Brenda Bond is a Professor of Public Administration at Suffolk University in Boston, MA. She speaks about organizational change in policing.
Brenda Bond is a Professor of Public Administration at Suffolk University in Boston, MA. She speaks about organizational change in policing.
[00:00:02.660] - Introduction
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The CopDoc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing, communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and Industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:00:34.660] - Steve Morreale
Well, hello, everybody, this is Steve Morreale with the podcast, and today we have Brenda Bond, Dr. Brenda Bond from Suffolk University, a dear friend for 20 something years who is very active in the universities, in public administration, has written books, has written articles, and is really focused on organizational change and decision making.
[00:00:57.020] - Steve Morreale
So, Brenda, I'll let you tell the audience a little bit more about yourself, but good morning.
[00:01:02.350] - Brenda Bond
Good morning, Steve. Thanks for having me. It's fun to be here. I love it when people say, tell us a little bit about yourself because it gives me an opportunity to think, who am I and what am I doing and what do I want people to know about what I'm doing. So I am a professor of public administration, as you said at Suffolk University, been there for about 14 years and really come to my work as an academic, as a researcher and as a partner thinking about how to improve public organizations.
[00:01:34.060] - Brenda Bond
My career started working as a director of research and development in a local police agency where I really, I think, gained an appreciation for bringing research and practice together and through that sort of on the ground experience working in an agency, I really appreciated the challenges of trying to improve an organization, the challenges experienced by officers and others in the agency. I have people in the community and I think it really gave me an opportunity to think about both sides.
[00:02:11.560] - Brenda Bond
How do we ask agencies and individuals to change, but also what are the challenges of change? So I have spent most of my career studying change in police organizations, studying how organizations work together to change, and also working with practitioners in all kinds of agencies. As you said, universities, police agencies, campus police agencies thinking about change and thinking about how to adapt. So that's what I've been doing. I love it. I'm learning every day and happy to talk through some of those experiences and ideas with you. So thanks.
[00:02:52.400] - Steve Morreale
One of the things that I know that you've been involved in is to try to sit with leaders and get them to think a little bit more broadly and recognize that they shouldn't operate in silos, but they are going to be more effective if they're working with other organizations. How do you broach that subject?
[00:03:11.930] - Brenda Bond
So I think part of what I try to do, actually, is think about problem-solving and improvement, and no matter, I've been very lucky to have worked with dozens of leaders, municipal leaders, police leaders, organizational leaders across the country in my career.
[00:03:35.390] - Brenda Bond
And one of the things that is really important to me as a principal for the way I work is to work with folks and say I'm not I'm not interested in in highlighting and emphasizing the failures or the weaknesses. But what I'm interested in is, is identifying those weaknesses and failures as opportunities, as a way to improve what you're doing, as a way to bolster the work of the officers or others civilians in organizations. So I broach it by saying I want to.
[00:04:08.410] - Brenda Bond
Help you think about and find new ways to improve the work that you're doing and to really showcase and highlight the important work of police agencies or these kinds of partnerships. So it's important to me to be able to be seen as an ally in change and try to find ways to really point out the real problems. Right. So, like, every organization has problems and we shouldn't hide them or try to pretend that they're not. They're what we should do is look at them and say, OK, what can we do differently?
[00:04:45.070] - Brenda Bond
And I don't know everything. And I say that when I'm working with different folks, I know things from my research and from different disciplines. And what we need to do is bring those new ideas and your experiences and ideas into the context in which you're operating right now. Right. So, like, I think I tried to emphasize context in the reality of existing in particular in a context. Right. Like municipal government, police operate in a context of community demands of labor unions, you know, resource limitations.
[00:05:23.830] - Brenda Bond
So I think I try to approach my work and change with acknowledging all of these different factors, I think. And hopefully it's helpful.
[00:05:36.610] - Steve Morreale
So one of the things that you did back in Lowell was that led to a book I was talking about a particular issue that was confronting it. And it seemed to me it was about reentry. That was one of the things you worked on. So here we are talking about police, police, arrest police, bring people to court. They turn them over to the court. Whatever happens, happens. They end up in jail. But ultimately, the boomerang is that they come back.
