Rediscovering The Will To Fight
BY: Nick Torre III • Jun 25, 2019
In the PNP, there is that policy where commanders are given a maximum tenure of two years to hold the position. I am not privy if there is a scientific basis for this policy similar to the reason why airport screeners are rotated every seven minutes (scientists purportedly concluded that seven minutes is the maximum length of effective attention span of an average human being given that particular task) but by experience, I myself felt that staying in a position for too long does affect my edge in terms of creativity, enthusiasm, and a myriad of other qualities that are present when I first assume the position. But more than the length of stay, there are factors I observed that affect the “edge” of personnel: the edge that I call “the will to fight.”
Compared to the corporate world, management in the PNP is quite substantially different considering that employees receive their salaries almost regardless of individual performance. Yes, there are the so-called “Performance Evaluation Rating” every six months for individual personnel, the regular operations review for the unit itself, and now the hundreds of benchmarks for units and individuals alike set by the Performance Governance System or PGS based on the “Balanced Scorecard System” espoused by Professors Norton and Kaplan of Harvard University. All these systems though focus in measuring unit performance and while there are instruments designed to measure individual performance such as the IP Card or the individual performance card, it is still a big challenge for street level supervisors to prod their men into action if the latter’s will to fight is gone.
I describe “will to fight” as the innate desire of the policeman to do his job, which in its most ideal definition or romanticized version is “fight criminals.” Fighting criminals may be figurative at the upper echelons of the organization but for the street patrolman, it is as literal and as real as it gets. A beat policeman actually needs to physically fight and subdue a criminal resisting arrest. He needs to literally shoot it out with an armed criminal shooting back. And he needs to really run after a snatcher fleeing from the victim whose purse he had just grabbed. Examining these instances closely, we can see that the policeman opens himself to legal attacks such as criminal complaints or civil suits asking for damage compensation. While shooting at a criminal, he hits a bystander, and then it is a problem. If he hits the criminal with too many shots, another problem. He places the handcuffs too tightly, the CHR might come in once they see the bruises. Etcetera etcetera. All for what? A medal? A promotion? Or plainly for the salary? It is not hard to imagine then that some cops literally turn away from trouble. For them, “I will still have my salary on the 15th and the 30th even if I do not react to this trouble.” These people had lost their will to fight.
In my experience as a street and mid-level supervisor, I found that there are only two factors that I need to intervene in to reawaken the will to fight of my men: first I need to ensure that they have confidence in their equipment and second is that they have confidence in themselves. There are four major classifications of police equipment: the move, shoot, communicate, and investigate equipment. As for self confidence, it can be enhanced by training on individual competencies and unit tactics.
The “move” equipment is the main show window of a police unit aside from the facade of their office. I can sense the different pride and vigor of policemen assigned to units whose LGUs provide them with vehicles that are better than what the national government procures. Tagaytay and Cebu cities immediately come to mind: their police forces have Toyota Fortuners in their fleet. The PNP fares a lot better in the “shoot” equipment category. Street patrolmen now carry Glock 17 which is a top of the line carry gun of many police forces in the world. The PNP is also procuring the M4 to replace the old M16-A1s. Radio communications and investigation equipment are also being procured and enhanced.
But more than the equipment, the will to fight is most affected by the self confidence of the man on the ground. Even with the most sophisticated gadgets, the beat policeman will not be effective if he does not have the self confidence that he has the knowledge to deal with the dynamic and continuously evolving environment that he works in. Thus at the start of their training, among those instilled in police recruits is the statement of August Vollmer, Police Chief of Berkeley, California in the 1930s who once said: “The citizen expects police officers to have the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of David, the strength ‘of Samson, the patience of Job, the leadership of Moses, the kindness of the Good Samaritan, the strategic training of Alexander, the faith of Daniel, the diplomacy of Lincoln, the tolerance of the Carpenter of Nazareth, and, finally, an intimate knowledge of every branch of the natural, biological, and social sciences. If he had all these, he might be a good policeman.” It is for these reasons that I focus training my men on legal knowledge, individual proficiency such as marksmanship, radio communications, driving, unarmed combat, and physical fitness. Also I train them as a unit in immediate action drill and close quarter battle among others. To keep the unit sharp, I conduct field training exercises on immediate police response and anti-ambush on reinforcements if I am assigned in NPA-infested areas.
The police job is a very complicated one. Coupled with high public expectations, the organization cannot afford that the policemen on the ground lose their will to fight because it is by the performance of these front liners that the performance of the whole organization is rated on.