Tag Archives: law enforcement leadership

Why is Fighting Slavery So Difficult?

Everyone opposes slavery, right?

Okay, those who are enslaving over 21 million people worldwide don’t oppose it, but assuming the vast majority of people do oppose human trafficking and modern slavery, you might think that fighting slavery would be fairly straight forward. But it isn’t. In fact, it can be quite difficult and frustrating. The United States Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) 15 years ago, making profound changes in how human trafficking is viewed and defined; how victims of trafficking are perceived, served, and assisted as they adapt from being victims of slavery to survivors; and how law enforcement agencies should respond to trafficking. Yet, those who have been involved in the fight against trafficking for years, and those new to the fight, experience frustration that so little seems to have improved since 2000. So why is fighting slavery do difficult?

First, modern slavery isn’t the slavery of old. It does not fit the traditional American view of slavery that was black and white – both in the literal sense, and in the moral sense where slavery was either accepted or reviled. The 13th Amendment may have outlawed slavery in the United States, but it did not abolish enslavement either domestically nor globally. In the modern slavery, victim and enslaver (or trafficker) more typically look alike, sound alike, and share Geo-cultural backgrounds. In addition, the slavery of old is understood by most Americans as either field labor or domestic service – images cast in school books and movies. The exploitation of today is limited only by the imagination and coercive skill of the trafficker: Once a trafficker determines how to profit from another person’s labor, they need only determine how best to make their victim perform that labor  through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. (In the commercial sex trade, engaging in sex is the labor.) In short, the whys and hows of modern slavery are far more complex than in the past.

Second, in this new paradigm of slavery, most slaves do not view themselves as slaves! (In a decade of anti-trafficking work I recall only one case in which a man walked into a police department and said, “I need help. I’m a victim of human trafficking.”) Victims engaged in forced commercial sex often do so because their “boyfriend,” who “loves them,” doesn’t have a job and the only way to eat and have a roof over their heads is by her engaging in sex several times a day.

Globally, 68% of human trafficking victims are exploited through forced labor or services, not the sex trade. Many are, more accurately, victims of debt-bondage, paying off a debt owed to their enslaver – often with unpayable interest rates – and either unable to leave for lack of better job opportunities, or afraid to leave due to threats of violence to the victim or their family. Foreign nationals trafficked within the United States often believe deportation awaits them if they come forward but, in fact, the TVPA offers protection to foreign national trafficking victims. Victims, lacking this understanding, are afraid to report their victimization for fear of law enforcement viewing them as criminals. Also, cultural norms often dictate a debt must be repaid no matter the conditions of repayment; another tool of coercion traffickers utilize. Not surprisingly, few victims of trafficking self-identify, adding another element of complexity.

The complexities of the new slavery, and how victims often perceive themselves, exponentially increase the complexity of responding to human trafficking. No single agency or professional sector (e.g., law enforcement, victim services providers, community organizations) can respond to trafficking alone and be effective in mitigating modern slavery. The “4 P Paradigm” is a model recommended for the comprehensive response to slavery and consists of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, and Partnership. The first three Ps bring their own challenges, but the fourth is most daunting of them all. Collaboration among various agencies and organizations, each involved in different Ps, requires patience and humility on the part of the individuals involved, and long-term commitment from the leadership of the various organizations involved. Effective Partnership requires both institutional commitment, as well as specific skills and traits on the part of the individuals doing the collaborative work. Often, the person chosen to engage in this collaborative work doesn’t yet possess basic knowledge on aspects of trafficking and the response critical for their success, so training is a never-ending process. And, unfortunately, institutional leadership often sees the fight against slavery as merely the latest topic of community interest to be leveraged for political gain.

The struggles of fighting slavery go beyond these three, and each of the topics addressed could merit their own book! But while it may appear to some that little has changed since passage of the TVPA, the truth is far more encouraging. A decade ago friends asked, “What’s human trafficking?” when they learned of my work with a human trafficking task force. Today,  a more likely response is, “Tell me more,” as people are familiar with the term – if not the complexities. Today, more law enforcement officers have been trained; more prosecutions occur; more victims have more agencies and shelters ready to serve them; more communities cry out to help victims within their home towns. Colleges and universities offer courses addressing human trafficking and other social justice issues. Much good work has been done!

But the work continues, and part of the work in fighting slavery includes continuing to learn how to best do the work of fighting slavery. Understanding – and embracing – the complexity is the first step, and the second, and the third… Right now, 21 million people are enslaved worldwide. And they are awaiting our response.

