Among police leadership and the challenges that go with it in what clearly is a changing world in law enforcement, there is something we need to ask: Where is leadership? Where is our police executive leadership?

Almost every police executive, whether that is a police chief, superintendent, sheriff, or some other executive title, have been to police leadership school: FBI National Academy, the Northwestern University School of Staff and Command, Southern Police Institute Executive Program, Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) Executive Training, and numerous others.

These types of education are part of “punching your ticket” and most municipalities, cities and recruiting firms will require you have one of these police executive schools listed in your resume. While somewhat worthwhile, much of it is what you must have to be considered for a top position.

Over the past several years, specifically the last two, I have seen a noticeable and disappointing trend in police leadership.

There are many police chiefs, other executives, and even police executives who hold statewide or national positions, such as president of a national police organization, who are doing nothing more than simply feathering their nest for their next opportunity. They are selling out our profession so that they may enrich themselves in what they consider to be cushy or pristine positions.

In other words, they are setting themselves up for retirement or a better position at the cost of what, or rather who, for as long as I can remember, are considered the backbone of law enforcement: the patrol force, detectives and officers who work the street.

There is not a single police executive who does not know that their success in a police chief position solely depends on how well the officers in their agencies follow their direction, how well they are trained, and how they support their administrative initiatives.

Some verbiage I have heard over the last five years, would be something like, “While we had to make a modification or agree with a proposed piece of legislation that was anti-police, it was so we could be in a position for future law enforcement legislation that may be coming down the pipe, and we could still be at the table.”

What does that mean? Well, it means we are always giving up our priorities, our ethical stand, what we know to be true, for the next best thing.

Every time I hear a state or national leader, especially when we are talking about legislation, tell me or other law enforcement executives that, “If you go along with this, I will make sure another piece of legislation gets passed in the future that will be pro-law enforcement,” it makes me want to vomit. That future piece of legislation rarely comes; and if it does, it is some mediocre legislation that was not a top priority of law enforcement agencies to begin with.

Are you standing up for what is right – and what you know to be accurate, despite what you see in media reports and ‘defund the police’ issues? Here is an example of a media headline-catching term that is taking over on a national level: police violence. Time and time again, I hear that term used in the media and have even heard some national police leaders use it during news conferences and press releases.

Please know that there is not a single police officer who comes to work each and every day wanting to harm someone. It is simply not true.  

To use the words “police violence” indicates that police officers are using criminal violence against people. There is no factual basis behind this. It is ridiculous. 

In closing, I am asking our national leaders, state leaders, and police executives throughout the country to simply do what is right. Just lead.

Tom Weitzel retired from the Riverside Police Department in May of 2020 after 37 years in law enforcement, 13 years as chief of police.