Written by Dr. Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén


Too often I hear about problems related to the interaction between police and the public. Problems that seem to be more or less the same around the western world. Some suggest that the solution to these problems are new equipment, better guns or other devices – the warrior solution. But how well have those warrior solutions worked in the past?

Within the Swedish Police there seems to be a split in two where the “tough warrior” group argues for even more weapons, more effective weapons, and new devices that will help to “disable targets”. On the other hand the “relation building guardian” group argues that so far, there is no evidence that tougher actions have been successful. So instead they argue for a more guardian path where setting boundaries are balanced with building relations. I hear the same discussion around Europe. So far we do not know who will win this battle of how to conduct policing.

But more and more often I hear about police choosing the path of guardianship. The first article that came before my eyes was an article written by Sue Rahr and Stephen K. Rice in 2015, titled “From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals”. It was published by the Harvard Kennedy School, NIJ National Institute of Justice under the headline “New Perspectives in Policing”. For me it was eye-opening. It described both the way from the Peelian’s guardian approach to the warrior approach we can see today. But it also talks about a way out; how to change! If you look on the Internet today, you will see that there is a national wide movement in the US not just discussing but acting in the way argued by Rahr and Rice. In Sweden I seldom see this discussion on the agenda. I only see the two groups fighting over power.

Just as some argue that the relation building guardian path is a dangerous path to take when it comes to the safety of police officers, others argue the opposite. Major Chip Huth is one of the latter. As a leader of the 1910-Squad in Kansas City Police Department, he implemented the work method of unconditional respect. Only with positive results. I recommend you to read the book that he wrote together with Jack Colwell, Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect(2010). Here they argue that unconditional respect lead to a safer work situation for the officers, not the opposite.

An extract from a newly made search on the Internet shows that there are movements for change. The following are some examples of this.

Already in 2014, Improvingpolicewrote an article on the matter, wondering where have all the guardians gone?

In August 2015, the Los Angeles Times published the article “LAPD urges officers to be community guardians, not warriors on crime”. This is an article about history and future where the old and new meet.

“We were warriors, Deputy Chief Bill Scott recently told a room filled with LAPD rank-and-file officers, a group of fresh-faced rookies watching from the front. Now, he said, officers need to think of themselves as guardians watching over communities — not warriors cracking down on them. That means if we’ve got to take somebody to jail, we’ll take them to jail, Scott said. But when we need to be empathetic and we need to be human, we’ve got to do that too.”

The Reno Gazzet Journal published an article in May 2015 where Adam McGill, Chief of Police of the town Truckee, CA., wrote about the subject under the headline “Police must adapt from warriors to guardians”. The article ended:

“The culture promoting the warrior mindset was not created overnight nor was it created with malice. I’m hopeful it won’t take as long to swing the pendulum back again. Law enforcement executives must lead the way if we are to adapt to the smarter, safer and more sustainable culture of the guardian mindset. For too long we have operated under a legal standard rather than what our community expects. Just because we have a legal right to do something, it doesn’t always make it right. At least, that is the mindset of a guardian.”

The hope of Chief McGill that change will not take too long is important. We now three years later still have not been able to swing the pendulum back again. The discussion is still going on.


Can Police Change Their Mindset from Warriors to Guardians? Please contact us on contact@policetalent.com or on Facebook with examples of how you have changed to become guardians, or with your experiences and struggles regarding this issue.


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