(Interested in learning more about Human Trafficking?   View the Kickstarter campaign supporting The Essential Abolitionist book. Also, visit The Essential Abolitionist Facebook Page.

Knowledge and the Response to Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is complex. The response to trafficking is even more complex. That is the reason I’m writing, The Essential Abolitionist: What You Need to Know About Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery.

I’ve been involved in the fight against human trafficking for almost a decade; first managing the San Jose Police Department’s Human Trafficking Task Force, and since 2011 as a consultant working with both governmental and private organizations to better understand, and respond, to human trafficking. It has been quite an experience; I’ve learned a lot through my involvement and worked with many wonderful and committed people. But I’ve also seen many efforts – even when backed with plenty of passion and money – struggle and fail due to lack of knowledge about  of the issue, the challenges of collaboration, or the intricacies of the multidisciplinary response. While there are several good books and resources helpful in learning about trafficking, no book currently exists that is based upon experience in the actual response to slavery. The Essential Abolitionist will fill this void.

The concept behind the book is rather simple. I put together a list of questions that I am consistently asked by people who are interested in trafficking, along with a list of the topics that I usually include in training programs or presentations. I view this information as essential to a foundational knowledge on the subject, and necessary to be as effective as possible in our efforts to assist victims, prosecute traffickers, and raise public awareness.

I then shared my list with several anti-trafficking colleagues, all of whom supported the concept behind the book, and many of whom have offered to contribute to the book. The Essential Abolitionist will not only educate those who desire a better understanding of human trafficking, but will be an asset for abolitionists in the future.

I’ve decided to self-publish the book for several reasons, but here are two: First, I can update information in the print and eBook more easily if needed, and; Two, I wanted as many people as possible to be involved in the project  – and not only by supporting it financially. Backers of The Essential Abolitionist will get to vote on the book cover, read early drafts, and support anti-trafficking efforts in their communities by sharing the book. Hopefully backers will feel they are not just giving support, but are actively involved in the response against trafficking.

Please visit the Kickstarter Project Page!

Then, do three things.
1 – Back the project.
2- Share the project with your friends and colleagues via email and social media – and ask them to support it. (Depending upon your social media platforms you may want to post more than once since not all of your contacts may see only one post. The campaign lasts only 30 days.)
3- Share this project with civic or faith communities, universities, or companies that want to support efforts fighting slavery. Everyone is opposed to slavery, and this is a great opportunity to get involved.

This project involves three of my greatest passions: leadership, collaboration, and the response to human trafficking. Thank you for your support!

(Motivated? Here are two additional things you can do. Follow me on Twitter (or just click the button on my home page), and “Like” The Essential Abolitionist Facebook page. Thanks!)

Leadership, Collaboration, Response to Human Trafficking

Leadership, Collaboration, Response to Human Trafficking. These are the topics I address on my blog, teach to others, and speak about in public. While they may appear to be three different subjects, they are closely intertwined. Together, they also create lessons that are applicable to the world around us; the response to human trafficking is also my laboratory for practicing leadership and collaboration.

Human trafficking (the exploitation of a person’s labor or services, or forced commercial sexual exploitation, through force, fraud or coercion) impacts an estimated 24 million victims worldwide. The International Labour Organization estimates global revenue from trafficking (really, modern slavery) is $150B every year. The dynamics that lead to, and foster, human trafficking are varied and complex. But the dynamics involved in the response to trafficking are even more complex! Whenever a discussion focuses on how individuals and institutions respond to trafficking, the conversation inevitably shifts to topics of leadership and collaboration.

The “4 P Paradigm” is a model of response to human trafficking created and promoted by the federal government; Prevention, Protection (of victims), Prosecution, Partnership. The first three legs fail without Partnership, or collaboration. Sectors involved in the response to trafficking include: victim services providers; local police or sheriffs; federal law enforcement, including FBI and ICE/HSI; local and federal prosecutors; private organizations; community groups; and others. If an effective response is to occur, these sectors have to be able to work together to maximize their own effectiveness. An axiom in the response to trafficking is that no single agency (or sector) can address the problem of human trafficking alone. At a minimum, each sector must recognize that others sectors exist, and that each sector has it’s own mission and goals. Collaboration includes assisting others in achieving their goals. Collaborating in this sense is a learned skill; it requires traits and skills that many of us do not learn naturally and most have not been taught in any formal setting.

