5 Historical Quotes to Help Police Commanders Lead the Troops

These are tried-and-true and often repeated by police commanders in squad rooms across the nation, and for good reason…. They resonate and inspire greatness.

Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot

I'm a big reader of history and historical quotations.

Here are five of my favorites that you can drop into your pre-shift brief to your troops.

1. "Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it."—M.H. McKee

I came across this quote from McKee pretty recently. A friend tipped me off to his words because he thought it would resonate with me (and it did). The path to virtue and victory is fraught with terrible possibilities of bad decisions, total accidents, and just-plain mayhem. Tell your officers at briefing that bad things happen, but when you know the right path to take, great things also happen.

2. "Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm."—Publilius Syrus

I've done this one before in a column a couple of years ago, but it just seems even more relevant today with the COVID and the violence and the unrest. As I've previously written, the seas these days are anything but calm—in some places the waters are downright angry—but those police leaders who hold the helm must keep the ship righted, its crew safe and well cared for, and working together to move the vessel steadily on in the desired direction. The seas will calm once again, but for now the sailing is going to be difficult.

3. "In this family, no one fights alone"—Unknown

I love this quote for so many reasons. But in a law enforcement context, it seems like steel. It is the bond that puts one officer from one background in the same squad as another copper from a totally different upbringing, and they—just by random happenstance—become family.

4. "Be the type of person that when your feet hit the floor in the mornin' the devil say's, 'Aww sh!t.. they're up.'"—Duane "The Rock" Johnson.

"The Rock" was a really good college football player, playing for "The U" down in Florida. Then he was a really good professional wrestler. Then he became a top-tier Hollywood movie-star. But this quote from him back in like 2012 or thereabouts has stuck to my ribs. It's great to be gentle and humble and quiet. But when the boots need to go to ground, the devil should shiver and shake and say, "'Aww sh!t.. they're up."

5. "Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid."—President Ronald Reagan

I miss Ronald Reagan. Best president of my lifetime. Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid. Tell that to your officers every shift. Make stickers to put on the visors of ever squad car. As a police leader you must empower your people. Reagan empowered not just the military, not just the professional first responders, but every American citizen willing to take up that mantle.

Final Words

As a police leader, you must be as good (or better) than your best officer. Be well-read. Be well-trained. Be self-confident. Be ready to race out of your office to bring aid to anyone in need. Best of all, be that person who your officers need in these strange and trying times.

Much love to you and your troops.

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Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot
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