Spitballing is a term for throwing out ideas for consideration at a business meeting in advance of detailed development.

I invite you to check out the spitballing menu on this page and respond when something strikes you as provocative or something you agree or disagreee with.

Robert F. Lunney

Police, Drugs and Corruption – A Postscript

A previous post Police, Drugs and Corruption offered some formulaic methods for preventing wrong doing and scandal in police drug enforcement units.  It seems appropriate to follow up with the sad tale of a drug unit officer who failed in his duty to perform with integrity.  This occurred in the State of Kentucky, but it could have happened anywhere in the United States and Canada.  With his partner, this man answered to over 400 charges including burglary, theft and falsifying search warrants.  On conviction he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The former officer agreed to share his story with a news reporter, and a sad tale it is.  To read the news story, Click Here.



Police, Drugs and Corruption

Flashy headlines in Canadian media reports at mid-February 2015 drew attention to an investigation of alleged corruption involving drug cases within Abbotsford B.C. Police Service. Not long ago Toronto Police dealt with problems in a drug unit and less notorious accusations of internal wrong doing have occurred elsewhere.  During my experience consulting with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in the United States I took part in two assessments of police agencies struggling to understand and recover from drug unit scandals.  While no two circumstances are the same, there are a few key points of vulnerability common to highly specialized units that deserve studied attention and preventive strategies. Read more

How Did Loyalty Get a Bad Name?

This article was first published in Blue Line Magazine, February 2007, at the end of an era when governing and elected bodies enjoined police leaders to “manage like a business.”  It is not, of course, for public service operates on with a differing set of principles with a different ethos.  Perhaps we all learned a lesson from the damage done during those years, but it was an uneasy feeling in 2013 to hear echoes of the same message under the guise of “The Economics of Policing.”  Let’s hope this reminder of a dismal past will not be repeated.

Loyalty is a precious quality.  It represents something vital, a concept, a way of life, and an intelligent devotion to an idea, a cause, a person, or a government. Everyone has a desire even an instinct, to be loyal and a man or woman who has nothing to be loyal to is an unhappy person. Read more

In Praise of Candor

One finds role models and mentors by watching, listening and learning. One of the most entertaining characters that I came across in my service was Chief Superintendent Charles Sweeney of the RCMP. Quite late in his career he was appointed the first Planning Officer for the Force. Consistent with the less precise management practices of the day, he was left to define the role and find his niche on the executive management team. He later told me he was the self-appointed, Officer in Charge of Hollering Horseshit, speaking truth to power at the executive table.

During executive meetings, too many so-called leaders sit on their hands when it is time to speak up. Leadership requires courage – courage to make waves, courage to take on your bosses when they are wrong and the courage of convictions. At a later point in my career working with the senior officer team at Edmonton, at the conclusion of the staff meeting I would single out one participant as winner of the Robert Foster Award for Candor in Management, named for a retired Inspector that always spoke his mind regardless of the consequences. I learned that in group consultation, it is the dissenting opinion that is often the most valuable, because it causes others to carefully examine their own position before rushing to judgment. Leaders must appreciate that dissent is not disloyalty and that reasoned and legitimate dissent is a form of caring, not of resistance.

Candor is the quality of being open and honest in expression.  It’s rooted in truthfulness, sincerity, straightforwardness and in telling it the way it is. Introduced tactfully it leads to shorter meetings and better decisions.  Candor gives people a sense of purpose and belonging, and management teams are stronger and more productive for the benefit.

The Moral Aspects of Policing

When I was first appointed chief of police I was confident of my ability to manage the operational and administrative requirements of the job.  What I had not anticipated was taking on the role of a moral leader in the community.  While some recent events in Canada have provoked criticism of police chiefs for departing from a strictly legalistic role, trust me, the public expect their elected and appointed leaders to defend and occasionally articulate standards of public morality.

This brings me to introduce a recent blog by David C. Couper, one-time Chief of Police in Madison WI (1972-1993) and an icon of the community policing era that began in the late 1970’s.  When David retired he entered the clergy, emerging again in 2012 with his latest publication, Arrested Development, challenging contemporary leaders to make good on an earlier promise of progressive improvement in policing. In a recent post on his website Improving Police, David expounds upon the moral aspects of the profession affecting not only executive leaders but each and every officer in active service. Reviewed in the light of the current crisis in U.S. law enforcement over use of force, deadly or otherwise, it makes provocative reading.  Click here to read the article.



Building Social Capital

It is common practice for police services to recognize meritorious assistance by a citizen in the conduct of police operations.  Often, I think, we are oblivious to the contribution of these simple follow-throughs in building trust and confidence in the police – social capital, using the buzz words of today.  Rudy Desmeules is a veteran officer of the Edmonton Police Service and we served together during my term as Chief of Police in that city.  With his permission, I am reproducing a message he recently sent me regarding a remarkable coincidence. No need for elaboration:  The medium is the message. Read more

Most Crucial Skills for Front Line Officers

PoliceOne.com is a popular American web-based bulletin board on contemporary policing issues. A posted article from February 18, 2015 reports the results of a staff survey of Facebook contacts asked to rank those skills most-to-least crucial to policing and 3,025 took the challenge.  The results were posted on the internet and while there may be few surprises in the categories and the ranking by respondents, it does no harm to reflect on the variety and range of skills identified. The categories were:

  • Physical/Endurance
  • Firearms Skills
  • Leadership
  • Driving/Automotive
  • Knowledge of Law
  • Critical Thinking
  • Medical Skills
  • Computer Technology
  • People/Social Skills

Ranked on a scale of one to ten, each skill hovers around the mid-point, meaning there was no single skill a majority thought most valued.  Marginally, social skills and critical thinking/problem solving rated the highest.  The second part of the poll invited serving officers to rate themselves against these criteria. There is food for thought here, and perhaps a useful instrument for self-assessment. To read this illustrated post, click here.