E. Dwaine Denmark, Ed Denmark is the recently retired police chief for the Harvard, MA Police Department. He started his career with Ayer, MA Police Department, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He served as the Police Chief with the Sterling, MA Police and later with Harvard, MA Police.
He served as a police chief for 19 years. Dr. Denmark received a Bachelor’s degree from UMass-Amherst. Hel later completed a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Fitchburg State University. He continued his studies and earned a Doctor of Arts in Leadership from Franklin Pierce University.
Ed provides training at police academies, in-service training and in other countries focused on policing.
[00:00:03.580] - Intro
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.
[00:00:33.430] - Steve Morreale
Hello again, everyone. This is Steve Morreale. And you're listening to The CopDoc Podcast another episode. And I have the opportunity and the pleasure to speak with Ed Denmark, the chief of the Harvard, Massachusetts, not Harvard University, but the Harvard Massachusetts Police Department, which is outside of Boston by maybe 30 minutes. And I want to say good morning to you. How are you?
[00:00:57.370] - Ed Denmark
Great, Steve. How are you?
[00:00:58.390] - Steve Morreale
I'm fine, thank you very much. We're approaching the Fourth of July season, so thank you very much for taking some time. There is some new news in your life. You are going to be a retired chief pretty soon. Talk about that a little bit.
[00:01:12.040] - Ed Denmark
Yeah, it's been a bit in the business now for thirty, 31 one years. And I've been the chief in Harvard for 18. I've been a Chief for 18, I’ve been a chief for 20 out of those 31 years. And the time just, it just, it just struck me, it was, it was time to go and not for any one particular reason, but it's just more or less looking at other opportunities. And I felt like, I felt like I was limiting what I could do and I don't feel I was feeling like I couldn't continue to devote the amount of attention my job and my community needed and take on some of the other projects that I really want to become involved in, especially in light of the, you know, the environment right now when police reform and all these other things going on, it's felt like it was I couldn't keep doing it all, so I had to make a choice.
[00:02:02.890] - Ed Denmark
So you are a guy I've known for a long time, but you've been banging the gong for an awfully long time about thinking about doing policing differently. And even though you come from a small town, my own experience as a police officer, you have sort of the pulpit at times when it's given to you to deal with larger departments. But as you've been banging the gong, what have you been saying and has that message has changed over time to adapt to the problems that are going on in policing?
[00:02:39.870] - Ed Denmark
I guess my message is OK, but the overarching theme to me has always been, are we walking the talk? We talk about community policing. We talk about protecting and serving. What always puzzled me was if that's what our role is and if that's who we keep telling people we are and that's what we do. It never made sense to me that the average citizen that wasn't doing anything wrong feared us. If your protector, if you are an asset, if you are an ally, why is it when people look in their rearview mirror and see me coming, they have a physical fear reaction to my presence?
[00:03:21.580] - Ed Denmark
That's something that's puzzled me from the very, very beginning of my policing experience. I was a very, you know, as a young person before I became a police officers, I was kind of an outgoing, friendly, kind of joking around funny guy and. And to have people not. That people afraid of me for no reason that didn't know me really got under my skin and bother me. So I think that's kind of way back even before I do any kind of supervisory responsibilities.
[00:03:51.540] - Ed Denmark
That's that always puzzled me. And that's kind of what drove me to, you know, kind of my philosophy today.
[00:03:58.020] - Steve Morreale
So let's talk about your roots. You start off in Ayer. Your parents were living there. And right now I was an MP in Ayer at Fort Devens many, many years ago. So I know that area quite well. But talk about your trajectory. You know, how did you grow up in er how did you end up being drawn to policing.
[00:04:17.470] - Ed Denmark
It's funny if you were an MP on Devens at some point I was when I was I think you're a little bit older than me, but not much, but you may have actually chased me around the post at some point. That's all right. That's where all my friends lived. We all went to high school together. We all grew up together. And I spent a lot of time on Devens. But anyway, I graduated from high school. I ended up going to UMass Amherst, got a degree in legal studies, and like every other young enterprising, 21-22 year old came home and plopped on the couch and didn't know what I was going to do.
[00:04:49.390] - Ed Denmark
I seriously had never even given any thought to becoming a police officer. And it was a friend of the family came over to my parents house and they were having a barbecue and they asked me what I was doing for the summer. And I think I was landscaping and washing dishes and doing whatever else I could do to make a buck. And he said, Well, do you know your degrees in legal studies of the town here? They're looking for part time police officers.
[00:05:14.450] - Ed Denmark
And I could hear myself saying as clear as day, I don't want to be a cop. I know everybody in town. I can't be a cop or arrest my friends. I don't want to be a cop. And he says, well, you know what? Those guys that stand next to the hole in the road, they're making $24.25 an hour, how much you get paid to do landscaping and a slice of what they're paying.
[00:05:37.050] - Ed Denmark
$24.25 to do road details you said. Yes. Where do I go to get an application. So that's really that's what drove me. It was just a part time job to start paying some money back and my student loans and I figured out what life was going to was going to bring. But I did it. I got in what kept got the reserve training and then started doing road jobs. And it was it went pretty well.
[00:05:59.170] - Ed Denmark
And after about a year and I went to the chief's office and I said, oh, boy, so what did I do wrong? I'm thinking to myself, because then the chief didn't really even talk to anybody unless you were in trouble. And so Stan and I go to the chief's office and he says, well, we've got a couple of openings and know you're doing a good job. Everyone likes you. Would you consider coming on full time?