Leadership comes into play when discussing how collaborative groups are formed, how decisions are made, and who “leads” the group. This can be especially challenging in a group comprised of different professional cultures, varying levels of knowledge and experience regarding human trafficking, and institutional goals. There have been a lot of failures in the response to trafficking, and when examined closely these failures can usually be traced to issues of leadership and collaboration, not the passion to fight modern slavery.

Lessons of leadership and collaboration experienced in one environment can often be translated into other environments. While I write about the interplay of leadership and collaboration with the response to human trafficking, I also examine leadership and collaboration as they apply to other settings. Being involved in the response to trafficking allows me not only to work in developing effective responses to trafficking, it offers me the environment to practice collaboration and leadership, just as various positions during my career with the San Jose Police Department offered me opportunities to enhance my supervision and leadership skills. Every leader need a laboratory, if you will, in which to practice and develop their leadership skills; true leaders never stop developing their leadership skills.

The topics of leadership, collaboration, and the response to human trafficking are closely connected. Success against modern slavery require leadership and collaboration. At the same time, the development of leadership and collaboration trait and skills can be enhanced in any environment and for any purpose.

As you can see, the words at the top of my homepage are very closely related. Please subscribe to my blog – and share it with others – if you have interest in any of these topics.

3 Signs of Effective Leadership: Do You Experience These?

Talking recently with a friend about leadership, we explored how we might be able to identify if others perceive us as leaders? Formal leadership roles or formal authority – such as a rank – mean we hold positions of leadership, but we have all suffered the experience of answering to someone in a position of leadership who we would describe as a poor, or even terrible, leader. If we define leadership as something we all do (offering positive influence while working with others for a common good) then we should be able to recognize when others view us as practicing leadership effectively – regardless of our formal authority.

Here are three signs we can look for in our own experiences that will offer insight into how others perceive our practice of leadership. There are certainly many more than three, and experiencing all three does not necessarily make us excellent leaders These signs are also contextual; meaning, they are not simply black or white. But they are a start. Do you experience these?

1 – People seek you out for advice. Immediately context becomes important. I’m not referring to people who could be considered subordinate to you, but to people outside your immediate sphere of influence who seek your counsel because they respect your opinions and knowledge. If this person can curry your favor or receive something of value from you, it is not the same thing. Have you ever experienced someone contacting you out of the blue, maybe having received your name and a recommendation from a third party? This is what I’m talking about. The person coming to you wants to tap into your knowledge and experience. They want to learn from your experience of creating positive influence. While not necessarily saying it, they view you as a leader in your field or on a specific topic.

2- Dissent is freely given. When you are responsible (again, either formally or informally) for meetings, conferences, or discussions, do others feel free to dissent with others and – most importantly – you? An effective leader will encourage and sustain an environment where others feel confident they can dissent without repercussions. Leaders who allow dissenting opinions to be heard, discussed, and considered show they value everyone’s input. Not only are these leaders more likely to learn more and discover additional options, they promote cohesion among team members. Everyone feels they are part of the effort. On the other hand, if you do have formal authority over a group, and you do not hear dissenting views, if your subordinates just look at you and nod their heads, well, you are in trouble. You need to take a close look at your leadership practices. Effective leaders tolerate dissent, but never silence.

3 – You self-develop your leadership knowledge and skills. How often do you study topics related to leadership without being mandated? Attending a leadership course or listening to a speaker arranged through your employer doesn’t count. Do you have a real interest in the practice of leadership that inspires you to study and learn, to consistently develop your knowledge, traits, and skills? Do you notice how effective leaders are effective in many different settings? That’s because the practice of effective leadership crosses boundaries; a good leader will want to foster effective leadership practices regardless of the setting. Notice I’m not saying leaders will want to lead regardless of setting, but their positive influence will be felt. Leaders like to practice – or perform – leadership. If this description fits you, great! If you just like being “in charge”, it is time to reassess your practice of leadership.

Here is one extra sign: You regularly take time to examine your practice of leadership. So take a few minutes and look closely at your recent experiences to see if any of these three signs apply to you. Honest self-reflection is the most critical trait for a leader. If you like what you see, great. If what you see needs to be changed, start today. It is never too late to become a better leader.

Are You Involved in the Fight Against Trafficking? Then You Need This!

If you (or your organization) is actively opposing human trafficking in your community this resource is for you! The Human Trafficking Task Force e-Guide. The guide is newly updated and expanded, and is the only guide on task force operations available to the general public. While the guide uses the term “task force,” it is designed to assist any multidisciplinary-team approach to the prevention, investigation or prosecution of human trafficking, or to providing protection and services to victims of trafficking. Regardless of the term used for your organization (coalition, task force, collaborative, etc.), this e-guide will increase the efficiency and knowledge of your members, and your team as a whole.

