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How to stop bullying in public safety

We can no longer shrug bullying off as “culture” or laugh it off as “tradition”

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol.

Today, I’m thinking about how much things have changed in public safety since I was a young officer. The ways we handle calls for service, treat inmates, and attack fires are all much different now than they were years ago. The culture of the professions have changed too. Things that used to be common are no longer tolerated.

I’ll give you an example. When I began my career, it was common for rookies to go through some challenges posed by veteran officers. We were required to sit in the front row during briefing. We couldn’t wear moustaches until our training officer granted us permission. And some times, a new officer wasn’t regarded as a real officer until he had been involved in a fight.

When a new member isn’t accepted until after some type of ritual it’s called hazing. We never thought of these traditions as hazing. As new officers, we just wanted to be part of the group. To feel like we belonged. And we wanted to do our jobs without intimidation.

Bullying, like hazing, is also based on power or status. But bullying is usually a repeated action. It’s designed to cause fear or distress. We experienced hazing and bullying, sure. But back then it was laughed off as part of the culture. We just believed it was OK since it was part of a longstanding tradition.

But it was wrong then. And it is wrong now. Just because a lot of people thought it was OK does not mean it was OK. We need to think about how we treat our coworkers. It’s interesting to me that we will gladly help a kid who’s being physically bullied or cyberbullied. But when we see hazing or bullying within the walls of our own buildings we don’t do anything about it.

It’s time to do something about it. We can no longer shrug it off as “culture” or laugh it off as “tradition.” We’re talking about people who want to work in our profession. They have succeeded in the academy. We don’t need to add these unofficial and harmful challenges. They don’t have to submit to hazing rituals or psychological bullying. Let’s get past this grade school mentality and college fraternity thinking. The twenty first century calls for it, our profession demands it, and our coworkers deserve it.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.