We interviewed Mike Wynn, Chief of the Pittsfield, MA Police Department in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. We discussed the practice of leadership, developing leaders, the mental well-being of police, and the state of policing and police reform.
We interviewed Mike Wynn, Chief of the Pittsfield, MA Police Department in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. We discussed the practice of leadership, developing leaders, the mental well-being of police, and the state of policing and police reform.
[00:00:00.083] - Steve Morreale
So good morning, I have Chief Michael when Mike Wynne from the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Police Department this morning before we get started. Mike, good morning.
[00:00:08.123] - Mike Wynn
Good morning. How are you today, Steve?
[00:00:10.313] - Steve Morreale
I am fine. I want to describe for the listeners where Pittsfield is. And I'd like you to tell us about your Pittsfield Police Department. But Pittsfield, if you think about the old James Taylor song and "so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston, Pittsfield is right near there. And it's the big city, the big little city out there, and it's in the Berkshires. So tell us about you first and then tell us about the police department, how big it is, how busy you are, and let's get started.
[00:00:37.013] - Mike Wynn
OK, so I am a long-time resident of Pittsfield. I was born and raised here, graduated from Pittsfield Public Schools, I left briefly to spend some time with the United States Naval Academy. Before I changed, my interest in colleges, came back to the Berkshires, graduated eventually from Williams College, and then shortly thereafter joined the police department originally with the intent of getting some law enforcement experience and making the jump to the federal side for a variety of reasons.
[00:01:03.173] - Mike Wynn
In my personal life, that never happened. So I've been with the Pittsfield Police Department for pretty much my entire career with one brief interruption in the middle. I did spend some time at the DEA Academy and came up through the ranks here in law enforcement for about twenty-six years. I'm starting my fourteenth year as the chief and we are a small, mid-sized police department. Population of our city is about forty-four thousand, a little more than forty-four thousand.
[00:01:30.023] - Mike Wynn
But because we are the county seat, our daytime population we estimate is about seventy thousand. And so our authorized strength is ninety-five. Our actual strength on the books right now is right around ninety-two or a little down where we're a full municipal police department. We have our own detective bureau, a Crime Lab, our own drug unit, our own traffic unit, canine special response team. So even though we are out here in the beautiful Berkshires, we do city-style policing.
[00:01:57.353] - Mike Wynn
We're actually in the process right now of working to try to receive a HIDTA designation because of the roadway layout. We're in the New England Field Division, but we sit on the border of the New York field division and we're surrounded by interstate highways. So we deal with guns, gangs, drugs, and we it's a beautiful place to live. It's a beautiful place to grow up. But it does have city crime. So that's that's what we deal with.
[00:02:21.983] - Steve Morreale
Well, that's understandable.
[00:02:23.123] - Steve Morreale
And so being out there and being sort of the larger organization for policing, do other smaller communities, your border towns rely on Pittsfield for some help?
[00:02:32.993] - Mike Wynn
So historically, other than routine mutual aid to go in and maybe back them up on shifts that they were short, that to the extent that you would believe Massachusetts is a little different than some other states. So our district attorney is a state district attorney there, elected by county and the state police has a detective unit assigned to the DA's office. So the other towns rely more on the state police DU. What's happened in the last several years is for some specialized functions like force investigations or internal affairs that the state police can't or won't do for a municipal police department.
[00:03:11.243] - Mike Wynn
We've started doing some of them for some of the small towns and more so that when they call us for mutual aid and we go into those smaller communities, we actually rely on that for mutual aid. When we have large-scale incidents, they backfill essentially to help us answer calls. What we're dealing with a crisis.
[00:03:28.763] - Steve Morreale
We're talking to Mike Wynn, he's the police chief in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. And Mike, I want to ask a couple of questions that relate to policing in the state of policing. Here you are in the foothills of the Berkshires and you watch TV, you see the social media, you see the impact and the derision of police agencies and the mistakes of many, some of them horrendous, others in blue. How do you deal with that? How do you talk about that?
[00:03:56.063] - Steve Morreale
How do you use that as teachable moments? How do you drive that through your organization and how do you communicate? That's a multilayered question, but how do you communicate both with your people and with the people who you are entrusted to protect?
