they know everything about police departments and how they should be reformed, I am not hearing any specific reform strategies. They love to use blanket statements and give the impression that police departments across the US are problematic. Are there areas where we can improve – certainly there are. One area in particular where we can improve is the commitment to service.

It is not at all uncommon to hear the public and police officers refer to their profession as a “force”. “How long have you been on the force?” “I’ve been on the force for 10 years.” I could not find the origins of the use of the word “force” to refer to a police department or the police profession. My question has always been, why not refer to the police as a “service”? Sure, sometimes we have to use force, but day in and day out, we primarily serve the public. When I looked up the London Metropolitan Police, the word “service” is in their title. This is a great way to remind the public and the officers within the organization that the police is a service, not a force.

So what is my point? For one, don’t ever lose sight that police officers are servants to the public. We are not slaves, but our job is to try to help, or solve problems, not just listen and try like hell to turn a criminal complaint into a civil matter. Or, just to take a report, submit it and never look back. If that is your mindset, then you are nothing more than a report taker. We are far more than paperwork pushers. Make a pledge from this point on that your purpose is to help and serve (and protect) the public – even if they do not like you. We all swore an oath to protect and serve the Constitution and the public. I challenge each of you to remind yourself each day before you start your shift that your purpose is to serve the public in a positive way – to the best of your abilities.

My second point, or challenge, is to correct people when they ask you how long you have been on the “force”. Politely remind them that police work is a service and that a better way to ask is, “how long have you been in the police service?” If we change that one word, we may start to shift the tide of negative public perception, a well as remind ourselves that policing is a service industry. For the administrators reading this, I challenge you to officially insert the word “service” into your agency’s title. The Faketown Police Service sounds pretty good to me. Also, make sure that your department’s mission statement is focused on service to the community and remind your officers regularly about your agency’s commitment to it. If we change the word, we may change the mindset.

Thank you all for reading and please be very safe out there my friends.

Tim Jones