The Relationship Between  Police Body Cams and Gemba Walks

The Relationship Between Police Body Cams and Gemba Walks

In October 2014, 17 year old Laquon McDonald was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer.  In November of 2015, the footage of the shooting was released and has been viewed all over the world.  The footage shows an aggressive attack by a police officer, a supposed person of service to the community, as he shot Laquon walking away from him and then falling to the ground after the first two shots were fired.  Fourteen more shots were fired into a lifeless body lying in the street.  In an understood code of silence, the other officers on the scene claimed in their written accounts that McDonald had “lunged” at officers with a knife, causing them to fear for their lives.  As blatantly evident in this video, this was simply not true.

As violent as this was, and as oftentimes happen, the next crime was just as bad, if not worse.  It’s the crime that covers up the first crime that adds fuel to a fire that is already ablaze.  In this case, the city of Chicago withheld the dashboard cam video from public view until a Cook County judge ordered that it be made public - over one year later.  As such, on the day the video was released, prosecutors charged Officer Jason Van Dyke with murder, the Police Superintendent was eventually forced to resign, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been on the hot seat as more and more people call for his resignation over the lack of transparency surrounding the video.

The McDonald family was paid off, with a $5 million dollar settlement — complete with a confidentiality agreement prohibiting release of the footage. This settlement was offered by the city in mid-March, but only voted on by the City Council in mid- April, after Emanuel had safely won his mayoral runoff.

Just days after protests erupted in Chicago, the city’s police department announced that it was expanding a pilot program that puts body cameras on officers. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that officers in six new precincts would receive cameras by the middle of 2016. The program currently operates in one precinct with about 30 cameras.

Craig Futterman, a law professor and director of the University of Chicago’s police accountability project, said body cameras are a good tool but far from a solution to the problem. “Body cameras don’t address the underlying reasons why this occurred. People look for that magical elixir for police violence, and this isn’t that.”

Being at the Gemba – Chicago Police Style

This story made me think about the relationship between what we preach in the KAIZEN™ world as going to the Gemba and observing the actual situation for the purpose of improvement and the approach taken by the Chicago Police administration to be at the Gemba for the purpose of … dare I say … assigning blame.  The Chicago Police and the public would be much better served by conducting real Gemba walks as we encourage in the KAIZEN™ world.

Three questions come to mind when I think of this relationship and these three questions might be important for all of us to ponder when we implement Gemba Walks within our own facilities.

Question to Ponder # 1:  Is there a code of silence in your facility?

Chicago cops have for years complained that the community does not assist them with their criminal investigations and taking action to prevent shootings from occurring or reoccurring. They pass the buck on to the victims of crimes and the witnesses living in a dangerous part of the city. And yet, for as long as anyone can remember, Chicago cops have had the reputation of protecting their own. When one watches the video, we can see that the other officers can clearly see what transpired that night in October, 2014, and yet, the detailed accounts of several police officers describe how LaQuon lunged at Officer Van Dyke with a knife. This was clearly not the case.

How are criminals and witnesses expected to provide information about what they saw, while jeopardizing their lives and reputation, if police officers do not take a leadership role, by practicing what they preach, and do the same? The real enemy for a gang member is not as much as an opposing gang member, but rather the police force itself. There is no trust between the two parties and this reflects itself in each other’s Codes of Silence. What is being done to get to the root cause of the lack of trust between the two parties and remedy this situation? Will increasing the number of body cams build trust? As Craig Futterman stated, “Body cameras don’t address the underlying reasons why this occurred.” In fact, body cameras will deter trust and increase the “them-we” conflict between the administration, street cops, and the public.

  1. Is there a code of silence amongst your people and/or departments?
  2. Are your Gemba Walks, and the way that you perform them, enhancing or constricting the Code of Silence?
  3. What is the root cause of the existence of the Code of Silence and what are you doing to address it?
  4. Are you doing Gemba walks correctly?

Question #2 to Ponder: What is the stated purpose of your Gemba Walks and is this known to all employees?

The purpose of adding more body cams to police officers is to help protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time help protect police against false accusations of abuse. It is an inspection tool as is any inspection tool within your facility. The purpose of any inspection tool is to protect the customer against product non-conformities, and at the same time help protect the supplier against false accusations of non-conformities. They are the same. The Chicago Police force is adding an inspection tool and still doing nothing to improve the processes. Real gemba walks performed correctly would focus on observing and improving such processes as the process of addressing a suspect, the communication process with a suspect, the process of stabilizing the situation, and the process of reporting one’s account of the situation.

  1. Do your employees view the gemba walk as a means of inspecting them?
  2. Do they disdain gemba walks and are they nervous when they occur?
  3. Do they prepare for a gemba walk in advance by tidying up and/or fixing their visual management boards?
  4. Have you stated and properly communicated the purpose of Gemba Walks to all employees?
  5. Are employees learning? Are you doing gemba walks correctly?

Question #3 to Ponder: Are your Gemba Walks unbiased?

Pastor James T. Meeks is the founder and senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, one of the fastest growing megachurches in the United States. Salem is the largest African American church in Illinois with over 15,000 members. Pastor Meeks was also an Illinois state senator from 2003-2013. Pastor Meeks recently commented that one of the positive things that resulted from the release of the dashboard cam video of the shooting of LaQuon McDonald, is that everyone saw exactly what happened from an unbiased point of view. It was such a blatant and obvious act of unprovoked violence that no one could make an argument to the contrary. As such, many marches were organized and held in downtime Chicago. For the first time ever, Meeks stated that there were more marches organized by white people than there were by African Americans. The bias was broken. A true gemba walk done properly eliminates bias. It focuses in on process. Whites seemed to be just as appalled as African Americans at the process of dealing with McDonald.

  1. Are your gemba walks unbiased?
  2. Do they disdain gemba walks and are they nervous when they occur?
  3. Do they prepare for a gemba walk in advance by tidying up and/or fixing their visual management boards?
  4. Are you more apt to provide more constructive gemba walks that focus on process in some areas more than others, dependent on your area of responsibility?
  5. Do you have the answers and provide those answers that you wish to enact, to the people in the area of focus?
  6. Are you open minded and unbiasedly listen to employee suggestions on the elimination of waste and improvement opportunities?

Hopefully, no one relies on video surveillance as a tool to use for process improvement in the business world. Many people in many organizations claim to perform gemba walks, but many do not perform them properly. Ponder, address, and discuss the questions above and see if you are headed in the right direction, unlike the Chicago Police force. And if you wish, call the Kaizen Institute for training and coaching in the art of performing gemba walks.

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