[00:04:09.983] - Mike Wynn
So you have to confront these issues head-on and directly and you have to confront them with transparency and honesty. But you have to do that on both sides. So law enforcement, as we both know, is kind of a unique profession where the actions of somebody who wears a similar uniform to you anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, really can you all with the same broad brush? And it's unfortunate, but it's a reality that we have to deal with.
[00:04:36.203] - Mike Wynn
So I remind my officers frequently that what we see on television is news, although we may not have done it. The person that we're interacting with, that's the first thing in the forefront of their mind. They're looking at our uniform and our badge and they're seeing whatever they're recollecting from that news cycle. On the other hand, when I talk to the community and say we understand that, what have you had a similar experience to that with our agency or with our officers?
[00:05:00.133] - Mike Wynn
And if you haven't, you need to give us the benefit of the doubt. We do things in the Commonwealth much differently than they do elsewhere in the country. We have a higher standard of training, our standard of accountability. And so it's not fair to us and to the community if we're being lumped in with the bad acts of somebody two thousand miles away.
[00:05:17.263] - Steve Morreale
So you've written a book on leadership, and I want to move towards that. What drew you to management? Why weren't you satisfied being a line officer? And for us that raised our hand and said, oh, I'll be a sergeant, I'll be a lieutenant. And then you realize what happens is that you lose sort of the cushiness that you have come to pass. The sergeant becomes the junior sergeant and where they may have been on days or they've been in detectives.
[00:05:40.843] - Steve Morreale
Next thing you know, congratulations. You've been promoted. You're on Benites. Right. So we go through that. And what drew you, what drew you to some leadership positions.
[00:05:51.223] - Mike Wynn
So I don't know that it was deliberate. I mean, it was always part of my plan when I realized I was going to be in the DEA for the long haul for most of my life, going back to what I was a Boy Scout, actually, a young scout kind of had two principles that I hold personally important. And one is similar to the outdoor code. Leave every situation better than I found it. And I try to approach relationships and organizations and teams.
[00:06:17.923] - Mike Wynn
That way I'm going to be part of something. I want to improve it. And the other one is that I know that I've achieved a high degree of skill in something, what I can teach it. And so what I got into law enforcement, it quickly became apparent to me that if I wanted to be professional, if I wanted to demonstrate that I was proficient, I was going to have to get into a position where I could teach what I was doing and also where I could make change.
[00:06:41.683] - Mike Wynn
And I certainly had some influence as a line officer, particularly as a field training officer, as a team member on the SRT. But when I got those line-level positions, I really wanted to do more and I kind of set a goal for myself. I thought it would be reasonable under my fire chief, that if I could make a sergeant's job in five years and then maybe a lieutenant's job in 10 years, that would probably be where I could be the most influential and make the biggest change.
[00:07:06.913] - Mike Wynn
Everything after that was was not part of the plan necessarily. It was more based on circumstance and things that were happening in the department around me.
[00:07:15.073] - Steve Morreale
So you've worked for some leaders, you've seen leaders. We all work for leaders and managers, some who are better than others. And I hope that we learn from the mistakes and leaders and managers so we don't repeat that. But at what point in time did you begin to see the distinct differences between managing the organization and leading the organization?
[00:07:36.103] - Mike Wynn
So I saw that fairly early on in my law enforcement leadership journey. And it's actually one of the things that I briefly talk about in the book. So I decided that I was going to start getting ready for promotional exams and I went to the reading list where civil service department. So you go to the state sponsored reading list. And I went through the books and there were some books on law enforcement. There were some books out community policing, and there were some books on criminal justice.
[00:08:00.463] - Mike Wynn
But the books on leadership, they were management books. They were books that were intended for chief commander or higher. And there wasn't anything in there about leading teams, influencing people how to communicate with your people, to inspire them, to motivate them. And I had some exposure to that in my time at the Naval Academy in 06. So I couldn't believe it wasn't there. And when I took the test, they really weren't testing for anything about first line supervision.