[00:06:21.490] - Ed Denmark
And this was that was in '91. And I thought, you know what, I could do this for a while. And in my head I'm always thinking, you know, I could do this for a little bit. I can do this for a couple of years. Well that a couple of years you know, turned into 31. I just, I could, I started enjoying it and it became what I ended up doing for my entire career.
[00:06:45.760] - Steve Morreale
So you stayed in Ayer for a while, you were promoted to sergeant and lieutenant and later on I suppose you get a little itchy and you became a chief in Sterling, Massachusetts, not too far away. But you know, there's a couple of things I want to ask you, Ed, because there's so many things that that are interesting about you. You're not a shrinking violet. You are not afraid to speak your mind. And it's exactly the reason I wanted to talk to you on the podcast because of your point of view.
[00:07:18.640] - Steve Morreale
But I actually have been reading some things about you, some articles. And one of the things that seem to have happened at one point in time is that you were once again not necessarily pleased with what you knew at the point, you know, at that point in your career and you wanted more. You went back to school. And so I understand you went back to Fitchburg State for a master's program and you indicate that that began to help you understand much with a much wider view.
[00:07:47.020] - Steve Morreale
Talk about that.
[00:07:49.000] - Ed Denmark
Yeah, so the CJ program at the time was that was a brand new program at Fitchburg in 95-96, and we were the alpha cohort, the first ones to go through. And so in the class or police officers, local police officers, state troopers, court personnel, put people in probation, people and youth services. And it just just being in the class and having discussions with them and just hearing firsthand some of their thoughts on what the police were doing, because we're all part of the same system and everybody.
[00:08:28.470] - Ed Denmark
Is there trying to do their part and for the right reasons? You know, it's I don't I truly believe that most people don't get into this business to for nefarious reasons. They're trying to do the right thing. But what it really what really opened my eyes was that. In our efforts to do the right thing, sometimes we forget about the other pieces of the system and when we are so myopically focused on our own tasks, we sometimes lose sight of what other people have another job to do as well.
[00:09:00.700] - Ed Denmark
And are we are we inhibiting them from being able to be effective in their job and with the system? Doesn't work when the system doesn't work. It's like it's like a car with no brakes. You know, the whole thing doesn't work. You can't drive it. And we and it started to look to me like the system had so many independently working parts that the whole idea of criminal justice or protecting victims or protecting youth or anything, we weren't good at it because the system wasn't working together as a whole towards an outcome.
[00:09:35.020] - Ed Denmark
So everyone was working on their own thing. So that really it opened my eyes there and it got me to start thinking a little bit differently about what I want to do in policing.
[00:09:43.870] - Steve Morreale
So you get your degree. And by the way, we're talking to Chief Ed Denmark from the Harvard Massachusetts Police Department. And Ed is actually Dr. Ed Denmark, because after you finished with Fitchburg, I guess you got itchy again. There's a little bit of similarity to perhaps your trek and my trek. And that was I'm going back for a doctorate. And you did. And so you are a Doctor of Arts in leadership. Talk about that. Was Franklin Pierce, is that right?
[00:10:13.720] - Ed Denmark
This was you know, it's that a friend of mine jokes about it. One of the guys I do some training with overseas, you spend your entire life looking for that big picture. And I once I saw one of these days, you'll see the big picture. And I just kept thinking, well, you know, when I get promoted to sergeant, maybe this is going to maybe I'll understand things that, you know, promoted to lieutenant. Well, maybe I'll understand things now that I got hired as the chief and Sterling, same thing.
[00:10:39.580] - Ed Denmark
Harvard, I moved on to Harvard, but the answers still weren't clear to me. And when something doesn't make sense, I have to I have to know why that is. And you know this to us as a young cop, you know, you're always asking why, you're not exactly the most popular.
[00:10:54.840] - Steve Morreale
You irritate a number of people.
[00:10:56.800] - Steve Morreale
Well, you know, that's interesting because I'm still doing training with police. And one of the biggest complaints that so many sergeants have is why do these kids ask why?
[00:11:04.990] - Steve Morreale
And I keep saying, actually, I don't have the book with me, but start with why is one of my favorite books at Simon said, I'm a cynic. Exactly. And it is. Hey, guys. Well, time out. When somebody asks you to do something and you scratch your head and you say, why the hell are they doing it? And asking that question of you, Lieutenant, your chief don't get the answer. It's not comfortable.
[00:11:26.500] - Steve Morreale
So you want to know why? What's wrong with them wanting to know why? And it's sort of punches them in the nose a little bit to say, yeah, I never thought of it that way. And it sounds like you do the same thing.
[00:11:38.800] - Ed Denmark
Yeah. So for me, it was just I found it frustrating, but I, I've always thought, well, go, go learn some more, maybe we'll figure this out. And Franklin Pierce just I was searching around for what programs I wanted to go to when I stumbled on the Franklin Pierce leadership program. And I went up and I had an interview with Dr. Maggie Moore West. And we sat down to talk for a good hour and a half, two hours.
[00:12:04.600] - Ed Denmark
And I walked out of there thinking, this is the place for me. And what was unique about their program was they took this really neat, interdisciplinary approach to things where she said, you know, just not unlike the Fitchburg program. There were there were business leaders that were law enforcement folks. There were people from academia that were all looking at this whole this kind of amorphous thing of leadership. What is it? And, you know, really, really breaking it down to two different disciplines that that entail, you know, what are a better way of understanding what leadership is?