[00:06:05.260] - Steve Morreale
And I suppose we would hope that the corrections institutions would do some rehabilitation. But inevitably, people come back to where they're from. And I recall you working to say, let's break down the barriers between nonprofits, and policing and community corrections. So how did that work out? Was it resisted at first? In other words, what's our role in reentry? We're cops.
[00:06:33.100] - Brenda Bond
Yeah, that's a great example and one I haven't thought about in a little while, but I also did my dissertation on it. So now I feel like I know a lot more about it, but not everything. I remember when I did work in Lowell, there was a movement towards. Away from sort of traditional law enforcement, siloed ways of thinking about policing, but we were sort of in a transition phase, right? There was a new, I guess, paradigm being introduced in policing in the 80s and 90s around community policing.
[00:07:10.890] - Brenda Bond
And with that, I think, came some new ways of thinking about working together with other agencies. And I recall being at the police department as director of research and development and being asked to help to lead a new collaborative that was focused on reentry. And I thought, I don't know anything about this. What the heck do we have to do with this? I don't get it. This is a corrections thing, but through conversations and reading and sort of trying to say, OK, let's step back and think about just the point that you made.
[00:07:46.320] - Brenda Bond
We don't as police personnel, we weren't thinking about our role in the cycle. Right. The cycle was know, offenders entree into the system is through police and then they work through the system. But eventually, you know, some high percentage of 95% to 97% of offenders actually return to the community. And in a city like Lowell and a lot of cities, for all kinds of reasons, offenders come back to the cities or they come back to the place where their family is or where the resources are.
[00:08:21.600] - Brenda Bond
So there was not, I wouldn't say resistance to working on reentry, but sort of people thought, from my recollection, like this is not our lane. This is not what we're supposed to. This is not who we are, what we do, but through a lot of learning and dialogue. And we had the opportunity to be participating in a national pilot around re-entry. I think we sort of just. Became aware of. Or at least more, at least explicitly cognizant of the fact that these we know that these people come back, right.
[00:09:00.800] - Brenda Bond
So, like, if you're an officer and you work in a community or you're a service provider and you work in a community for a long time, you see the same people. Right. So, you know, the people, you get to know people. And so, you know, you know, so-and-so was incarcerated for a little while and now they're back. And so I think it was just a learning process. And it definitely took a couple of years to be thinking about the really critical role that police play in that cycle and having leadership.
[00:09:31.490] - Brenda Bond
And I think officers and managers and civilians who, like, recognize that we could play a role in this and that actually the safety of the community and the successful reentry did require that the police serve a leadership role, engage with folks from housing, folks from provider agencies that did substance abuse services or mental health services or workforce development. I like folks to come home. They need training. They need help finding jobs so that they can be successful. So I think that was it was a really enormous learning opportunity for us as an agency.
[00:10:17.360] - Brenda Bond
And again, we were so lucky to be involved in national projects where we got to learn from other agencies and really serve as or at least try to be a model and serve as a model for other communities and other police agencies. So it was actually that's a great example, because it was one of those examples of work experience that really just opened my eyes to all kinds of aspects of the work of police that I had even thought about or understood.
[00:10:49.040] - Steve Morreale
So at first, I think so many police departments, especially smaller police departments that have not had exposure to researchers and academics, that there's this fear of letting you in. At first, I think and and gratefully, there are progressive and innovative chiefs and other leaders in police agencies that are saying we need an outside perspective.
[00:11:12.320] - Steve Morreale
And so from your perspective, from the sidelines at first moving to behind the scenes very often as you see what's going on in the world in policing, especially in America, if I asked you what three things the police need to attend to, what comes to mind?
[00:11:31.090] - Brenda Bond
I don't know if I have just three, but I'll just start community relationships, and that is a term that is actually complicated because it requires that. We figure out one, what about community relationships, there are disconnects, and so you want to know what is what's behind that? And that gets complicated because there are issues around race and justice and power and culture. And so there's like a bucket I would call a bucket of things that are sort of really at the heart of community relationships.