[00:08:27.973] - Mike Wynn
So that's when I kind of became aware of the distinction. And then I had the opportunity as a fairly junior sergeant in two thousand three, as I said, to spend some time at the DEA Academy in their leadership development unit. And then I really got to explore and do some work on what the difference was. It became very, very apparent to me that we weren't doing any favors to our aspiring supervisors if we weren't front loading leadership and taking a step back from management management's very important.
[00:08:58.543] - Mike Wynn
I was disdainful of it. As a young supervisor, you can't you can't do the job if you don't have the resources that it's the management teams job to make sure that everybody has access to the resources they need. What leadership is the key to everything? Leadership is what enables you to continue to get the mission done when the resources are scarce. We all work in organizations where they tell you to do less with more. You can't do that without leadership.
[00:09:21.193] - Steve Morreale
So as we're talking, you were down when you were DEA. That was down at the at Quantico. Yeah, is that right? And obviously the FBI has a leadership. They have the National Academy and they do some good work on in terms of leadership. But knowing your military side and the experience you had and working in the military, does it strike you that we as a discipline, we pretend and I say that tongue in cheek, but we pretend to be in the likeness of the military, but we have stopped focusing on leadership development.
[00:09:53.443] - Steve Morreale
In other words, in order for you to get promoted in the military, you immediately are going to go to a leadership school before. And you're going to get into a leadership development school that doesn't happen in the policing usually, and I'm sure I'm seeing that smile. And we're lucky to see each other, even though you'll listen to us only with audio. But it seems to me this is the way that we handle it in policing. Somebody is getting ready to leave, retire, get promoted.
[00:10:17.803] - Steve Morreale
We have to wait. There's an acting that comes in. And then the next thing you know, you are promoted and you are generally promoted without any training yet. What do you think about that?
[00:10:27.523] - Mike Wynn
Well, I hope we're moving away from that. It certainly has been a model that I've seen not only in my department, but elsewhere.
[00:10:33.553] - Mike Wynn
We are a uniformed paramilitary structure entity, and I don't think we're going to get away from that anytime soon, although after the acts of 2020, it may be time to reevaluate the necessity of that. But you're right that historically we don't provide leadership training or leadership development until after somebody is always in the right. And that's in my in my opinion, that's a recipe for disaster. So I spent a lot of time in the last several years trying to address that, at least internally.
[00:11:03.103] - Mike Wynn
But one of the things that I've come to realize in particularly in the last year, it's something that I've thought about a lot over the last several years. But following George would like it really came poise even. That's too late doing it. Pre-promotion is too late. Law enforcement at every level is leadership. It's leadership in the community. And we really need to start providing some degree of leadership development at the very beginning of that officer's career. I wrote an article following the George Floyd killing, and one of the questions I asked was those two trainees, the two officers who were on scene, they knew something was wrong and they were trying to communicate that they wanted to do something else, but they didn't have the language or the skills to confront a senior older veteran officer and take charge of that situation.
[00:11:52.533] - Mike Wynn
That's a leadership failure. And I think if they had been provided with even just some cursory leadership development staff at the recruit level, that they may have been more vocal and more forceful and that that could have been avoided.
[00:12:05.683] - Steve Morreale
That's a great point of view. I appreciate that. And I can only assume that these are the conversations you're having in your police agency to say you have to intervene. This is the expectation. And that's the other thing I want to talk about. Mike, seems to me that I've heard so many times you and I do training where I'll make a pitch. We're both working down at Roger Williams University with the Justice System Training and Research Institute. And when you talk to sergeants as as you and I do, there are some who will say it's not my job to tell a police officer what their job is.
[00:12:34.933] - Steve Morreale
And I, I shirk at that. I shiver at that to say it is your job, it's your job to set expectations. It's your job not only to set expectations once, but regularly. We do it with our kids. And I'm not saying that police officers are kids. But how can you expect that as a manager, a leader are not going to hold somebody accountable for something they're not sure they're accountable for. What's your thought about that?
[00:13:00.043] - Mike Wynn
Not only to set expectations, but to model expectations and to take corrective action when expectations are met? And so when I work with the first line supervisors class, you put a slide up and says you are these part of your job as a sergeant? Is it your job to train? Well, I'm not a trainer, so I didn't say, are you a trainer? I'm not saying you have to run the in-service, but if you see substandard performance, do you take corrective action and provide some training?