[00:12:44.360] - Ed Denmark
You know, the psychology, the physiological aspects of it, the psychological aspects, socioeconomic aspects. There's so many different pieces to trying to understand what makes people tick and what makes organizations tick. That that really excited me because I thought I was really tired of hearing people say, well, we can't do that because policing is different. Policing is not like any other organization. And I said, to hell with that. Yes, it is.
[00:13:12.250] - Ed Denmark
It's a group of people allegedly coming together for a common purpose to put their skills together. For a positive outcome, that's going to make a difference in some way, right?
[00:13:24.560] - Steve Morreale
Well, it sounds to me it sounds to me like you know it. All right, Ed.
[00:13:30.950] - Ed Denmark
Oh, yeah. I think I figured it all out. That's why I retired.
[00:13:34.670] - Steve Morreale
But the point is, I think we're both lifelong learners. And so even with the doctorate, are you still, are there still things around you that make you pause and think, what the hell? And let's talk about policing today.
[00:13:49.550] - Ed Denmark
Yeah, absolutely, and I think the big thing that the kind of light that the shined on my head from the doctoral program and then the whole process, the research process and the dissertation and all of that, that that hazing ritual that you'll you're never done. You know, if you are a the best research in the world does nothing more than create more questions. So you have to accept the fact that it's a never ending pursuit of understanding and the development of a body of knowledge that brings us to a better place to do a better understanding.
[00:14:26.120] - Ed Denmark
And again, it sounds corny, but this that whole development of an understanding or the attempt to try to keep learning and figuring things out, why? For many people, it's frustrating and I think in policing, people are frustrated by it, but for me, it's really provided a sense of a calm and it's a calming effect on me DEA it gives me somewhere to focus my energies instead of worrying. Let's go fix something. Let's figure something out.
[00:14:54.770] - Steve Morreale
Do you feel like part of your role with your expansive experience is to try to plant seeds?
[00:15:07.720] - Ed Denmark
One hundred percent, like I said, and this is another kind of epiphany that I had over the years, I used to I have done a lot of training, a lot of teaching, and I used to always just always try to teach somebody something that when they walk out, they learned this from me because I told them. But that's no different than the whole command and control model of policing that I grew up in that I found stifling. What I found that was like, take what I've learned, engage people in discussion.
[00:15:37.620] - Ed Denmark
Have them try to help them develop a thought process or an analytical approach to how they view the world and then let them reach their own conclusion.
[00:15:47.500] - Steve Morreale
Well, that's the difference between teaching and facilitating. Is that true?
[00:15:51.930] - Ed Denmark
Absolutely. I tell people that I'm not a great teacher. But it's a pretty damn good facilitator, it's about it's about having that conversation and you know what I find to that and I'm sure you'll agree through those conversations I learn, oh, my God, that's the understatement of the world. Yes.
[00:16:12.840] - Ed Denmark
I learned so much from some of the folks in the classroom on the other side of the class that it's I got it. I think that's part of a part of the process that I find so exciting that keeps me going back.
[00:16:24.780] - Steve Morreale
You know, I can be held to piss people off in a classroom, especially cops. You sit there, they're among themselves. They just did something in a local police department. And a couple of the sergeants would say, yeah, I agree. You do? Do you have any more original thought than you agree? And it's that moment where you think what an asshole Morreale is. Except I come back to you later because sarge, have you had some time to think?
[00:16:51.270] - Steve Morreale
And what happens is they realize you're not going to get away with a yes or no answer. I want to know what you think. And it's ironic that when you come back to them, once they once you break down that armor that so many cops have. Right? We, you and I have, it is amazing to realize that, look, I'm not trying to embarrass you. I'm trying to engage you. I want to know what you think.
[00:17:14.700] - Steve Morreale
And I can't understand what you think by saying yes or no. So I'm sure you do some of that. But once students, it's not only police. Once students understand that you're not going to tolerate yes or no answers, that they realize you're going to be a participant, an active participant. Do you find that in teaching?
[00:17:33.330] - Ed Denmark
Absolutely. It's funny. I had a I did a class the other day for a bunch of staff, instructors, drill instructors. I've been doing the academy, so they have a mandatory training. They go through. I saw your Fitchburg group.
[00:17:44.560] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, yeah, yes.
[00:17:46.020] - Ed Denmark
We're talking about that is, you know, the way your approach now is you're kind of training people. To be afraid to ask questions, you're training people to be afraid to express what they're feeling or what their understanding is, because if they make a mistake, they had to be chastised aggregator. They're going to make a fool of embarrassed. But that's not teaching. That's not learning. Instead, if we really want a mentor, we maybe need to rethink how we're doing this.
[00:18:15.770] - Ed Denmark
Yes, we can put people under stress. Yes, we can see if they can recall information and replicate tasks under stress. But when they can't, we need to back up. And make sure they can. You know, reengage their thinking, reengage their frontal cortex, get them out of that that emotional state that you put them in, because now you put them in a place where they can't learn. And for me, it goes I.
[00:18:44.040] - Ed Denmark
I really believe that this stuff has everything to do with use of force. And all of the issues that we're dealing with right now is, you know, when you can't identify something, when you don't understand something, when you don't know what to do in a situation. Our instincts are to squash it. That's what we do. That's what we do as human beings if there's a threat. We don't know how to handle it. Think about how many times you you've bumped your toe on a on a on a counter.