[00:12:11.410] - Brenda Bond
And so that's something. And then again, related to that is sort of legitimacy. Which is definitely a buzzword being used now, but basically going back to Peel's principles of ethical policing, if the community and the people that you work with do not see you as legitimate, then they. Are really not consenting and giving you the power to help them live safe and healthy, happy, productive lives, et cetera. So I think I think legitimacy is it comes from these relationships.
[00:12:49.880] - Brenda Bond
It also comes from a lot of self-reflection of police agencies. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What do we need to do differently? And in that bucket, I something that I'm really passionate about is adaptability. Right. So and that's where change is. But it's just recognizing that that those who you serve adaptability, they may not use that language. But I mean, that's what we're seeing right now. Like you, I think you're seeing a lot of groups, individuals and groups saying you can't be the police agency that you were before.
[00:13:29.480] - Brenda Bond
You just can't. And so part of what I'm interested in is, OK, so this is not the first moment in time where external forces and many internal groups have said police need to change. So how do we create adaptive police organizations so that they can change so that they are aware so that change is not a threat, but it's more a natural evolution of who they are as an institution? I think community relationships, legitimacy and adaptation, those three things for me are.
[00:14:06.070] - Brenda Bond
Intertwined in ways that support each other and work off of each other.
[00:14:12.780] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, so one thing that comes to mind, I've written down so many notes as you're talking, and we could go off on any number of tangents. But one thing that strikes me is that so many police agencies feel at least they utter - what's wrong with what we're doing? Let's maintain the status quo. And yet the agency, as resistant as it might be to change, so many of them are so quick to make changes when they have to.
[00:14:41.260] - Steve Morreale
If you think about Covid and their reaction to Covid and I think communication seems to be a big concern. How are police leaders communicating to their constituents? What they're doing to improve the organization rather than staying silent? How are they using what's happened in other parts of the country to serve as a training mechanism? And it seems to me I'm not hearing a lot of that. But when you're walking into agencies, how are you suggesting to leaders that they should communicate better?
[00:15:17.020] - Brenda Bond
Yeah, that is an awesome example of what I think needs some attention. And I think what I have often talked to my public administration, graduate students, these are leaders and managers and nonprofit public organizations, is that you really do need in this day and age, given what we just talked about in terms of legitimacy, relationships and change, you really do need to have some kind of marketing strategy or branding strategy. And maybe it's not the kind of thing you could train for and maybe it's not the kind of thing that you think you should be spending your time and resources on.
[00:15:56.380] - Brenda Bond
But unfortunately, I think communication is critical. And so a lot of times I will say, how are you sharing information with the community and with your constituents about what you are doing? You and in some ways I'm saying you have to. Right. So a lot of the work I'm doing recently around campus policing and. And actually, other municipal agencies has to do with sort of like creating and sharing dashboards with the community and, you know, some people might say, well, that's.
[00:16:33.430] - Brenda Bond
It's sort of part of this new public management phase of being more transparent and accountable around performance. That's true, except when you can provide the information to the community, then they understand or they know. Right. If you are if you are sharing information about like what are we doing? What are the proactive things that we doing? What are the kinds of things that we are doing to improve? How many stops did we make? One of those stops look like then you are giving people information to be able to understand who you are.
[00:17:08.680] - Brenda Bond
You're also at least decreasing opportunities for the community to say you are a closed organization that is not sharing anything with us. Therefore, it's easy for us to see you as a target because we know nothing. Right? So when we know nothing, there are opportunities for us to poke at you. And so it's kind of a I think this idea I use the term dashboard, but basically it's sort of like what, what? And how can you share about yourself to the community.
[00:17:42.550] - Brenda Bond
Right. That external facing? Because it does because it does help to support information sharing, communication, legitimacy. So I understand that some agencies don't have capacity to do that. But I, see it as something that I'm observing as increasingly necessary, which does require that municipal leaders, police leaders think about the allocation of resources beyond just having an officer on the street. Right. Like we're talking about the management of organizations and decisions related to.