[00:13:24.133] - Mike Wynn
Oh, yeah, I can do that. Is it your job to discipline? That's the chief's job. No, it's the chief's job to finalize and impose the discipline. It's your job to start that process and if it's serious enough to do it right away. And so going back to the disdain for the management, if you look at a textbook definition of management roles, there's a whole bunch of stuff in there. But teaching, leading modeling, they're all listed.
[00:13:48.043] - Mike Wynn
And those are all things that are also part of leadership. So if you're a new supervisor, you're a young sergeant and you're running a squad or a team. It's not somebody else's job to set the standard and set the culture for that team. It's yours. And it may be the lieutenant's job or the captain's job or the chief's job to communicate to you what the overall arching expectations in the culture is for the whole organization. So you can integrate.
[00:14:13.303] - Mike Wynn
But the day-to-day stuff belongs to the first-line supervisor and to some extent to the senior officers on that squad. And you've all got to be working in unison, move it in the same direction so that when something does occur that's out of norm or out of expectation, the team itself will. I don't like the expression, but the team will self-police and stop that in progress. Instead of letting it go too far down the road, that discipline now becomes required.
[00:14:37.573] - Steve Morreale
Another thing that comes to mind as you're talking is a former chief said, which really struck me, it was Dean Esserman. But what he said was that what you have to understand is to the line officer, the sergeant is the boss. That's the closest leader that they know,
[00:14:53.143] - Steve Morreale
The chief or the captain, I don't want to hear from them because it's only the only one. There's problems. But but that. Most officers will come into the job as an officer and retire as an officer because there's so few who jump up. And so what that goes back to is that discussion about how important the officer, the line officer is in leadership in the community and taking that leadership role. So I want to ask a question. What do you know now that you wish you knew earlier as a leader?
[00:15:19.803] - Steve Morreale
In other words, what are the things you've learned over time, the mistakes, the missteps that you have made? We all have made them. What comes to mind when we talk about what you now know and what you can pass on to your budding lieutenants and captains and such?
[00:15:33.453] - Mike Wynn
Well, I don't want to be facetious, but I think the most important thing I know now is that being a police lieutenant was the best job I ever had.
[00:15:40.023] - Mike Wynn
And I probably should have stopped there, but I didn't. And so I wish that as a new supervisor, as a new commander, that I understood some of the limitations that are placed on the agency, some of the things that due to budget constraints or personnel restraints, when I was a new supervisor, if I was in charge, we would do this, this, this and this. And then when you find out the reality of what's being passed on to the command, you realize that you can't.
[00:16:08.673] - Mike Wynn
But the other thing that I wish I had known is that commanders, myself included, there is some degree of isolation where we're away from the front line. So we may not know something that everybody down in the roll call room takes for granted and assumes that we know. So you don't speak up or ask, then you can't be disappointed when it doesn't happen. I have fairly regular conversations with my junior commanders and my supervisors and even some of my line officers.
[00:16:36.573] - Mike Wynn
They'll express that they're frustrated with lack of a piece of equipment or damage to a car like, OK, did you tell anybody because we would have gotten to that or we would have fixed that. But you didn't pass it on. So it's not an excuse for commander isolation, but isolation is a very real thing. The farther you move away from the front line, the less information you have in real time. So leading up, keeping your supervisors and your bosses informed of what's actually happening on the ground level is incredibly important.
[00:17:05.913] - Mike Wynn
And I wish that as a new supervisor, I had done more of that, communicating to my commanders what my team needed.
[00:17:12.543] - Mike Wynn
Mike, were you ever micromanaged. Oh, probably. Yeah, I probably was micromanaged.
[00:17:21.033] - Steve Morreale
Did you like it?
[00:17:21.693] - Mike Wynn
No. Nobody ever likes being micromanaged.
[00:17:23.843] - Steve Morreale
Do you micromanage a time?
[00:17:25.413] - Mike Wynn
I work really, really hard not to.