[00:19:12.390] - Ed Denmark
And in response, you hit the countertop with your fist because we don't know. That's our natural instinct to react to something that hurts us. We weren't prepared for it. We didn't know what to do about it. Getting people to identify their thought process, getting people to express how something feels and getting people to understand that there are ways to deal with that. I firmly believe that that's an avenue we really have to explore moving forward if we want to deal with some sort of some of these use of forces.
[00:19:43.100] - Steve Morreale
Well, I actually understand there's so many things you're saying. I haven't even I've been listening. And rather than taking notes, I had some notes before. But it seems to me that when you're just talking about that, you know, we have a tendency in policing to hide things, to put them in a box. Yeah, we see something. We feel something we want to especially male officers. We want to keep it in a box and stay stern and not show emotions and not show our humanity.
[00:20:15.470] - Steve Morreale
It's interesting that when Manny Familia and you and I have been to any number of police funerals, what struck me by watching that and I only watched it on TV, was the humanity that we saw from the police officers around them and the community around them. For this man being willing to go and risk his life to save somebody who was in a pond that he should have been in. And so, what you're saying right now about holding it in and not being able to express it brings right into the work that that is being done to try to.
[00:20:55.030] - Steve Morreale
Help our officers, our first responders deal with that mental anguish, right, the officer wellness side of this, the cumulative effect of stress and pain and suffering that we are called on to see. Talk about that.
[00:21:13.590] - Ed Denmark
Again, in my opinion on that's a little bit different than some, again, I believe that over time the accumulated trauma does build up people things, but. I'm of I'm of the school of thought that it's not the trauma itself, because if that were the case, we'd all be a basket case. But there are some people that are OK and we see the same things over and over. Some people see more than others. It's not what we see.
[00:21:42.580] - Ed Denmark
It's our ability to handle. What we see is the difference. And we have not done a good job at, you know, giving and arming officers with the tools to effectively handle those feelings. You know, if you if you're not allowed to talk about it, like you said, it's bottled up. You can't talk about you can't express it and that it manifests itself in all kinds of negative behaviors. And to look at our suicide rates, our alcoholism rates, all of those bad things.
[00:22:12.110] - Ed Denmark
You know, I really feel like we're sending cops out to the world to do a job where we know that that's a problem, but we have yet on the front end to really deal with the officer wellness piece and the whole mindfulness piece that could provide some armor for them before going into the field. And that's kind of my crusade now is to try to really capitalize on what we know about wellness and about mindfulness and about how that can that can help protect police officers from some of the psychological damage that happens over time, by the way.
[00:22:49.160] - Steve Morreale
We're talking with Ed, Denmark, the chief of police soon to retire, and Dr. Ed Denmark in Harvard, Massachusetts, this morning. So you've seen so many things go on from the Floyd killing, and so many. You can name them, name them, name them abuse, brutality, the assertion that that policing is racist and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. And I'm certainly hopeful and I know you are, that there's change afoot.
[00:23:22.590] - Steve Morreale
The problem is that much of the change is being thrust upon police agencies without input from police agencies. And I know that you'll work with MAPLE, the Mass Association of Professional Law Enforcement. But talk about that, you know. What's your take on that? How do you how do you watch that on television? The repeated abuse and the sickening I'm losing it a little bit, I'm sorry, because I'm thinking of it so many things, what just happened was all these things that we see on TV and we are from the police profession.
[00:24:09.900] - Steve Morreale
Imagine what non-police are thinking. We're all painted with the same broad toxic brush that all cops are bad, that all cops are racist, that all cops are brutal, and yet you have to go into your police department and remind them and use these as teachable moments to avoid it from happening in your town. Talk about the changes in what you've seen in policing and what has to happen, Ed.
[00:24:38.490] - Ed Denmark
I guess for me, you know, I try to. I try to keep an I keep recognize what's really going on and, you know, and again, some of that training about understanding how we work as people, how our brains work is really, to me, a foundation that we need to be giving to every cop and to members of the public to understand that when we see something like the Floyd incident on TV, what that does, what kind of feeling that triggers in us emotionally where and I start all my classes, we talk about the stuff, the people we're all programmed to survive.
[00:25:16.570] - Ed Denmark
That is our main function. When we wake up in the morning, we are all programmed to survive. And part of that survival is to understand what our threats are and to avoid those threats or. Worst case, eliminate those threats. And so when members of the public or members of certain ethnic or religious communities over all over the world feel that the men and women in uniform are that threat, it's natural. That they're going to have a physiological fear reaction when they encounter them, so when they see something come into their living room on the 24 hour news cycle, like a police officer kneeling on a black man's neck long enough to kill him, there's that.
[00:26:03.790] - Steve Morreale
It's like a reinforcement of what I feel
[00:26:07.720] - Ed Denmark
Absolutely. And worse than that, it is not just what I feel it is that in group out group thinking of that could be me. That's not Shervin. I mean, that's not George Floyd that's at Denmark or that's my son. They picture that as someone in their lives that they love, that they believe that that could happen to. Now on the police side of it and you start to see, you know, the demonstrations and some of the anti-police rhetoric.
[00:26:37.690] - Ed Denmark
So now the cops looking at it going, well, these people hate us. And that we we're not we're not immune to those same reactions that us versus them, we see a cop get killed in another part of the country as cops. We look at that and say, that could be me. The world is out to get us. So you've got two sides both wanting to survive. That are both deathly afraid of each other, the differences the communities are willing to save, they're afraid of us, the mistake we're making as police, in my opinion, is we have dehumanized ourselves to the point where we're not willing to say.