[00:18:20.130] - Brenda Bond
How you invest those resources, and I just think that this is something that we have to figure out because the community is demanding it and then, as you said, other agencies can learn from it. Right. Think about what we all do when we want to know something. We go to a Web page, we look at a Web page, and sometimes I look at these Web pages and I think, come on, you're missing an opportunity, right?
[00:18:48.750] - Brenda Bond
When you can't find information, you think, oh, they are not very you know, they're not very. Forthcoming, it came at the same time. It may not be that they're not forthcoming, they just haven't invested the resources and they don't have the capacity. And I get I mean, if I were to say this to achieve or a leader, I would say I get it. I get it. You only have so many resources, but you have to step back and think about how you use those resources to support those relationships and that how people form their opinion of you and get and gain perspective on you these days is based on your communications through things like Web pages or other social media platforms.
[00:19:39.210] - Steve Morreale
So interesting because I wrote social media when you were talking about marketing and branding, that that that strikes me. And I think we've touched on the transparency that people are expecting at this point in time. Social media becomes social important. There are times when I'm talking even to universities and other and other police agencies to say what's wrong with saying this is what we're thinking about. This is what we're considering. We would welcome your input. We have not yet made a decision, but I don't want to make that decision unilaterally.
[00:20:10.660] - Steve Morreale
So we welcome feedback. I think that's a smart thing. But social media, it's interesting in my classes, one of the things I have students do is they look at police websites. The first thing is to go to your hometown website, go to a major city in New England now, go to a city outside of the state. Now go to a country to see how they are communicating through social media. And it's interesting that even young students will say they don't seem to care about keeping us up to date because the last time I saw it was three months ago.
[00:20:41.100] - Steve Morreale
So if you're going to do it, you've got to have somebody do it. But the first thing that and I'd love your feedback on this., I understand police departments don't feel the need to market, as you said, or to brand, but I think they're missing the opportunities to reach back to organizations that do this for a living, many of whom would do it as a public service. And certainly universities with marketing or business may very well have some graduate students that would love to say to sit down with the organization, tell me what you're doing, tell me what you're good at, tell me what you're trying to do and help push that out.
[00:21:18.030] - Brenda Bond
What's your thought? Well, yes, I think partnerships with different one, like you said, academic institutions or like, you know, institutions around you. So if you're two or four small police agencies, why not to get together and say, OK, how can we to collectively solve this problem? Right. And, you know, you've seen agencies do those kinds of things where they regionalize other types of things, like SWAT teams or other things.
[00:21:45.370] - Brenda Bond
So, you know, I often go back to a statement that I heard from former Cambridge City Police Commissioner Robert Haas. I will never forget and use often something he said about crime analysis. And a lot we were in I can't remember exactly where we were, but I know that we were in a situation where we were talking about capacity and not having the capacity. And agencies don't always have the capacity to, you know, have their own crime analysis unit as an example.
[00:22:19.330] - Brenda Bond
And I remember him saying if a chief thinks it's a priority, they make it happen. And that makes me think a lot about specialized units, right, a drug unit, a domestic violence unit, a crime analysis unit, a research and planning unit, a traffic unit, evidence unit. So in the traditional structure of police agencies and police institutions, specialized units are a way to signal an organizational or community priority. And if we are to stick with the traditional structures, then I think there is just a conversation to be had about the priority of this type of thing.
[00:23:07.740] - Brenda Bond
Now, I would expect if I were to have a conversation with a chief or a leader or sworn folks who might say, well, certainly criminal investigations is more important than social media. And I would then say, OK, well, let's just go back to the context in which you're operating, what in your community, let's take a look at your crime statistics. And for the most part.
[00:23:37.810] - Brenda Bond
I'm talking about this without having any specific research study in front of me to refer to, but for the most part, most communities are not struggling with one hundred homicides a month or one hundred homicides a year. Yes, you have communities that are and of course, they have to think about the context in which they operate and community priorities and needs. So I'll put that to the side. For the most part, police agencies are not running from officers are not running from emergency calls.