[00:17:27.603] - Steve Morreale
That's not the question, sir.
[00:17:30.463] - Mike Wynn
I'm sure I do.
[00:17:32.683] - Steve Morreale
[00:17:32.683] - Mike Wynn
And I think one of the things that I'm proudest of is that I've developed a command and a command culture that if I slide into that behavior, they'll check me on it. I'm a big proponent of decision-making and planning at the lowest possible level. So I try to stay hands off of everything that's not within my immediate sphere of concern. I just thought I was doing some work yesterday on some policy development. And I've come to realize that policy development, that's something I micromanage.
[00:18:02.013] - Mike Wynn
I'm hands-on at every step of that, but for actual operational stuff I really try to stay away from.
[00:18:07.653] - Steve Morreale
So let's talk about command staff and the conversations that you have that are not necessarily tactical or operational, but our bigger picture, where do we want to be? How do you want to lead? How do you want to develop? What are the conversations that you have around the table?
[00:18:22.653] - Mike Wynn
So I'm very fortunate amid a situation in the last couple of years that all of my command staff, now our command staff that I supervised and mentored, there's there's no incumbents that I inherited left. So that facilitates a lot of these communications. One of the things is that we want to be progressive, forward thinking, technologically innovative service, law enforcement agency. So the status quo is not going to be good enough for our team. We always want to be looking at how we can do things better.
[00:18:54.603] - Mike Wynn
And so I ask them to do that. But the other thing that we implemented actually just over a year ago is formal, formal commander's intent. And so essentially what I told my team is if I advocated for you or promoted you, I trust you. And what's up in your shop and within your area is yours to control unless it's going to have impact on another division, another shop or another area. So do it and tell me what you did.
[00:19:21.033] - Mike Wynn
Don't wait for permission and ask me if you can do it, because that's inefficient. So we really have taken a big step in telling our senior level commanders in particular, and now it's actually starting to move to our mid-level managers that if you think it's the right thing for your team to complete the mission, make the change and let us know what you're doing. And the only exception to that is if it's going to have broader impact beyond your team, then we've got to coordinate it with your colleagues to make sure that it's not going to have a negative impact on their team.
[00:19:49.023] - Steve Morreale
So you've talked about leading up, which I love to hear, and it sounds like it's a work in progress that you're constantly working to improve the organization, even in the light of all the. covid, absolutely. If you're not an adaptive and responsive, flexible agency, you're not going to you're not going to weather the storm of something like 20, 20 with the joint problems of covid and all the civil unrest as a result of calls for police reform.
[00:20:16.403] - Mike Wynn
It wasn't easy. It wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. But because we had been spending a lot of time working that element of owning your own operational area and making decisions, we were able to pivot very quickly in the face of some pretty unanticipated things. One of the things that happened for our department early last year is I essentially went from being the chief of police full time, overseeing my captains to being the logistics section chief for a pandemic response on the management team, which meant that my captains had to lead the department essentially in my absence for about four months.
[00:20:56.423] - Mike Wynn
But we were in regular communication. But I, I relocated from our headquarters to another facility and they ran the shop and they ran it incredibly well. That's not something that I think we could have done a decade ago. But because we do work on continuous improvement and we're always trying to encourage our supervisors and commanders to step up and take on additional responsibility, that that happened with no notice and no loss of ability or performance.
[00:21:23.873] - Mike Wynn
You know, police agencies are notorious for resisting change, and yet we have the ability to change on a dime. Think about what happened with what you had to deal with, with every agency, had to deal with, with covid.
[00:21:36.833] - Steve Morreale
And I think that's interesting in my mind that we catch a bad rap
[00:21:41.813] - Mike Wynn
When I work with the supervisors down at the institute or with my new supervisors. I always said nobody likes changes hard and cops like change less than anybody. But the reality is change is inevitable. And so you can take one of two positions. One is that that old saw, if it ain't broke, why fix it? It was good enough for me or be good enough for them.
[00:22:01.733] - Steve Morreale
And you'll be miserable because change is coming. Or you can step back and you can say, how are we going to change when the new stimulus comes? What is our plan going to be when change is inevitable? And if you do that, then you're looking down the road at what new trade and you need, what new equipment you need, what new relationships you need. And when the new stimulus comes, the change is is small, it's adaptable, it's not easy.
