Illinois Chiefs examine the power of police culture and ending ‘us against them’ mindset

November 29, 2021

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police in its November issue of Command magazine examines why many conversations about police descend into “us against them.’

The quarterly print publication, which is distributed to the association's 1,300 members throughout the state, often covers the most pressing issues facing law enforcement professionals in Illinois.

Executive Director Ed Wojcicki introduces the topic of police culture in a letter to members in which he recognizes that the police must accept responsibility for the “us against them” mentality and take significant steps to position themselves as a community partner.

The comprehensive coverage reflects the focus taken by ILACP president, Hazel Crest Chief Mitchell R. Davis III over the past year.

Davis has embraced the power of police culture and its role in effective reform throughout his term as president. His piece, entitled “A Culture of Groupthink,” explores the complicated challenges, strengths and shortcomings of law enforcement through the lens of his personal experiences as a police officer, chief and a Black man. He warns against the dangers of groupthink in any organization.

“Groupthink can cause members to adopt a ‘protect at all costs’ method of operation, sometimes seeing anyone outside the organization as an adversary,” he states.

Several additional articles provide a self-examination of the topic and describe creative approaches to changing police culture from thought leaders including:

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, with an insightful Q&A giving an overview of police culture.

Aurora Chief (Ret.) Kristen Ziman, a longtime advocate for officer wellness who is currently authoring a book about police leadership.

Swansea Chief Steve Johnson, who teaches about police leadership and “the hero’s journey” nationally for Calibre Press.

The late Charles Gruber, a past ILACP president, who worked on resources for members before his passing in April.

Bartlett Chief (Ret.) Kent Williams in a piece that compares police culture to society’s many hyper-cautious responses to COVID-19.

According to Wexler, the topic is more relevant than ever now, as the national debate on police reform heats up.

“If we can change police culture, we can change policing,” he writes, adding that: “The challenge is to identify the areas where there are legitimate concerns and develop policy, training, and leadership that meet those challenges.”

He also stresses that police officers are often drawn to the profession because “very few occupations give you that much authority, responsibility, and opportunity to make a difference.”

By changing the “us against them” mentality, ILACP is hoping to reinforce the fact that the large majority of law enforcement professionals strive to protect and serve. They begin the work because they hope to make a positive difference in the very communities that they can later become pitted against.

As Ziman concludes in her essay: “As the chief in my organization and now someone who travels to other police agencies across the nation, I have the great fortune to see officers who are compassionate and empathic guardians of their city who run towards horrific things that no one else will. These officers are courageous, and they will continue to improve the culture in their respective organizations and our noble profession.”

The November issue of Command magazine is available for members online and in print. To join or access law enforcement resources, visit

A PDF copy of the ILACP police culture package is available upon request from Communications Director Amy Rourke Jones, [email protected]