An Earthquake in the Ocean: Shaking up the Mindsets of Policing Status Quo

In the village of Minooka, a suburb of the city of Chicago, the law enforcement has begun a transformative process to create relationships and bonds between the police and the communities located there. They are changing how they act down to the simplest levels of policing, in human interaction and one-on-one conversations with civilians to evolve themselves from warrior mentalities to guardian mindsets, an evolution the whole country is beholden to witness from such a small suburban area located so close to a city made famous for incorrectly been labeled it as “the Murder Capital of America”.

This doesn’t seem like a big thing to an outside observer. Warrior mentalities and guardian mindsets, those don’t sound real. And this is happening in such an insignificant dot, why care? Just because Minooka is a very small fish in a big ocean of a country, doesn’t make the discovery of this transformation any more amazing, or important. Chief of Police Justin Meyer admitted that “modern-day policing is changing from a warrior mentality to one of a guardian mindset to build trust and legitimacy”, and with this revelation in one little corner of the country, change can finally spread. The fact that the police chief is able to make these statements with conviction and steadfastness allows an example to be set for law enforcement to see and understand the value of his words. His village has shown a decrease in crime, and an increase in positive relations between their officers and communities, an importance that the police chief is quick to remind us that these relationships create confidence and trust that are building blocks to better policing throughout the United States.

Now what does it mean to have a warrior mentality and/or guardian mindset, and why is it so important to know the distinction? In a task force formed in 2014 to work on the problems and issues of policing in this century has stated, “Law enforcement should embrace a guardian – rather than a warrior – mindset to build trust and legitimacy”. That legitimacy, that trust, is between the American public and the law enforcement agencies created to protect and serve them, is an old and important idea that has existed and wanted for years, and as police violence and mistrust escalate across the nation, even the language used to describe them has an effect. Words and language carry weight, and that weight can cause public opinion to rise or sink with the pressures of the world.

Warrior mentality/mindset is believed to start out at the beginning of the job, when safety becomes a concern while on the job for a police officer. As a police officer, you face situations that need you to be on your toes, braced for anything, mind aflame with readiness for action as the ‘flight or flight’ response that every human being shares hums through your body like a thousand volts. It is a response that can cause events, actions, to occur that have led to scandal or negative reactions from the public. Though the attempt at a positive or understandable reasons for these kinds of responses range from international to domestic threats to American citizens, and that if people obey the police then no harm will occur, they instead shine light on the glaring errors of this mindset. The police are not meant to be warriors, for they are not soldiers. And as much as the media likes to believe (war on crime, war on drugs) the police are not those going to war. A warrior does not belong on the street chasing down a 16-year-old boy who has stolen 50 dollars from a local convenience store where violence may be the first reaction. A warrior is a soldier fighting for their lives or ours on the battlefield home or abroad, were violence is a unfortunate but necessary task.

In contrast to the warrior mentality, the guardian mindset is better known for not treating every person it meets as a possible combatant that may need to be taken down, and instead somebody to protect and keep safe from threats. Though this sounds unsafe, especially in this age where guns can appear and be used in the blink of an eye, the guardian mindset would be more acceptable now more than ever after recent police actions. Putting police officers in the mindset to truly protect the civilians instead of assuming each one is guilty is an increasingly important step in changing how the public interacts and views their police officers, both in their communities and on the national level.

Yes, the warrior mentality allows officers to remain safe while working their already dangerous jobs. Yes, the guardian mindset does open up the chances of an officer getting possibly injured on the job. But if there was a way to combine the two mindsets, forming one united to believe all people should be protected while at the same time ready to defend, than this would already be a contributing choice of police officer mentality before opening the doors to the gun lockers and letting them on the streets. The closest that comes to this is the guardian, and though it seems like it is the least safe option, it is the smart option. Understanding people, forming relationships with the communities and with the public as a whole will allow for police to interact with those communities to the safest degrees, sharing a united need for safety and protection that will, in the end, prove to be the building blocks to better policing and law enforcement in the United States.

–Austin Neal

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3 thoughts on “An Earthquake in the Ocean: Shaking up the Mindsets of Policing Status Quo

  1. Hey Austin!
    I think this may be the first blog that I have commented on that you have written. I have to say that you did a really great job and that your topic is very good as well. I do agree with you on what you’re saying on how communities and police should work together and create relationships between one another. This is something that should already be occurring but as you can see from the last few years it hasn’t gotten any better. I had no idea what warrior and/or guardian mindsets were, let alone the differences between them. These concepts certainly opened my eyes to how complicated issues with the police are and that I need to keep being informed on what’s really going on within communities and police. Like I said before (as did you in your blog), communities, police, and others should all work together and in return will create a better opportunity for success within these communities for the people and the officers that work in these local jurisdictions. The time is now to keep making change and at least some areas are already or have already started doing so. We need to take this one step at a time and make sure that this is done the right way. There is no such thing perfection but as more research is done on this subject, the more will be known. Keep up the good work and I look forward to your next blog if you have any additional blogs to write! See you in class!

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  2. We also need to stop making police officers fear for their lives considering policing is not among the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the US…

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  3. It is enlightening and uplifting to hear that policing methods are changing in other parts of the world. However, it is still kind of disheartening that it took a natural disaster for this to happen. It is good that this community policing has led to less crime. It seems like one effective way to deter crime. You have a good point in saying that all the violence against police going on in the United States and being publicized through the media can impact how other countries think of use and even influence the relationship they have with their police. I also thought your idea of the warrior mentality made a lot of sense in explaining how officers act violently or aggressively sometimes or how they act all the way. Most encounters police officers are being aggressive rather than just speaking to civilians as people like they are, they let their power get the best of them and they become intentionally forceful and this leads civilians to act non-cooperative ways.

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