As we each migrate our way through the stages of grief and retrospection following the tragedies in Ferguson, NYC, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and now Dallas, it is good to see a diversified group of community leaders, police officials and politicians agree that a fundamental change in the approach to community policing must be discovered and pursued. These same leaders are coming to the sobering understanding that body cameras (and other quick fixes) will not solve this systemic problem.
Now I am not a policing expert. Nor am I one steeped in public policy or politics. But, as a sales person who has devised and guided sales strategies that weaved, over years, through the labyrinth of government politics, policy, technology and regulations to win several multi-billion dollar campaigns to sell jet fighters to foreign allies, I do know a thing or two about winning the large complex sale. These defense decisions are huge and complicated, and involve many, many stakeholders of all kinds. The decisions needed about how to transform the relationship between the police forces that protect us and the communities they serve are similarly complex.
I suggest that as we are exploring solutions it may be worthwhile to consider some of the best practices from the business world - especially from those held accountable by boards of directors and shareholders for regularly winning large complex sales.
Police Chief Charles Ramsey on Meet the Press said, “We spend a lot of research in policing, about effectiveness of strategies, hot spot policing, foot patrols, things of that nature but very little if any on the after effects of such strategies in terms of alienation of communities. .... What’s the collateral damage that’s caused when we engage in certain policing strategies? If we know that and understand it we can avoid it.”
This is an insightful observation. It is hopefully an “ah ha” moment for community police forces around the globe – that you can’t win a large complex sales campaign to transform community policing by targeting your solution at only a select portion of those who have a stake in the final decision.
Those in business who routinely pursue large complex sales have ignored this principle at their peril. Case studies of large complex sales losses are filled with stories of companies who built their sales solution around their intimate knowledge and the preferences of, let’s say the chief engineer, only to later discover the CFO’s concerns (which were not addressed) weighed more significantly on the final decision.
Successful community policing like a successful large complex sales campaign requires that we first acknowledge there are many decision makers and influencers across multiple organizations that will determine directly or indirectly whether a strategy/solution is successful. Before devising a solution we must care enough to truly understand the priorities that will drive every constituent.
Though every community is unique and requires a thorough individualizes assessment, here are just a few of the decision makers and influencers a community policing strategy would take into consideration:
Area large/small businesses
Politicians - state and local
Residence - old/young
State and local legal (DA)
Finally, we will have to recognize that higher order external factors (budgets, demographics, politics, economy, etc...) can also be in play and must be addressed in the strategy.
The challenges for police forces (surprisingly similar to businesses in this way) is to take the time and invest the resources in really listening to the broad spectrum of 'customers'. Not talking and selling. Not “managing the funnel.” Not assuming you know their views. And not transferring biases or experiences from one customer to the next. This means a different, servanthood-like approach with which some salespeople or businesses may be unfamiliar. It is only with deep understanding that have any hope of assembling all the resources needed to devise a solution.
Businesses consistently win large complex sales when they move from looking at customers as someone to 'sell to' (impose their solution on) to partners to be served in a relationship steeped in mutual understanding and shared values and priorities that drive decisions. Community leaders can learn from this and deploy similar processes to assess and develop their own solutions.
Trust in your community policing strategy, much like trust in a business’s proposed solution to a large complex project, comes when the widest number of those who must decide, influence, implement, or be on the receiving end, feel their views have been heard and appropriately incorporated.