The e-Guide offers guidelines to collaborative practices, along with more detailed information valuable to victim services providers, law enforcement investigators, and prosecutors. It also contains information on conducting public awareness campaigns, case studies, and a host of additional resources.

The complexities in responding to slavery can only be navigated with a multidisciplinary, victim-centered approach. Yet the work involved with engaging other professional sectors, creating a leadership system within the task force, and working together can be more difficult than the daily work of assisting victims, investigating incidents, or prosecuting traffickers. Much of my consulting work focuses on how individuals and agencies can improved their collaborative work. This e-guide fills a void, and should be studied by everyone involved in the response to trafficking.

Lastly, I was honored to be part of the consultant team on this project. It was a pleasure working with Amy, Jean, and Jack, along with the team at OVC/TTAC. Our hope is that this e-guide will help your organization in your efforts against human trafficking.

Discover Your Leadership Crucibles

The metaphor of a crucible (a container for heating materials to a high temperature or, a sever trial or test) is sometimes used when discussing the learning of leadership through our trials or experiences. The United States Marine Corps has a 54-hour trial that each recruit must complete; it is called The Crucible. Several years ago the San Jose Police Department’s recruit academy staff created a similar (though much shorter) test, during which recruits must work together while hiking, completing a ropes course, complete problem-solving exercises, and display leadership. This trial is also called The Crucible.

The leadership authors Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas examined learning leadership in this manner in their book Crucibles of Leadership: How to Learn From Experience to Become a Great Leader. No doubt, learning leadership skills and developing our abilities through our own experiences is, for most of us, the most common way we develop our leadership practices. If we are lucky, we may be offered formal leadership training or instruction to supplement and build upon our experiences. But the key to learning from our experiences is, first, recognizing the opportunity in front of us and, second, making the effort to take advantage of the opportunity. Becoming a better leader requires a conscious effort.

If we stop and think about it, most of us have many, many opportunities over the course of our careers (let alone, our lifetime) to develop our leadership skills. How many of those opportunities did you recognize at the time, and take advantage of? I’ll share three opportunities I had during my police career, each coming at different stages of my career and requiring different types of commitments on my part.

During my first year as a sergeant I supervised a rather arrogant officer who repeatedly made poor decisions, though not of the severe variety. Most of the officer’s problems related to how they engaged with citizens, or handled calls the officer felt were frivolous. Over the course of several minor incidents (and our discussions about these incidents) the officer’s behavior began to border on insubordination. At one point, my lieutenant wanted to step in a begin formal disciplinary action against the officer. It would have been easy to let the lieutenant take charge, but it would have alleviated me of my responsibilities and an opportunity to grow as a leader. I asked the lieutenant to let me try a course of action with the officer. The lieutenant supported me (a leadership lesson in itself), and eventually the officer began to change the way they interacted with others. It took time and effort on both my part and the officer’s, but I like to think that we both learned a few things along the way. The most important part of this experience for me was that leadership requires the willingness to take on difficult situations.

Later in my career, while a sergeant in the Vice unit, I was assigned responsibility for an anti-human trafficking grant the department had received from the U.S. Department of Justice. This was at a time when the response to human trafficking was in its earliest stages, and few people understood what it would take to create and sustain an anti-trafficking task force. A huge part of this work involved creating relationships with federal law enforcement agents, and local organizations who served victims of trafficking. It was an excellent opportunity to develop my collaboration skills, but also required patience and commitment on my part. (And, to be honest, patience on the part of those who had to work with me!) I found the topic of trafficking, and how to respond to slavery, fascinating, and embraced the work with enthusiasm. In fact, I’m still involved in the anti-trafficking community. This engaging in this work took a lot of effort but also gave me tremendous opportunities to enhance existing skills, and identify new areas in which to develop skills. Ironically, this assignment was given to me after two other sergeants chose not to engage in the work. So leaders need to develop an eye for engaging in new areas of challenge; what are some of the new topics being discussed where you work?

The final experience I’ll share is when I was promoted to lieutenant and immediately assigned to command our department’s information technology unit. The problem was that at the time I had zero knowledge about anything to do with IT! Several major projects were in the works and technical decisions had to be made. Also, due to the quirks of how this unit had grown over time, my staff comprised sworn police officers, IT professionals who were employed by the police department, and other IT professionals who were employed by the city and therefore not technically in my chain of command.