[00:22:26.603] - Mike Wynn
And there's always going to be people who are going to balk. But if you embrace the inevitability of change, then it's a little less stressful when it happens.
[00:22:35.423] - Steve Morreale
Yeah. And it's I think it's interesting. I won't go in that direction. What three issues do you think police need to address?
[00:22:40.523] - Mike Wynn
What three issues do we need to address in 2021? I definitely think that we need to take a very hard look at community expectations and community norms. If the civil unrest of last year showed us anything, it's that many communities and to some extent my community, they don't actually know what the function of the police department is and what police are trained to do. And in some cases, they don't want police departments doing things that we historically have done.
[00:23:11.063] - Mike Wynn
I can tell you that last spring and summer here, we dealt with an uptick in our homeless population and my conversations with my boss, the mayor, we made a deliberate decision that addressing the issues of homelessness was not going to be a police department function into the city. We would assist the other agencies if they called us. But if we were receiving complaints, is the city was receiving complaints about somebody with no criminal behavior just because they were on house.
[00:23:35.603] - Mike Wynn
The first person they spoke to wasn't going to be a uniformed police officer so that the community expectations and norms is one the other. The second one that I would say is we need to identify national standards for police performance. What's acceptable is a use of force in California can't be different from what's acceptable as a use of force in Minnesota, can't be different than what's acceptable is a use of force in Massachusetts. The public doesn't understand that there are something like thirteen thousand police agencies in this country and they all have different policy manuals.
[00:24:06.233] - Mike Wynn
They don't get that. And then my third one, and I've been given a lot of thought to this, is are we recruiting the right people for public safety? We were a paramilitary organization. We tend to recruit hard charging alpha personalities that will fit into a paramilitary organization that leads to a debate between guardians and warriors. And if what I'm hearing, at least in my community and some of the national conversation is that may not be the skill set the public wants, we can teach Alphas to do problem-solving and empathy.
[00:24:37.103] - Mike Wynn
But we probably shouldn't be recruiting some people who come to the job primarily for problem solving and empathy.
[00:24:42.953] - Steve Morreale
Thank you. That's very, very interesting. And you just don't have national standards. And I'm always keeping notes as you're speaking. And what troubles me, and I'd like your point of view on this is there are no national standards even for training. So when you think about when you think that someone way, way down the road set national standards for a public. They certainly did for universities, you don't go to one university and you've got your degree with 100 credits, but the next one is one hundred and twenty, there's a standard there is no standard for training.
[00:25:08.873] - Steve Morreale
You can go from 12 weeks, sometimes 10 weeks to 30 weeks. And I have to scratch my head and say, what are people who are in this academy not getting with 20 weeks less? What's your thought? How do we make that happen without it impeding the future of policing it?
[00:25:25.823] - Mike Wynn
Well, it's it's going to be a slow change, but it's a change that has to happen. And before I kind of get into some things that I think we should look at, one of the things that troubles me is that before long before my career, going back to the civil unrest of the late 60s and early 70s, there's at least three times that law enforcement leadership have demanded federal assistance in setting up some type of standard. And in every case, and the most recent one was immediately following the president's report on 21st century, police said in every case there's a commission and they turn out some recommendations and then nothing is implemented.
[00:26:02.753] - Mike Wynn
And so 30 years down the road, when the next thing happens, the public will demand accountability and standards and will point to three more reports and say, yes, we agree, help us get it done. So this is not something that can be placed solely on the shoulders of law enforcement. It's a community requirement and a community expectation. It needs to be agreed upon by the community. And the other hand, it can't be done without law enforcement.
[00:26:24.413] - Mike Wynn
Massachusetts just went through police reform legislation that we did not actually have a seat at the table. And some of what came out of that is it's doable. It can't be sustained. And I was just at a chiefs meeting this week, and this is one of the things Massachusetts still has reserved and officers, part time officers that go to a much shorter part time evenings and weekends academy when they graduate, they have the same authority in the same rate of arrest as a full time, fully trained officer.
