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Over the past several decades I have helped transform both individuals and organizations. What I have found is that when dealing with clients and patients or groups of various sizes, they share similar characteristics. One that I recognize is the established culture, habits, and identities. What I hear is statements like, “This is just who I am” and “We’ve always done it this way.” What I notice is there is tendency to resist change because it conflicts with a desire to hold on to an identity. Even if they sense there is a need to achieve different results, as long as they hold onto their preconceived notions of who they are, they will never change.
Second, once a person or group gets fed up with the way things are, some of them choose to change. Of course, the first thing that they realize is that they must reinvent themselves. While this does not been that they must deny their core values or essence, it means that without constant innovation they will never adapt to new realities or take advantage of new opportunities. Unfortunately, too many people and groups refuse to change their way of thinking and insist on holding on to old identities and their former ways until they successfully achieve their demise.
Neighborhoods, cities, and communities are prime examples of what I have just shared. I see numerous cities, which face economic and social decay. While I am happy that there are many have visionary leaders who insist on reinventing their communities, there are others that just sit there, point fingers as they insist that blaming others will fix their problems. They just wait someone else to fix them.
One of the positive transformational resources that can be found in just about every community is their law enforcement agencies and their personnel. Although I realize that over the years they have many times been part of the problem, when they have the right leadership, they can become a major part of a community’s transformation. I recently discussed how law enforcement agencies can play a role in community transformation with Sheriff Larry Amerson, who was recently been inaugurated as the president of the National Sheriff Association. He was quite candid as he shared his views about the role of law enforcement through what is called community policing.
Drug abuse, crowded prisons, chronic unemployment, gangs, child abuse and neglect, families that fall apart, murder rates, school dropout rates, and illiteracy are community statistics that rarely get published in chamber of commerce brochures. However, these are problems that affect each and every community in America. Politicians too often define their cities by building new city halls and constructing new football stadiums. But it is this underbelly or social failure that identifies a society and makes if vulnerable. Although we’ve come to expect that law enforcement, social services, our jails, and the courts to hide this ugliness from our daily perceptions, as Christians and humans we cannot continue living this lie. Our ability to resolve these problems is critical to the strength of our communities and a symbol of our self-worth.
As Sheriff Larry Amerson says, our communities must first be fixed at the lowest levels. Addressing mental illnesses and other needs at the individual level must be a top priority. So should be the strength of our families. However, that is not going to be accomplished until marriages are healthy, education once again achieves quality results, and parents know how to be effective.
Well trained law enforcement, educators, and other social services are the front line in this war against risks posed by our community’s vulnerable underbelly. I sincerely believe that we must recognize their roles, provide them with adequate resources, and show our gratitude. During this election year as we consider who can best lead us, I suggest that you ask whether their vision addresses prosperity for all, not just the few.
Keywords: Law enforcement, community policing, Larry Amerson, National Sheriffs Association
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