Police Psychology | Persistence in Law Enforcement
Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
I saw the musical On Your Feet last night on Broadway. It was about Gloria and Emilio Estafan and their story of a rise to fame and fortune. She was the first big Hispanic crossover in the music field and later Emilio had his hands in other Latin crossovers that followed like Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony.
Early in their careers, no one would play their music because it was Latin and had Latin rhythms. It was fine for their record producers to say they were tops on the charts in the Spanish music market, but it wasn’t going anywhere on the English market. Their record company would not hear of it even when they brought in an English song. He didn’t want a Spanish group doing English music — no record company wanted that. So, Emilio and Gloria started playing the English songs everywhere, gave many free gigs and concerts at clubs, blasted it from car radios as they traveled around, got stations to play it out of the blue — they created their own publicity with pure persistence. They ignored what the experts told them and were being purely persistent. Life is very much that way, persistence wins out. But, when are you too persistent…?
I DON’T KNOW!! Very simply, I can tell when someone has gone too far and crossed the line, but I have no idea where that line is before you start. I am a very intelligent guy and almost sixty years old, and I can’t see the line clearly in advance. As I am also the parent of a hyperactive 9-year old, the line become less clear. But I know it has something to do with a persistent vision, and that is important to know when looking for the line. What is your vision and does your behavior lead toward completion of your vision?
See Emilio and Gloria had a defined vision. They wanted their music heard and wanted to be stars in the music field. There blasting music from cars and offering free appearances were putting themselves out to make their vision come true. Persistence comes from keeping emotions in check and fighting through the problems and the desire to quit to make a vision happen. Everyone that has wanted something and had to persist has thought of quitting at times. Their motivation is not always solid, but they get through the emotions to not give up. But the truly persistent person makes the effort theirs, not put it on someone else to withstand their efforts and control their emotions. That is the key. Persistence is taking on the burden and having a vision, not putting the burden on others.
Let’s put it in policing terms. Sitting on an informant may take months even years before they come to you with something useful. You have to push them for information but keep yourself in their good stead sometimes for a long time. You have to have a vision and possibly share the vision…”one day you’re going to come to me with a drug deal going down and you’ll be the man – the king.” Or a robbery, or notes on a missing person, or even info about a murder, or whatever is happening behind closed doors in your neighborhood. Tell them your vision and retell them. The guys that are good with informants say they never give up on them until it is to their advantage to do that. Those who are not good with informants, say they tell them if they don’t produce they will drop them very quickly. The latter I see a few years later hating the job.
To take another example, wanting to move up in a department, means producing, getting along with bosses, studying for promotional exams and making oneself and others look good. If you fail in any of those areas, you lessen your chances of making rank or getting into investigative jobs (assuming you can’t donate you way in). So the officers that produce, don’t always get promoted. The high test scores sometimes get skipped over. Very frequently officers don’t find ways to persistently get themselves or their squads noticed by the bosses or even make sure the boss respects or likes them. But officers don’t define their job as getting along with their bosses, or self-promoting. If they do not move up their vision or goal gets lost. You must have a well-defined vision with steps you can take to make the vision come true.
Where does persistence start to become stubbornness and lead to negative effects? When is it better to just give up? When is it time to say “cut your losses and move on.” Bill Gates and Paul Allen were in high school when they started Traf-O-Data, a company that measured the impulses from pneumatic tubes in the roads that could tell what the traffic was doing. They figured out a way to take the 16-bit computer tape, make it into computer cards and analyze it into daily traffic flow on a university computer. The company closed when the vision of Microsoft came into mind. Microsoft has been a relatively more successful vision. See, every vision of persistence, should lead to acts of persistence which will lead to another vision of persistence. As a species, we human are changing all the time, and our visions change. Stubbornness is not following the change, forcing it to stay the same. You can be persistent without being stubborn.
As a police psychologist, I am constantly helping people form their vision, define the acts and make people successful. Whether it is with a panic attack or helping them progress in the department, success can be defined as being healthier. It doesn’t need to be a psychologist though, a friend can help you define what you do or need to do, or even a boss. All it takes is an understanding of when to persist and when to form a new vision. Be that person for someone you work alongside of and listen to their vision, even if it is not welcome at the time. You will not only help them form a vision, but it could form your next one.
Emilio and Gloria Estafan made a good Broadway show. The music, the dance, good looking people – I am probably the only jerk in the whole audience that saw a teaching point in all the fun. My 9-year old asked why she was not going with us, and I said because I don’t know if it is a show with adult scenes or not. It wasn’t – she would have loved it, and I would have loved her seeing it. For that is my vision for her, that she see things that give her dreams and visions of her own. And that is my vision for you, and I hope I helped that with this essay.
Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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