One Powerful Strategy to Defeat Problems and Critics

Posted by admin on

one powerful strategy to defeat problems and critics


Sometimes naive optimism overcomes experience and cynical wisdom. Even when others disagree.

“If I were you, I’d definitely not go.” That was the advice from several law enforcement colleagues I phoned in allied agencies.

I was a recently promoted police lieutenant who received an invitation from a community group to attend an evening forum on “race relations and law enforcement.”

The community group was a liberal, progressive, activist organization with an ax to grind for law enforcement. There had been some recent enforcement actions by the Sheriff’s Office, and tensions were high.

“If I don’t attend the forum, they’ll accuse us of ambivalence. Shouldn’t we try to listen, share our perspectives, and build some bridges?” I asked a police Captain in a neighboring police department.

“We’ve attended forums like this before,” the Captain said, “It’s a bait and switch. They line up detractors to speak, film them lecturing us, and post it to their social media pages. They use us as dupes for their political agenda.”

“Well, I think I’m going to attend the forum anyway, and give it my best shot,” I told the Captain.

“Good luck,” he said with a chuckle.

We forget to be understanding

When I arrived at the community center that evening, I was the only one wearing a suit and tie. I felt like a fish out of water. Everyone else was casual, wearing jeans, shorts, t-shirts, beanie caps, etc.

An organizer for the forum came over and introduced herself. She thanked me for coming.

We have to stop fearing difficult discussions and start seeing them as opportunities for growth. — Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth Silvers

As people started to sit down I spotted Jim, a Lieutenant from the Sheriff’s Office. He strolled over and sat down next to me. “Looks like we’re the only law enforcement reps,” I whispered to Jim.

The organizer began the forum, outlining many of the recent issues and concerns regarding law enforcement arrests, race relations, and more. A few others spoke, and then the audience was invited to line up to the microphone with questions and comments.

One of the organizers was filming and recording the speakers. Just like I was warned, the speakers railed against law enforcement. Some called us racist. One woman said, “You don’t know what it’s like to be treated differently. To be singled out.”

After the last speaker, the organizer asked Jim and me if we’d like to respond. I was nervous but agreed to say a few words. I stood before the microphone and this is what I said:

Thanks for the invitation to be here tonight. One of you said that ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be treated differently. To be singled out.’ I may not know your personal experiences, but I can assure you that I know what it’s like to be treated differently. To be singled out.

The room was quiet and everyone was listening intently. I continued:

Once I was with my wife and son in a restaurant when a man I arrested in the past walked up and threatened me and my family. At social functions, people often treat me differently because I’m a cop. They complain about traffic citations or a family member who was ‘unlawfully arrested.’ They make assumptions about who I am and my career based on biases, stereotypes, television myths, or negative stories from others.

Someone in the audience said, “Yeah, but a lot of cops aren’t cool. They harass us for no reason.” I replied with:

I’m not going to tell you that every cop out there is a saint. We’re human, and sometimes we stumble. But the reason I’m here tonight is to listen. To hear your stories. And to maybe convince you that our community is stronger when we work together. When we focus more on what we have in common instead of where we disagree.

After the organizers ended the forum, several community members thanked me and Jim for attending. One woman said, “I don’t think I realized how hard your job can be.”

We are all so desperate to be understood, we forget to be understanding. — Beau Taplin

At the time I didn’t realize it, but that evening I used a strategy that helped disarm the critics. Years later, when I was a young police chief, I used the strategy again.

My heart sank

The anonymous letter had been typed, sealed in an envelope, addressed to “Chief Weiss” and slid under my office door. When I read it, my heart sank.

The letter alleged that one of my Commanders had violated a few of our department policies. The letter threatened to notify the City Manager, Mayor, and local media if I failed to take corrective action.

I knew that some members of my police department didn’t like the Commander, but I was saddened that they failed to come to me directly. I had an open-door policy, attended early morning roll calls to be available to colleagues, and strived to treat everyone fairly and respectfully.

I called a mandatory, department-wide meeting (for which everyone received overtime pay). Once everyone was assembled in the squad room, I took out the anonymous letter and read it word for word. And then I said the following:

I have already shared this letter with the City Manager, City Attorney, and Mayor. Internal affairs will look into the allegations, and if true, appropriate action will be taken. But I must tell you, I am deeply disappointed that whoever wrote this letter chose not to come to me directly. Anonymous, threatening letters don’t reflect who we are. I have always said that when concerns or disagreements arise, we must have the courage and courtesy to talk directly to one another. No gossip. No anonymous threats. And if I have in any way caused you to feel differently about this, we must fix that.

You could have heard a pin drop in the squad room. Everyone was dead silent. I paused for a long moment and ended with:

We must learn to assume the best in one another, not the worst. I’m going to do that going forward, while we address the content of this letter. And I ask that you do the same.

I had my suspicions as to the author of the letter, but I never treated that person any different. I made my point, the matter was appropriately handled, and there was never another anonymous letter.

So what’s the strategy I use to defeat problems and critics?

Do the unexpected

When we do the unexpected, we surprise our detractors. We open a door that can disarm them. We get to define ourselves instead of our detractors defining us. And sometimes, doing the unexpected can hasten a new understanding, nascent trust, and even an improved outcome.

Doing the unexpected won’t always lead to success, but it stands less of a chance if you do it without sincerity and graciousness.

Our world needs a lot of solidarity

Shortly before my retirement as police chief, the County Sheriff and I were invited to a community forum. The topic revolved around law enforcement, the LGBTQ community, and pathways to greater understanding and solidarity.

To shine, we must push others forward and stand together when needed. The failure of others will never mean your success. Our world needs a lot of solidarity, and this is the time to push the big ideas. — Mohammed Zaid

A few law enforcement voices cautioned me. “I’d be careful, John,” one colleague said. “Sometimes protestors highjack these meetings. They want to make you look bad. Score a few political points.”

But I didn’t listen. I’d learned that doing the unexpected with sincerity and graciousness, often led to better understanding and outcomes.

Look at the wording on the above flier. Specifically “A Conversation with Allies.”

The organizers did the unexpected. They defined their law enforcement guests as “allies,” which made us feel welcome.

If you want to disarm your critics and tackle problems, learn to do the unexpected.

Do it with sincerity and graciousness. In this way, you’ll build bridges, foster trust, and maybe even change some hearts and minds.

Before you go

I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint, shoot black and white photography, and write inspirational stories and essays about life. Sign up for my popular Saturday Newsletter here.

This post was previously published on Medium.


Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.

All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.

A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.

Register New Account

Log in if you wish to renew an existing subscription.

Choose your subscription level

By completing this registration form, you are also agreeing to our Terms of Service which can be found here.



Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.

Photo credit: Artworks by John P. Weiss


The post One Powerful Strategy to Defeat Problems and Critics appeared first on The Good Men Project.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →