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Having been around policing for more than 30 years, I know that most members have an opinion or two on most subjects. When it comes to policing, they freely express to their colleagues some fairly strong views on what works and what doesn’t.

Interestingly, such candour seems increasingly muted when it comes to putting names to these opinions if they are published, or where managers may be alerted.

Case in point: Letters to the editor in Police News (also see page 4-5).

Very rarely is a letter writer comfortable with publication of their name, even in non-controversial circumstances when they are entitled to have an individual opinion, have a professional experience to share, or, when they are a subject matter expert in a particular field.

It seems contradictory when the “Be First, Then Do” mantra for Police suggests valuing different perspectives around the table, yet members don’t appear to feel safe enough to speak up.

What has created this environment that is by no means only applicable to Police News letters?

Police members on various social media sites regularly debate whether they should be free to post anonymously. While I am concerned about the lack of editorial oversight or self-control synonymous with anonymity, I don’t fully understand the nervousness of some contributors.

The growing reluctance of members to “put their head above the parapet” and express themselves is not restricted to the lower ranks, to this magazine or to social media handles.

I have witnessed senior leaders being reluctant to speak out at management meetings, not raising their concerns about projects, budget expenditure and general Police business.

This is truly disappointing, not the least because it has created an “emperor‘s clothes” scenario in that matters progress even though respected leaders consider them inappropriate but won’t risk bucking the prevailing opinion.

The upshot is we steadily squander the diversity of thought that leads to better decision making, growth and improvement needed in all organisations – including Police.

So, what’s fuelling this environment where people don’t feel safe to express a contrary opinion in a respectful and thoughtful manner?

Is it a byproduct of our social media world full of incognito keyboard warriors? Is it the unwritten rule of a hierarchical organisation that does not value being challenged? Is it a combination of both?

Personally, I have felt the impact of negative responses to opinions I have voiced, but that negativity needs to be called out, even more so as we enter a period of considerable change in the demographics of NZ Police. I believe, more than ever before, that opinions need to be valued and members should feel safe and entitled to express themselves and their views.

I am not convinced you could say that about the situation today.

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