The leadership crucible I faced included: how to engage a staff that (rightly so) often felt diminished by the rest of the department; how to make technology decisions in a field I knew nothing about, and; how to gain credibility among my staff which at times suffered their own internal squabbles. This was a huge challenge, but ultimately it was the greatest leadership learning experience of my career.  I learned how to persuade engagement from reluctant team members, draw upon the expertise of others to help me learn, and how to balance input from a variety of sources offering technical advice. I was practicing what is known as adaptive leadership, though I didn’t recognize it at the time.

The common thread among these diverse experiences is that I recognized the opportunity before me and that I made the conscious effort to develop my leadership skills. I could have let the lieutenant take responsibility for the insubordinate officer. I could done minimal work to comply with the anti-trafficking grant and dismissed the opportunity to work with a variety of others. I could have taken command of the IT unit, listened to one or two of the most knowledgeable staff members and began making decisions about hardware and software.

But I didn’t. Instead I took advantage of these opportunities and tried to become a more effective leader. I certainly had frustrations and failures along the way, but the heat of these environments tested my abilities and resolve. Look for your own crucible! Then look for another. Leadership is a burden and requires a consistent effort. Recognize and embrace the opportunities before.  This is how leaders learn from their experience, and the learning should never end.

What leadership crucible can you embrace today?

3 Reasons to Begin Your Personal Leadership Journey

My goal is helping others become more knowledgeable, engaging, effective leaders – especially those working in law enforcement or other public safety organizations. But the sad truth of the matter for most of us is that developing our personal leadership capabilities and practices require personal effort. Most of us will be given little, if any, leadership training beyond the minimum required as we rise through the ranks. If we really want to become more effective leaders (by “effective” I mean we inspire others to be better at their jobs, make those around us feel valued and believe they are contributing to the organization’s goals and, we offer a vision for improving the organization and those we serve) we must commit ourselves to a leadership journey that cannot be completed simply by reading a book or two, or by attending a leadership program. It takes effort. How we can become better leaders will be the recurrent theme of this blog, but for now let’s examine three reasons (though there are many more) why becoming a better leader needs to be a personal effort.

1- We Need Good Law Enforcement Leaders!
During your career, how many individuals in leadership positions have you observed that you would consider effective leaders? Keep in mind that some supervisors and managers can accomplish their jobs of supervising and managing without exhibiting the traits described above In his book, Challenging the Law Enforcement Organization: Proactive Leadership Strategies, Jack Enter relates his asking law enforcement personnel what percentage of their past and current supervisors and managers displayed true leadership behaviors (p. 27). Most responded that only 5-10 percent displayed real leadership! Take a few minutes and make a list of the supervisors and managers you have worked with and, using the simple definition of effective leadership offered above, determine how many you would rate as effective. Now ask yourself, Do I want to be an effective leader, or among the (probable) majority who are something less?

I worked with several effective leaders during my career, but many were less than effective, and some were terrible. I tried to learn from the effective and tried not to emulate the ineffective or bad. (Though, to be honest, there were times I failed at both.) Good leaders are not easy to come by, so the first reason to develop your leadership knowledge and traits is simply because good leaders are needed and they are hard to find.

2- Organizations Don’t Foster Leadership Development
What has your organization done to develop your leadership knowledge and skills? Probably very little. If it makes you feel any better, most law enforcement agencies don’t provide much support. Typically, leadership development opportunities only become available upon promotion: you get promoted to sergeant, then you attend some form of supervisor’s training; you get promoted to lieutenant, then you attend administrator training. If you are lucky, these trainings include the discussion of leadership as being not only a part of supervision and management, but also as a set of practices which transcends these two job descriptions. As described in this article from the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, this traditional process of promoting and then training puts “the cart before the horse”, and is not the best method to prepare future leaders, or an agency for their leadership needs. In short, law enforcement typically promotes individuals into positions of authority and then expects them to perform. Leadership skills and practices should be developed in advance – even if you have to do it yourself.

3- Leadership is Not Only for the Workplace or Organization
Too many of us see leadership as something we do at work or as a result of our position within a group, such as being the president of club. But the study of leadership principles and practices includes benefits that enhance us personally and in just about every type of social engagement. For example, developing ourselves requires the ability to reflect upon how we currently practice leadership, along with our past successes and failures. To be an effective leader demands we take the time, and have the ability, to look at ourselves. This ability to analyze how we do things is equally important in how we view our parenting, our relationships, and how we engage with our community. The study of leadership can enhance our lives.

So here are three reasons to take responsibility for developing your leadership skills. What are some other reasons you can think of? Share them so we can all enjoy the food for thought.