[00:26:51.083] - Mike Wynn
That's insane. And even our part time academy is longer than some of the academies in some small communities in other states. So that doesn't make any sense. I've had the good up. I've had the good fortune of the opportunity in my career, primarily on the defensive tactics to trade with law enforcement officers from all over the world. And there's countries in Europe where you need a four year degree to get into law enforcement. It's a graduate level, I think, and two hours of every ten hour duty days dedicated to training.
[00:27:21.533] - Mike Wynn
Now, I don't know that that's something that we can get to in this country at least anytime soon. But standardization of the minimum amount of training hours, standardization on what is being taught and what's required to be taught. One of the things that came out, several of the things that came out of the Massachusetts police reform is demands that we we, Massachusetts law enforcement receive regular training, dealing with populations, with special needs. The issue that wasn't identified is we've been doing that training in our academies for close to a decade.
[00:27:50.513] - Mike Wynn
And the people who put the language into the bill just assumed that because they were talking to people in other parts of the country that didn't get that training, that meant that we didn't get it. So they legislated a mandate for something that was already being done.
[00:28:01.673] - Steve Morreale
Officer Wellness, I want to talk about that for a moment. And the rise in mental health issues that we're having. And police officers, as you well know, are called to houses and scenes that are the worst thing you might ever see. And I'm not so sure that we, as an institution, as a discipline, have done a good job of sitting with the officer afterwards to make sure they're OK and that they can find a place for that and continue that it won't impact.
[00:28:28.343] - Steve Morreale
What is your thought? I know that you're active in the state. What's your thought about what can be done to improve that?
[00:28:33.863] - Mike Wynn
This has become kind of like my professional passion, and I think it's probably where I want to dedicate most of my collateral efforts for the remainder of my career because we don't do it well historically. And this is this is just recent history. We treat mental health as something that gets slapped down like a Band-Aid in the immediate aftermath of a critical incident. So we may mandate a critical incident, stress debriefing. And we all know that if it's mandatory, then they're going as hostages and they're going to participate so they can check that box.
[00:29:03.413] - Mike Wynn
But they're probably not taking it seriously and they're probably not putting everything out on the table. So we have to change that culture. We also know that the profession has a stigma against opening up and revealing that you're hurting or that something troubled you are traumatized you and you need help with that. And that that's not sustainable. At least a couple of times in my tenure as the chief so far, I've had to do with officers who demonstrated or exhibited a change in behavior, not because of the big incident that they just responded to.
[00:29:33.263] - Mike Wynn
Pretty good at that, but because the cumulative effects of trauma boiled over. And we're actually looking at one right now that supervisors that we talk to like, oh, I saw something, but I didn't think it was that big a deal.
[00:29:45.503] - Mike Wynn
If you see a change in behavior, it's a big deal that's already too late. So one of the things that I've been doing with my own department and I actually did this mandatory service with the Chiefs a couple of years ago, is I just put the fact out there that, look. It's OK to not be OK and it's OK to ask for help and what I found myself in a situation that I needed to reach out for our employee assistance program and then through the ask to see a therapist, I did that.
[00:30:10.743] - Mike Wynn
And the first time I did it, I did my six sessions or whatever and say, OK, I'm good. And I stopped. And then a couple of years ago, I realized that that's that's not the case. I go for my annual physical every year. I go to the dentist twice a year. I probably should be put in the same amount of effort into my mental health. And so I was just doing some in-service yesterday. And this idea of regular wellness checkups is something that we really need to explore.
[00:30:37.803] - Mike Wynn
You can't do a psychological evaluation on somebody pre-hire and then expose them to 30 years of cumulative trauma with no intercession and expect them to get out of this, that it's impossible.
[00:30:49.173] - Steve Morreale
Michael, I have to say, what you just said is amazing. The honesty that you just brought forward is amazing. And you're right. I think you hit the nail on the head. It's time to take care of our people understanding what we've asked them to do. And that cumulative impact on stress or stressors is a real problem that we have to address. I really appreciate that. We need to wind down.
