I Am Only… – Law Officer


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One of the most difficult issues I face with attendees of The Courageous Leadership Seminar is the statement “I’m Only.”

Several years ago, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke was gracious to bring the training to his area and in that class, I heard one of the most damaging statements in our profession.

“I’m Only”

The response came when I asked one of the students why he was there.

“I’m not sure…I’m only a deputy.”

I don’t blame him for saying it. In our twisted hierarchal system, we make our officers believe that they don’t matter. Unless of course, they pass a promotional exam and we give them some keys to the kingdom. The higher up in rank they go, the privileges rise with them.

This is a tremendous problem and once it starts, it never stops.

“I’m Only” a rookie.

“I’m Only” an officer.

“I’m Only” a sergeant.

“I’m Only” a captain.

We tell cops their ideas don’t matter. We tell sergeants they have no say in management issues. We tell middle managers to know their lane and to be quiet.

It takes just a few rejections for cops to stop trying and mediocrity infests the entire organization.

I have a different idea.

“What If”

“What If” we empowered on day one?

“What If” we recognized that rank has nothing to do with expertise and we used it?

“What If” we embraced new ideas, regardless of where they came from?

“What If” we separated the idea from the person and embedded those within the culture?

“What If” administrators stopped chasing the flavor of the year and building their resumes and simply reached out to those around, regardless of rank, for help?

“If That Happened”

Status Quo would end.

Mission would prevail.

Retention would rise.

Greatness would emerge.

Courageous Leadership Would Prevail.

Dr. Travis Yates retired as a commander with a large municipal police department after 30 years of service. He is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.


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