[00:27:19.010] - Ed Denmark
We're afraid of this, we're afraid of this group or afraid of that group because we don't want to get painted as racist. The ability to recognize what is it about this person or this group that draws these feelings, these survival, these fear feelings in me, if I can recognize that and label it, I could then start to handle it and deal with it. But when we have police officers and police professionals, quite frankly, some of my colleagues, when they you know, I hear them saying things like this, you have this implicit bias stuff is B.S. or, you know, Black Lives Matter is nothing but a terror group.
[00:27:57.240] - Ed Denmark
And I'm like, you're missing it. We're tone deaf. Folks know you can't tell people that are afraid of you to stop spewing a false narrative. You're basically telling people that are afraid of you to shut up and you're reinforcing their fears. So we need to get to a point where we can have those deeper conversations, but we're not quite there. And I think I think part of that is our problem is it's it's our inability as a profession to, first of all, acknowledge some of the bad.
[00:28:32.940] - Ed Denmark
Not something that all of that we can't have reconciliation until we have some healing that we can't heal until we take responsibility for what's happened previously, even if we didn't do it, even if it was a part of you who we think we are today of these communities need to hear that. They need to they need to hear us say we understand that for many, many years, you guys suffered at the hands of the police that let's sit down at the table and make sure that sit down at the table together and make sure that this doesn't happen any more.
[00:29:05.340] - Steve Morreale
Well, you know, it's interesting missing. Yeah, that's for sure. And think what troubles me in a lot of ways, and I've been so lucky to talk to progressive chiefs and chiefs that are willing to speak out, but there's so many of your colleagues that don't want to speak out, that do not want to don't want to get drawn into any utterances where all of a sudden they're labeled with being racist. Now, you've got an advantage and advantage.
[00:29:29.610] - Steve Morreale
We haven't even talked about. You're a black man. You're a black chief. Right. And it's not something you use. It's not a badge. And quite frankly, it's of no consequence to me. You're to me, a police officer, a colleague. Doesn't matter what race, but you may have a different perspective and be able to have a different viewpoint. And I think that's so important to add to the conversation, Ed.
[00:29:54.030] - Ed Denmark
Yeah, that's what I tell everyone, you know, I'm not afraid to talk about this because it's even goes deeper than just being a black man by my mother's white, my father's black. I'm a police officer. My mother's from Great Britain, my father's from West Virginia. And I'll say I've had I had the Beatles and Motown growing up, man, and it's all good. So for me, watching things unfold in society, the way they do that, again, I think this this really helped to drive my career.
[00:30:21.990] - Ed Denmark
It made zero sense to me because I grew up in an environment with just love. And everybody was good with it. And my parents were together. And since nineteen sixty three, you know, the year I was born in nineteen sixty seven, it was still illegal for them to be married in 17 states. So when people tell me that, oh, that's ancient history, you know, that stuff's bygone days like oh man, that's, it's still in my lifetime.
[00:30:49.590] - Ed Denmark
This is not ancient. And we've done a poor job of explaining to people that it's not as far back in history as you think it is to really put things in perspective. I had a group of cops, one there, and they said, you know, it's me about of you know, I was asking I always tell stories. So tell me about your grandfather who remembers their grandfather. You know, tell me some good stories were shooting the breeze.
[00:31:12.930] - Ed Denmark
Was it fair to say that your grandfather's probably one of those figures in your life that has left a lasting impression on you? Yeah, I said so. My grandfather, my dad's grandfather. So a man that had a huge, huge impact on my father's life. Was born five years after the civil war ended. Think about that. So here's a guy that was born right after the end of the Civil War who had a profound impact on my father.
[00:31:46.490] - Ed Denmark
So you don't think that just that one generation back, my father's belief system, my father's understanding of the world didn't have an impact on me? Of course it did. So it's really not that far back. And we just getting people to understand that is difficult because they don't no one wants to feel like a bad person. And it's uncomfortable to talk about because we all know for stuff, to be honest with ourselves, to say, yes, I've had bad feelings about people.
[00:32:14.930] - Ed Denmark
That's human. I've got biases, we've all got biases. And instead of hiding, we have to hold it. But I digress. So if we talk about policing. But no, no, no, no, excuse me. This is about policing, because I think I think we have to understand that. And that's an interesting point when you talk about it and I talk about I'm able to talk about it in classes, think about your grandparents, find out a little bit more about them.
[00:32:35.900] - Steve Morreale
Where do they come from? How about their parents? Where do they come from? Almost all of us are immigrants in this country. And if that's the case, why do we feel the way we feel about people who are trying to come here? So we have to kind of break that down. You know, who caused you to have some bias? Maybe you heard your grandfather. And so if that's how you were brought up about and you don't know any different, sometimes you utter the same thing. You know, as a parent, sometimes your mother and father come out of your mouth and say, where the hell did that come from? Right. So isn't that true? But some of the old sergeant stuff that happened to you, you know, that one that sergeant that you absolutely disdained and rue the day that you would ever repeat what they did to you and you find it leaking out of you.
[00:33:37.520] - Steve Morreale
It's only when you recognize and reflect that, oh, shit, I went down the wrong road. That's what I wanted to avoid happening. But we all have to face our demons.
[00:33:49.270] - Ed Denmark
Absolutely. And, you know, just we really did and this is my one my humble opinion as we're developing these cops, these young people coming through programs. We really need to build more of that humility. You know, more of an understanding that I know when I went through the academy, we were trained. You're always right. You have to win, you know, at all costs. But one thing that made me can I was always that kind of a thinking kid.