[00:24:15.130] - Brenda Bond
They might have to go to file a report because somebody had their bike stolen or yes, you have a neighbor dispute that could become volatile or yes, you have domestic violence incidents. Right. So like acknowledging that you do have emergency situations, medical calls, et cetera. But I would say that a really valuable exercise for any leader would be to say, what are the kinds of things that we are doing that really could. We could institute an alternative response or maybe file a report online.
[00:24:48.050] - Brenda Bond
Let's think about how our officers use our time or how we use our resources, and then think about social media and marketing and community relationships and legitimacy as another way to support our organization. And then how would we solve that problem of capacity? And that is a reflective exercise. It is maybe one that folks are not trained in or comfortable with because this is change and adaptation. But I would challenge anyone who would say we don't have time and I would challenge them by saying, OK, wait a minute, let's step back and think about this.
How are we spending our time? Not everybody likes me for that, but that's OK. I mean, I just think it's an exercise worth having.
And when you think about prioritizing,
[00:25:40.490] - Steve Morreale
well, you've used a couple of words and you use them quite consistently about context and understanding context in that particular organization, that particular community. And you also say, you know, let's think about this. And I think that one of the things that outsiders can sometimes bring to the department, to a department is, is the opportunity to ask questions and to force the leader to be reflective, to answer questions. Even the questions I'm asking you, there were a few that you're saying, I never really thought of it that way.
[00:26:15.050] - Steve Morreale
You're quick to answer because I know you live this, but I think so many people, especially leaders, do not get pushback from their people about, well, what about this? And have we thought about that? Is there anybody doing it differently? Where can we find a new idea? Can we be trailblazers or do we follow? And so I think that's where outsiders like you or me or other academics or certainly consultants can be very valuable.
[00:26:41.430] - Steve Morreale
I want to focus on something you've been paying an awful lot of attention to in focus groups. And so we've got a few more minutes. And then I want to ask a couple of more personal questions. But in a couple of minutes, can you talk about what you're getting as some sort of a similarity between the people you're talking about, their concerns, their desires, either their resistance, reluctance or interest in change?
[00:27:09.080] - Brenda Bond
So, I have been doing all these focus groups most recently around campus public safety, so I'm going to just ground my response in that.
[00:27:16.940] - Brenda Bond
But there are a lot of similarities, I think, in other policing contexts. I think that there is a real. Frustration being expressed by different. Constituent groups around the inability of the police to change the inability of the police to provide the "services" that are appropriate for the context, and I know that I'm saying the same thing I just said, but here's an example. Do the police actually have to be the ones to respond to every single call for service right now?
[00:27:59.260] - Brenda Bond
Absolutely not. And that is really glaringly obvious in a campus environment where you have public safety as not public safety, whatever the public safety unit is in many of the campus environments that I've been working on, they have become the de facto call, 911, 24/7, 311 everything. Right. And so campus police, this is an example of something that we hear that is so obviously ridiculous. But campus police are the ones responsible for responding to students being locked out of their dorm rooms.
[00:28:37.300] - Brenda Bond
It's ridiculous for all kinds of reasons. Is that really how we should be using trained police, how the students feel about the police showing up at their homes? Right. Like they're in their space. And so there are all kinds of really interesting things to learn from that example. So campus police as being the first responders or only responders for mental health calls. Now, that's complicated because in some instances, mental health calls do present themselves with safety risks to the individual and others.
[00:29:10.810] - Brenda Bond
And I know municipal police have grappled with this, too, but there's a lot of movement around the role of police or others in mental health response. So there's just a real recognition that the police should not be the ones responding to all of these calls and systems have set it up. So the police are the ones that you call recognizably the police are the 24/7 point of entry for all kinds of human needs. And I think that I'm hearing that that's not right anymore.
[00:29:39.220] - Brenda Bond
And people want something different. And then there's training and there's hiring issues like are we are we recruiting and hiring and training for the needs of communities today and in the future or for what we think policing was twenty five years or forty years ago. So there's a lot of that. I think there's also I'm really fascinated by all this police reform at the municipal level and at the state level. There are conversations about these external review boards and these external certification boards, certainly here in Massachusetts.
