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Street Cop Training

June 14, 2022

The Importance of Defining a Mission Statement

I think at one point or another, nearly every law enforcement agency in the United States had “Protect and Serve” was boldly placed on their patrol vehicles. Many agencies still include it as a part of their vehicle’s livery. The tagline sums up what I believe the broad intent is of peace officers in this nation, but it’s a platitude. To get a peek at a particular agency’s actual purpose, I find their mission statement to be much more revealing. So let’s talk about mission statements, how they should be structured, what their purpose is, and what the individual action guy can do with their agency’s mission statement.

A mission statement should answer the question, “what is your purpose?” It should be straightforward and actionable for those inside the agency, and it should align with the needs of the community the agency serves. It’s the opening to the agency’s elevator speech. I would offer up the mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad as an example. “To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, and to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat.” Now, for posterity’s sake, I’m not suggesting anyone should adopt an adversarial mission statement. But the mission is clear, and if offered no other directive, a Marine need only refer to the mission to guide their following action.

As a guide to action, the mission statement should be able to be plugged into our orientation to act as a lens through which we can process situations. We should be able to take a decision we’re going to make and compare it to our mission statement. We should be able to align our decision-making process with our mission statement. We have the black and white laws that we enforce, but the mission statement should help us balance that officer discretion side of our Profession. 

The actual crafting of a mission statement likely falls to administrators in your agency. Perhaps that can cause some distancing between the individual road cops and the lofty ideals of some desk jockey (just some light ribbing there, admin). But if you haven’t become too salty and jaded yet, I would challenge you to take your agency’s mission statement and consider it from the community you serve. Then, go out on a shift and consciously ask yourself, “are my actions on patrol supporting my agency’s mission?”

I don’t have enough years under my belt to assert that the campaign we see against our profession is new or unique. But it doesn’t take a seasoned veteran to know that we’re facing difficult times in policing. Many work in areas with people who are inarguably hostile to people wearing a badge. It is critical that we stay true to our mission and not get distracted by those that hate those of us in uniform. The opposition is loud, but I think the voting cycle in Minneapolis demonstrated that the majority of the people we serve still appreciate what we do every day. Those that appreciate what we do still make up the majority. Be excellent for those individuals.