[00:34:19.070] - Ed Denmark
You know what one of my drill instructors said? Even if you do something, even if it's wrong, don't stand there and do nothing. I thought to myself with that big zero damn sense, do something even if it's wrong. Are you kidding me right now? I've got a gun, dude. Do something. Even if it's wrong, it just the and I knew the message you were trying to portray, but, you know, we're, we're sending people out and yes, I understand, you know, command presence and, you know, we need to take charge in certain situations.
[00:34:51.800] - Ed Denmark
But we also have to understand that we can make mistakes and we could be wrong. And when we make that mistake, the human thing to do is to acknowledge that mistake and back up, ask for forgiveness and start over again instead of just trudging through, continuing down that broken path to a place that no one wants to get to. But I've seen it so often. I and another supervisor at one point two years ago, a prematurely put handcuffs on someone before I probably should have got all the information they should have.
[00:35:29.810] - Ed Denmark
Then I realized, you know, I think I'm making a mistake here. Go to take the cuffs off of you,
[00:35:35.390] - Steve Morreale
[00:35:36.560] - Ed Denmark
[00:35:37.160] - Steve Morreale
By the power and might of the of the town of Ayer, I hereby unarrest you.
[00:35:42.720] - Steve Morreale
[00:35:44.120] - Ed Denmark
You're free to go. He chewed me a new one like you wouldn't believe.
[00:35:49.490] - Steve Morreale
[00:35:49.760] - Ed Denmark
And he says once we put our hands on someone, we own them. And I thought, well, it was a bad arrest. That makes zero sense. You mean you would rather have me go bring him in, book him. Subject ourselves to an unlawful seizure claim and then admit to I made the mistake and I put the cuffs on him prematurely.
[00:36:14.480] - Ed Denmark
That's just me again. No sense to me, you know, and I think the attitude has changed. But I remember that was the months or years ago. You put your hands on him. You. Oh, that's silly. And you wonder why people fight us.
[00:36:28.220] - Steve Morreale
I understand. Do you see policing as a customer-service based organization?
[00:36:34.700] - Ed Denmark
[00:36:35.360] - Steve Morreale
[00:36:35.960] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, I love that hesitancy because you're absolutely right in my mind. But it's sometimes it's an uphill battle for people to say, yes, we should be customer-centric. And then the big question, well, who's the customer? The people, I mean, I put him in handcuffs and, you know, I'll ask people. So, Sarge, where are you, a police officer and how big is your police department?
[00:36:57.890] - Steve Morreale
So out of 100% of your time, how much time is spent arresting people and try to be honest with me and usually say five percent, 10 percent. I mean, Worcester,
[00:37:08.420] - Ed Denmark
That's a stretch.
[00:37:09.110] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, exactly. And Worcester might be 15 or 20 percent Providence, New York, but most of the time is not spent putting people in handcuffs. So most of the time is responding to customer calls, calls for service. And I'll say to sergeants, if you are ordering that we're customer centric or we should be, then why would it surprise you when your people do not treat people with respect or as customers speak to that as you react to that?
[00:37:38.180] - Ed Denmark
Yeah. So, you know, it's one of the things are frustrated me years ago was not understanding what our purpose is be. Going back to our mutual buddy there, Simon Sinek. Why are we doing this? You know, if you if we think our job is to arrest people constantly or write tickets, that's not a customer service focused if but if we believe our job is to, you know, better community, safer communities, all the things that we were initially established for us as a as an institution, it is about customer service.
[00:38:10.370] - Ed Denmark
It's about finding out what people want, what people need, and finding out if it's something we can provide. And if not, how do we help them get there? And again, it sounds corny. It sounds like it's not policing, but. It's the work that you do in your non law enforcement time. That's going to save you when that inevitable mistake happens, you know, it's that it's that capital that you build up in your community.
[00:38:38.050] - Ed Denmark
So that trust that you know and I've said this before. So, you know, if this is someone that's trusted, someone who really has the customer service focus and then you make that mistake. The community looks at you and says, well, OK, is he or she is a good cop, they've got a stellar reputation. That person he was dealing was really must have done something wrong for Ed to overreact like that or to perceive that there was something wrong.
[00:39:06.290] - Ed Denmark
If you don't have those relationships and you haven't built that customer base, when you make that mistake, you're just another dirty, rotten cop that was all looking to beat people. And that that, you know, that 95 percent of the time that we're 98 percent of the time, that we're not arresting people, you know, it should be spent trying to develop those relationships because everything is relationships.
[00:39:29.170] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, I wrote that down. Policing is all about relationships and you need relationships before you need relationships. You have to set up those relationships, which becomes important. And that's that capital that you talk about. But what I also hear that that means that, you know, our officers have to make friends in the community. Not everybody should be the enemy, and that includes in the inner city, and I know that people who are listening are usually come on in New York right now.
[00:39:56.740] - Steve Morreale
Don't tell me New York, you can't have friends in the neighborhood. Don't tell me. And in in the bodegas or in the coffee houses that you don't go in, say hi so and get to know them so that you've got somebody who was looking out for your back.
[00:40:13.550] - Ed Denmark
That's what I had a little discussion with a bunch of students yesterday, actually, they were in Tbilisi, Georgia, had about 50 kids on a call yesterday, and they were asking about, you know, youth crime here in the US and said, you know, what's funny is like.
[00:40:30.890] - Steve Morreale
Oh, you're talking Tbilisi, Georgia, the country, not the state. Oh, yeah, I got yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I got you.