[00:30:14.320] - Brenda Bond
And what I'm finding slightly annoying is that there are some who are saying, well, the police should be the only ones on these certification boards. How can civilians know anything about this? And I'm annoyed because I'm thinking if we're talking about police training and education, then why wouldn't we have educators involved? Right. I'm not saying that the police get discarded as not knowing anything, but they are an important stakeholder group. But this is exactly what I'm seeing as the resistance is just our governor in Massachusetts recently sent a bill back and said, you know my words, it's too civilian, heavy, civil.
[00:30:59.420] - Brenda Bond
And where that comes from, I can only imagine but that boards and certifications should primarily be made up of people who are law enforcement folks suggesting that nobody else could possibly. Contribute, and so I see that as sort of that closed-minded way of thinking and missed opportunities. I think so. I don't know. It's just some of the kinds of things I'm saying just change. Change is definitely afoot.
[00:31:30.920] - Steve Morreale
Right? We're running out of time. One of the things that comes to mind and that deserves some pretty serious exploration is training and how training is dismissed in Massachusetts, among other places, because of funding, because of time, over time. So that's important.
[00:31:47.000] - Steve Morreale
Let me get personal with you for a couple of minutes. What podcasts do you listen to?
[00:31:54.670] - Brenda Bond
So I'm going to look just to make sure I can offer some thoughtful suggestions, I mean, I listen to a lot of podcasts that are about.
[00:32:06.100] - Brenda Bond
Me and my own professional and personal growth and podcasts, I love because in some ways it's more about the self-help section at the bookstore. And so some of the things are like in my world, there's a research and action podcast that I listen to Katie Lindor. She also offers a podcast called You've Got This, which is really about goal setting and planning. I also listen to a podcast called Life Kit. There's also I've been trying to collect podcast recently around racial race and equity and inclusion.
[00:32:50.050] - Brenda Bond
So I've got this one called Code Switch. And there's also some local podcasts is one called the four ninety five, which is really about my region. Some around teaching lecture breakers is another one. I also have a podcast called Civics 101, which is actually mostly geared towards young people. But it helps me not just for my teaching but also with my kids and a way for me to sort of introduce sort of things around. You know, policy issues, but at a kid level, my kids are young.
[00:33:31.220] - Brenda Bond
I listen to a podcast by Gretchen Rubin called Happier.
[00:33:35.840] - Brenda Bond
So a lot of it is definitely self-help, but it does. What I like about these particular ones is that, I do so much work reading and thinking about the context and policy issues and research and things like that. Sometimes I need these podcasts as ways for me to make sense of that stuff, to make sense of how I do the work. And I think that's where my inclinations are around. What kind of podcasts are helpful to me?
[00:34:07.820] - Steve Morreale
Well, you certainly are a connoisseur of podcasts, which is great. And obviously it's because we all have a lot of extra time. Brenda, I can't thank you enough. It has been enlightening. And what I'm finding as I begin entering into the podcast world, that there's so much that people can offer and so there will be opportunities for us to get back together. So thank you very much for being here.
[00:34:32.780] - Brenda Bond
Thanks. I love having these conversations. It's another form of self-help. Yeah. Because it's just great to have a dialogue and just think about these things out loud. So thanks for having me.
[00:34:45.310] - Steve Morreale
Yeah. Thank you.
[00:34:46.460] - Steve Morreale
So ladies and gentlemen, thanks for listening. I'm Steve Morreale from Boston and this is The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:34:52.400] - Steve Morreale
Stay tuned for other episodes where we will talk to other academics, government leaders, police leaders from Los Angeles to New England, from Northern Ireland, from universities abroad, from Ireland and England and Tempe, Arizona and Australia. So we look forward to sharing because there's so much we can learn together. Have a good day.
[00:35:17.450] - Outro
Thanks for listening to the podcast with Dr. Steve. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune in to the podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.