| I have always had a fascination with other cultures and the people that define them, even sub-cultures within our own society that present various aspects of behaviour we may not be aware of. When I travel, it’s the rituals and practices of the local people that I enjoy more than the scenery and hotel that I’m in.
Const. Khoa N. Hoang
There’s nothing more fascinating to me than having an opportunity to watch police culture. I am part of a selected few who hold a ticket, the badge, into one of life’s most interesting cultures. Every day I do my best to blend in like a ticket holder showing up late for a show, quiet, trying not to disturb the rest of the audience as I stumble to find my seat.
I watch and make note of the various songs and dance that separate police culture from the rest of society. Some of the acts I’ve observed are simply inspiring, while others are less desirable. But the beauty of life has always been the opportunity to become better.
Recently, I attended a lecture by Dr. Brian Goldman, a highly successful emergency physician at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital for more than 20 years. The title of his seminar, “Doctors make mistakes – Can we talk about it?” immediately caught my attention.
Over the next 30 minutes, I came to the conclusion that I was watching a fellow culture observer. Dr. Goldman had recognized that Canadian doctors hated talking about their mistakes and that the medical field will cease to evolve until doctors put aside their egos and support each other in sharing crucial information to stop future mistakes.
That’s when I realized, we police officers suffer from the same symptoms. When was the last time a police officer told a member of the public that they made a mistake? It would be even more rare for a police officer to share that they have made mistakes with one another. We all suffer from the same ego-driven culture that emergency doctors, military, and many other high stress jobs face on a daily basis.
It starts as a recruit, when I made my first mistake and was teased relentlessly by fellow recruits. Followed by the police instructors who keep yelling, “A mistake on the street could be your last!” None of which promoted an environment of sharing your oversights.
The next few years of a rookie’s career are filled with overwhelming information, experiences and expectations; nobody wants to make a mistake. In such a demanding field with mounting public pressure for accountability, I’m scared of what would happen if everyone knew the mistakes I made. But I made them and still make them today.
If it starts with training, then that’s where I’ll begin my work; I gave a lecture at a recruit training session called “Human Police Officers” where I spoke about the challenges of managing a personal life, public accountability, and making mistakes. I shared my personal experiences and tried to convince future police officers to support each other while promoting a positive work environment.
I explained that some officers, including supervisors, will overreact and treat them poorly after admitting to a mistake, but that good leaders have always allowed others to fail without ever being a failure.
Lastly, for what it was worth, our officers would earn my admiration if they could sacrifice their own egos and share a story that made them human and reduce the competitive corporate culture that has become toxic in many work places.