[00:40:38.340] - Ed Denmark
So I see our prime crime years, you know, like 16 to twenty four. Right. That's if you're if you're doing policing that's your target area. That's who's committing the violent crimes. Right. So as a cop, you know, we're thinking, well, if that's where our problem is, let's go, let's keep an eye on those kids and let's, you know, do we do.
[00:40:59.360] - Ed Denmark
The problem with that is it's only about six percent of that cohort are the ones causing the problem. So that other ninety four percent, we can be friends with them. And actually, they're the ones they're going to be more likely to be victimized, but we group them into the entire group. So, you know, you mentioned in your generalized or whatever you generalize. And if that's that bias again, that we think that we can't take the chance, chances are you can go into the biggest, baddest neighborhood in any city and the overwhelming majority of the people you are dealing with.
[00:41:35.630] - Ed Denmark
Mean to do you no harm and as a matter of fact, if you would give them an opportunity to show and you showed them that you were not a threat. They want you there, right? They want your protection, but they don't trust, they don't trust us. Is this a trust thing that we haven't? No, we haven't developed with them. And that's missing. That's that's the hard part.
[00:41:58.420] - Ed Denmark
One of the things and we're running up against the clock. But one of the things I think that is really important that I'd love to hear from you is about keeping score. And you've had your feelings about what kinds of beans police count and we count how many car stops, how many stops, how many citations, how many arrests, what it does not seem to count to the things that are important, and that is the community interactions that can be so beneficial both to the communities.
[00:42:30.910] - Steve Morreale
When you're in the community and you're talking and you earn that trust, people are whispering to you, hey, I heard there's going to be a bonfire. I hear that there's going to be a fight. I hear that there's some drug stuff going on there. No one's going to tell you that unless they get to know and trust you. So are we counting the wrong things that we, you know, forget the book after the title escapes me.
[00:42:55.960] - Ed Denmark
But there's a chapter in the book called Eying the Wrong Scoreboard. You know, we're looking at the the wrong score, what we're measuring. You know, you don't win a football game because you have more yards than the other team. You win it because you scored more points, you know, so we're counting the wrong things. And unfortunately, the mighty dollar has driven some of that. You know, it would grant funding becomes available. The government wants to see some sort of numbers to prove that, you know, that you deserve the grant or you have more arrests or you got this this target of crime reduction you're looking for.
[00:43:33.790] - Ed Denmark
But the byproduct of that is those are driving negative interactions. Yes, it's driving interactions in the sake of getting a number that may not necessarily be solving any of the issues that they need to be solved. You know, again, we can't arrest our way out of a crime problem that once those behaviors are set in a society to a level that they become that they become noticeable and problematic. They're deeply rooted. This this didn't happen yesterday. This has become a pattern of behavior that at least some segment of that subculture has come to find or come to deem appropriate or at least acceptable.
[00:44:17.750] - Ed Denmark
So try to figure out how we can better. Better understand what causes people to get to that place where those behaviors are OK. That's what we need to be measuring. We need to be measuring those positive interactions that I had this crazy idea that hopefully one day I can get somebody to buy into it and try and experiment. Maybe that could be you. We can work together on the Steve Morreale. That's OK. But there was you know, I think about this.
[00:44:44.960] - Ed Denmark
We document everything. We document all the negative things, we document tickets, we document arrests, and then we talk about that chronic stress that builds up over time. And then we also talk about the relationship between subordinates and supervisors, because I feel like my sergeants are always on my case or my chief doesn't care about anything we do because it's a negatively driven institution. How about this, how about giving officers the opportunity to show their bosses what they do?
[00:45:21.380] - Ed Denmark
Now, pull it, pull a record number when you've done something you think is noteworthy, that's positive, bang out a quick two paragraph report and send it in. Your sergeant reads it. Lt reads, The chief sees it, and this becomes your body of work. You've got this body of work, of positive things that you've done that once in a while, show that two percent negative interaction that's healthy. You don't start you start to feel like I'm doing good more often and I'm doing bad as opposed to I'm doing bad all of the time.
[00:45:56.820] - Ed Denmark
And I think that's a healthy approach. And it also serves as they could also serve as a means to do to evaluate performance, you know, instead of, you know, if you want me to recognize what you do. Well, tell me what you're doing all day. And if there are good things, we can recognize you for that.
[00:46:14.310] - Steve Morreale
Well, to me, setting expectations is so important and I think so many sergeants set expectations once and then they never see him again. And I think so. And so many of them feel like I told you what I expected. You should've known better. Well, if we had if we handle our kids the same way, not equating police with kids where you tell somebody to not to do something once and you expect that that's going to resonate in their head for the next 20 years, you're delusional.
[00:46:38.700] - Steve Morreale
And it's the same thing. You have to set expectation and repeat expectation before you can hold somebody accountable. In my view, and equally as important as the expectation and I learned this the hard way again, Simon explained to the wife why it's there. People aren't going to do something that makes no sense to them and they may not understand why it is that you want them to do it. But when you can tie a purpose to that activity or purpose to that behavior, there's a higher likelihood that people are just going to accept it and want to do it.
[00:47:08.940] - Ed Denmark
And you're not going to have to spend your time chasing them to do it because they get it right.
[00:47:13.230] - Steve Morreale
And that's it is like like light dawns. Oh, right. That's why we're doing that.
[00:47:18.090] - Steve Morreale
Well, that's why. Exactly.
[00:47:19.290] - Steve Morreale
Exactly. So I appreciate that. So what's on your to do list as you aim to the next chapter in your life? One of the three things on your to do list?
