An Introduction to On Policing

jim-buerrmannBy Chief Jim Bueermann (Ret.)
Former President, National Police Foundation

As police practitioners advance through their careers, they gain invaluable knowledge about controlling crime and disorder, organizational life, and human nature. While they are still “on-the-job”, they are able to convey what they’ve learned to their co-workers or others through meetings or conferences. But when they retire, most of them lose these knowledge-sharing connections and any future links to what they learned over the course of their careers. Under the best of circumstances, almost all of this diffusion of knowledge remains local and can be diluted with time. Rarely are we able to capture what we came to learn during our careers in a way that others can benefit from—especially those separated from us by distance or time.

Historians use “oral histories” to capture the experiences and knowledge of our elders before they are lost. Similarly, the Police Foundation is committed to now widely capturing the knowledge and wisdom of veteran practitioners, policy makers, researchers and involved community members about the constantly changing world of policing. It is our belief that this wisdom will advance our noble profession and help the public understand the complicated and challenging nature of protecting our communities from crime, disorder, and terrorism.

The topics discussed in On Policing are intended to be as diverse as policing is itself. There will be essays on topics such as the use-of-force, first responses to terrorism, officer safety and wellness, diversity and equity issues in policing, youth policing, understanding the advances in technology, the human side technology, value vs rule driven organizations, recruiting and hiring, generational differences and impacts, navigating the political waters in which policing exists, social media, policing campuses, the future of policing, implicit bias, procedural justice, police legitimacy, and community policing to name just a few. Our first two essays by San Bernardino (CA) Police Chief Jarrod Burguan and San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon discussing the December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 innocent people underscore both the timely nature of this series and the serious threat self-radicalized terrorists pose to our country.

On Policing is an attempt to compliment the many existing policing publications through more frequent posting of relevant opinion pieces. These other publications publish thoughtful, well-researched and vetted articles that advance the field and the careers of the authors, but to some busy police practitioners, they may prove daunting and time consuming. When a police leader’s day is full of one organizational challenge after another, it becomes very difficult to find the time to write a formal article. In addition, busy police leaders struggle to find the time to read and digest lengthy academically-leaning articles. On Policing is intended to fill the knowledge and opinion sharing gaps between casual, face-to-face discussions and the more formal professional, academic articles found in these magazines.

On Policing is not intended to be a rigorous scientific exercise. Rather, it is intended to capture and share the collective wisdom, knowledge, and opinions of experienced practitioners to advance policing. You won’t find many footnotes or references in these essays. They are intended to be viewed as conversational in nature and express the opinions of very knowledgeable people. They are intended to be read in briefings and discussed in the many ways cops discuss their thoughts about the business. They are intended to stimulate thought and conversation among policymakers, researchers and members of the public, some of whom have very limited understanding of the true nature of policing. Think of them as the digital version of sharing a cup of coffee or beer with someone where their opinion on a specific topic drives the conversation. Above all, they are intended to get cops and the people they are paid to protect to think together about policing in America.

If you have comments about this project, suggestions for improving it, or would like to contribute to the On Policing series, please send your 500-1000 word essay to

Chief Jim Bueermann (Ret.)
Former President, National Police Foundation

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