We finally have our office and library organized, a month and a week since moving from Camdenton to Springfield, Mo. As I write this, I note the office is a shrine to leadership and the Highway Patrol, two entities that have much in common. My musings today are centered around the public face of the FBI and the many fine agents that I have known at the “street” level. It would be a tremendous miscalculation to paint the Bureau the same color as their very public and controversial leader is being painted today.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI have much in common. They both are comprised of talented, aggressive and mission oriented folks who bust their collective humps to “serve and protect”. They know right from wrong and have highly refined senses of fair play. They are insulated from the political drama that surround their respective agencies by the appointed leaders that, for the most part, are the face of the organizations. In a 27 year career I have seen a variety of leadership styles, and effectiveness, come and go in the Patrol……so has the FBI. I have seen quiet, entirely competent Colonels and showy, incessant self promoters. I have seen cerebral bosses, tremendously effective change agents as well as status quo guys, who measured effectiveness in the avoidance of change. The pulse of a police agency can easily be taken by listening to the officers, and agents, who are doing the work…..and not listening to the bosses who are capitalizing on this work…and taking credit for it. Mid level supervision, and junior administrators, collectively, will sure as hell have the measure of an agency securely fixed in their internal data banks. The career officers and special agents who ARE the Patrol and Bureau, can, for the most part, tactfully steer their bosses in the right direction, relying on that collective reasoning thing that I find to be particularly effective. Sometimes, the ego and political side of the boss cannot be restrained…….and situations similar to the one now involving the director of the Bureau result. The mixture of politics and policing, a phenomenon that dates back to the beginning, is a dangerous affront to the public we serve. We should all be thankful the folks on the ground, on the streets and conducting the real business of policing and investigating are shielded from political reality by their bosses, however; this is a two edged sword.
Folks, believe me when I suggest the FBI we are seeing today on television, represented by the Director, is not the FBI that is going about their business with cutting edge effectiveness and efficiency. You won’t have to peel many layers of the FBI onion back, to find competent, apolitical operatives who will call it like it is. The really effective police leaders, the ones books are written about and who are fondly remembered by the officers and agents they led, knew how to walk the line between reality and the horrid political climate that exists today.
Bad things happen when the police are used to further political goals. Thankfully, this tactic invariably involves the Director, Chief or Colonel…….sparing the real centurions from the nastiness of not calling it like it is. Police bosses come and go, the agencies themselves are forever. Police leadership is not beanball…….