[00:47:29.880] - Ed Denmark
Right now is that I've got a couple of things going. I'm going to continue to make my teaching. Consulting is that I've got a couple of things going on overseas coming up, doing some anti terror training stuff. Eventually, one of the other drivers for me to actually pull the plug was I just I got to sit down and write.
[00:47:50.560] - Ed Denmark
I've got to put pen to paper at some point because I just I've got notes and things and lessons and all these things just milling around in my head that I really feel the need to put down in some sort of comprehensive or cohesive sort of thing that I can share. That's really important to me. And I feel like I need to. But that's part of my process of understanding to tie these things, these all these different pieces together that that I've learned.
[00:48:20.250] - Ed Denmark
And again and hopefully continue on this path to that just try to make it a better profession, you know? And it's this this is for me. And again, it sounds hokey, but I really mean this. That's what drives me. As I've seen over my thirty one years, good cops, good people. Trying to do the right thing, doing exactly what they were taught, doing exactly what their organizations told them was the right thing to do, and that is human error happens and then they're left on their own.
[00:48:55.480] - Ed Denmark
Their careers destroyed, their potentially a life of a civilian is mistakenly taken all of these bad things that can happen because they think we're missing it on the front end. And it's my, my quest here is to try to figure out what that is. What can we do on the front side to minimize those human errors? And to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that people understand what they're supposed to do. But at the same time, we our expectations are unrealistic and we're arming them with the skills and the tools to make sure that they can fulfill those obligations.
[00:49:36.860] - Ed Denmark
So the last thing I will ask you is if you had the opportunity to talk to anybody in the world alive or dead that was famous or that you had respect and influence, who would that be? Who would you want to sit and pick their brain?
[00:49:51.770] - Ed Denmark
Oh, man, that's a long list. But, you know, I'd have to say, Dr. King, I really would like to pick his brain. I've got I've read a lot of his teachings and a lot of his beliefs. But just to try to tap into how I know he's a man of deep faith, but how did you have the fortitude to keep going, you know, when you would it just seems like you're just up against it every day and you're trying to do the right things.
[00:50:16.490] - Ed Denmark
And you, you know, not just people saying bad things about me, but people wanting to harm you and then even members of your own community disagreeing with you when you're just trying to be good and trying to do right. Has you know what what's it take to build that sort of resiliency? And I love to have that conversation with him. That's great.
[00:50:36.140] - Steve Morreale
So I'll leave you with one final question. Three things you feel, two things if you'd like need to happen to improve police training.
[00:50:45.260] - Ed Denmark
You know, first, first and foremost, everyone's talking about police reform and police training. We have got to first step identify what that role of policing is supposed to be. You can't train for something if you don't have an expectation of the outcome and what the role is. And everybody's got different ideas and beliefs of what the role of police in society is. So until we can come to some agreement on that, reforming training is useless. You know, it's like me trying to set up an offense and I don't know what I have for players.
[00:51:13.970] - Ed Denmark
You can't you can't do it. That's one and two. I think we need to move away from that traditional military style mindset of a boot camp atmosphere. The research is clear on this. That environment is not conducive to learning. And what is more important to learn than an understanding of what this job really is, the gravity of the power and control that you have as a police officer? I don't think that that should be embedded in our brains in an environment where we're teaching people that the expectation is if you screw up, you're going to get yelled at and screamed that you're modeling bad behavior.
[00:51:52.070] - Ed Denmark
When you're caught doing something wrong in the academy, you get yelled at with cops, get out in the street, they catch somebody doing something wrong. They yell at citizens. When someone gets promoted, they become a sergeant. They catch the cop doing stuff. They yell at the cop. This behavior is modeled from the very indoctrination into our profession. And I think I think it's not doing us any favors. And
[00:52:10.790] - Steve Morreale
That's great. Great way end. We've been talking to Ed Denmark, the chief of Harvard, soon to be retired, Dr. Denmark, who does work in academies, at universities and across the globe. I want to thank you so much for being here Ed.
[00:52:25.220] - Ed Denmark
Pleasure's All Mine. Steve, I again, I get a little passionate about these things, but I will go far and wide and spend any time to talk about the stuff is very important. And I love the opportunity.
[00:52:34.550] - Steve Morreale
It is important. Thank you.
[00:52:35.750] - Steve Outro
So everybody. Thanks for listening. This is Steve Morreale. This is The CopDoc Podcast. We'd like you to listen in on upcoming episodes. Thanks for listening. Hi, everybody. A few things before you leave. First, thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the U.S. but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues and practitioners listening.
[00:52:57.140] - Steve Outro
We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia. We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at The CopDoc Podcast at Gmail dot com. That's Cop Doc Dot podcast at Gmail dot com. Check out our website at The CopDoc Podcast dot com. Please take the time to share our podcast with your friend if you find value in the discussions.
[00:53:24.620] - Steve Outro
We've had so many amazing guests and more to come who have shared their wisdom, their thoughts, their viewpoints and their innovative ideas. Most importantly, a huge thank you to those of you who show up for work in policing every day, knowing the kinds of calls that you'll be sent on or the kinds of situations you'll find yourself in, you risk your lives for people, many of whom you don't know. And for that, we owe you a debt of gratitude.
[00:53:46.820] - Steve Outro
A big thanks. I hope you stay safe, healthy and look forward to hearing from you and hope you'll continue to listen to upcoming episodes of The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:53:56.050] - Outro
CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.