[00:31:09.703] - Steve Morreale
But you wrote a book. Talk about that. What's the name of that thing? I know I have it.
[00:31:14.073] - Mike Wynn
The name of the book is Rising Through the Ranks Leadership Tools and Techniques for Law Enforcement. It is entirely the product of the year I spent in Quantico. No, it wasn't the plan to write a book. Essentially, I compiled my notes from the courses I was fortunate enough to take, and when I became a shift commander was sharing them with some of my supervisors to help them through some of their leadership challenges.
[00:31:34.983] - Mike Wynn
And one of them, Sergeant, on my shift, was making copies of that for himself. And what I didn't know is he also was making copies for his cousin, who happened to work in a publishing house. And after he had shared a of my notebook entries with her, they reached out for me and asked if I'd like to do something with them. So just good fortune that resulted in the book. It's the basis of the lesson plan I put together at the institute.
[00:31:58.563] - Mike Wynn
So we talk about some of the things that I wish I had known, what I was getting ready to promote that would have made it a little bit easier for me as a sergeant that that had great success with after I came back from Quantico. And so it's still out there. That's great.
[00:32:13.863] - Steve Morreale
So what's on your bucket list?
[00:32:16.353] - Mike Wynn
I don't have a bucket list per-se, because I don't like to hold off. If there's something I want to do, I try to get it done as it comes to me. I've always wanted to get my pilot's license and fly. I've done some stick time in some small aircraft with friends who are pilots, so I'd like to do that. I used to do a lot of offshore sailing.
[00:32:35.613] - Mike Wynn
I'd like to get back to that and I might have
[00:32:37.813] - Steve Morreale
The water is a little bit away from you, though, in Pittsfield
[00:32:39.903] - Mike Wynn
So I learned to sail well, I learned to sail well, when I was at the Naval Academy, I was on the off-shore team for the time that I was there. And after I decided to leave, Navy stayed in touch with my friends and extended family from down in the Annapolis area and for years spent all of my vacation time because I had friends with boats that I guess
[00:33:01.843] - Steve Morreale
The best kind of friends.
[00:33:03.063] - Mike Wynn
I've got to find another friend with a boat.
[00:33:05.703] - Steve Morreale
Well, you might get one from from our listeners. The last thing would be if you had the ability to talk to somebody with notoriety, not necessarily famous, dead or alive, who would you want to sit and chat with and pick their brain?
[00:33:18.033] - Mike Wynn
I've been thinking about this because I listened to the previous episodes. You ask this of all of the listeners, and I don't have a good answer, but I like cocktail hour answer when I say this outside is, I would love to sit down with Jesus, but I think that's kind of what I think that's I don't think he'll be available. No, I think I think that's low-hanging fruit. So I've given some thought and I think based on the fact that it's February and it's Black History Month, I think Bass Reeves, the first black US Marshal.
[00:33:43.753] - Steve Morreale
[00:33:44.643] - Steve Morreale
That's great. That's great. That would be neat to be able to sit back and imagine the groundbreaking of him and how he must have been perceived and received sometimes.
[00:33:53.553] - Mike Wynn
It's absolutely because he could not have had an easy road with it.
[00:33:57.093] - Steve Morreale
No, no. Well, Mike, I have to thank you for being here. And I want to say that from the outset, it was clear to me that you are a leader, a thought leader, a change agent, which is amazing. I think that's important. Keep it up. I understand that while you have the responsibility for the Pittsville police department, that it's a great opportunity to spread the word to other agencies, as you do at the institute and through the chiefs, the Chiefs Association.
[00:34:19.323] - Steve Morreale
So some of the things you've said here are amazing, and I'm sure that the listeners will be very, very happy to hear these.
[00:34:24.783] - Steve Morreale
So thank you for being here.
[00:34:26.193] - Mike Wynn
Thank you for the opportunity.
[00:34:27.363] - Steve Morreale
No problem. All right.
[00:34:28.293] - Steve Morreale
This is Steve Morreale. We've been talking to Chief Mike Gwinn from the Pittsfield, Mass. Police Department. And you've been listening to The CopDoc Podcast. Stay tuned for future episodes. Thanks. Have a good day.