⚖PART I: We Can’t Fix Policing Because We Have Been Looking the WRONG WAY for Decades.

Catherine Pugh, Esq.
15 min readApr 20, 2021

Let’s dispense with theory and cut to the truth — it is not “police can’t,” it is “their supervisors refuse.”



Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there.” ~Testimony of Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arrandondo.

Dear Chief:

Every officer in every department across the United States is trained. Your training holds no special place, and has no “deal-breaking” value. Training is not the job. The job is not putting defective agents in the field.

The job is OVERSIGHT. For first-line supervisors like sergeants, that is quite literally their only job — to oversee the application of training. Who is overseeing them? Who is making certain that the things to do when an officer has three citizen complaints are actually being done? Who, in turn, is overseeing those people, on a loop and up the chain?

The job is DOCUMENTATION. Supervision must be documented. If there has been no documented supervision of a problem and its course correction, there has been no supervision.

The job is ACTION. You need only look at an employee’s file to assess supervisor oversight, and then take action. No unions, no collective bargaining agreements, just paperwork and consequences.

And, the job IS NOT BEING DONE. As far back as I can recall, not once has a supervisor been fired for failed oversight potentially leading to egregious misconduct. That is an easy connection to vet: just one sample In a stunning display of incompetence on a loop, [Louisville Metro] officers have . . . When your supervisors fail, why aren’t you firing them? Fire enough and the rest will dig in.

THAT is the job. That is the only way to change your culture. That is why your community hired you. And this is how that gets done. Return the consequences for bad policing to their sources, or non-White Americans can keep dying. There is no Option 3.

I would love to do this work with you. My offer is sincere.

Be well, Chief,

EMAIL: title42usc1983@yahoo.com. FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.pugh.79. TWITTER: @EsqPugh. View a Race and Profiling Lecture Series appearance here.

“The ugly truth is that police departments have not done the work and America has wasted decades on the remaining, and grossly inferior, cure options. That works for all but Black America, as long as Black America alone carries the burden of your delay.

Today, I return that burden to you.“

As long as the plan includes us absorbing the lion’s share of the harm, the plan is for us to die.

Policing’s “can’t change the culture” narrative is patently untrue. This is a five-part series taking the varnish off of the myth that leadership cannot police its people. It can — handily. When leaders up and down the chain fail to do the one job for which they have been hired, they must be cut from the force with intent. The culture will only evolve when the culture appreciates that mediocrity comes with a pink slip. This is no creative solution. This is cold, hard truth and common sense.

To change the police culture, you must change the culture makers. CULTURE=CULTURE MAKERS.

Fire those who fail to supervise to the public’s detriment.


He who suffers the consequences is motivated to drive the change. CONSEQUENCES=CHANGE.

It is no more, and no less, complicated than that.



You, in fact, did not even take action against the most culpable. You see catastrophic police events as centered around the INVOLVED OFFICERS:

Sometimes, the mentality goes, bad apples happen, and police departments are not immune. We do all we can do, and our hands are tied. Largely positive police performance is as good as we can get it. We look forward to working together on this national problem that has no clear path to a cure.

We must re-wire that thinking because the construct is as dangerous as it is deceptive. Catastrophic police events are centered around POLICE SUPERVISORS, and that is how we must begin to see them:

Bad performance is not always a manifestation of bad supervision, but bad supervision always manifests through bad performance. The proper test is not “do most officers get it right,” but “do ALL leaders?”

You swift-actioned the presentation of bad supervision: the malfeasant officers. But as with every hive, the only way to kill a scourge is to kill the queen: the malfeasance maker. Find and remove that person and the entire game — and culture — changes.


Chief Arradondo, training is not the job. Close and effective supervision is. That is, the job is overseeing what one does with his or her training. For first-line supervisors like sergeants, that is quite literally their one job. Until you can make the case for implementation and policy oversight, your work has hardly begun. And I can begin a credible case that MPD’s implementation and policy oversight are, at best, woefully inadequate.

And, as with the manifestation of malfeasance, once that case is made to your satisfaction, these supervisors must go no less swiftly.

When your zero tolerance for anything but close and effective supervision becomes clear, your culture will begin its genuine change.


First this: “Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there.”

Training is vital to the Minneapolis Police Department (“MPD”). MPD uses training to teach policy and procedure, law, and to re-enforce MPD values. It invests time, energy and $8.5 billion in resources on mandatory in-service and leadership trainings. That is laudable, but training is hardly exoneration, and it certainly is not dispositive of oversight success.

Training is the starting gun, not the finish line. It establishes only that employees should know the burdens, duties, and expectations in MPD’s Policy and Procedure Manual.

Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tuo Thao are actually proof of this axiom. Chauvin may have pinned George Floyd’s windpipe shut, but your four officers worked in concert to kill him. They knew MPD’s policies, yet did not apply them.

When you go on to view that fatal-four grouping as four bad apples and a coincidence is when you make your fatal mistake. Think, Chief: what are the odds that you have a rare four “bad apples” who happened upon the same scene then identically disregarded the same training?

And, note: two MPD use of force policies you discussed during Chauvin’s trial are now conspicuously missing from MPD’s policy manual: §§5–304 and 305. If that suggests a force revamping and retraining, you are gearing up to make that fatal mistake again.

Bad performance is not always a manifestation of bad supervision, but bad supervision always manifests through bad performance.

Next, as is true in most departments, your sergeants are your first-line of supervision, and they have clue after clue that the apples in their barrels are spoiling, or have gone full over. These are just a few; a barrel holds three to four-hundred.

Thao had six misconduct complaints and was sued for excessive force. Chauvin shot two people in two years, had 17 misconduct complaints, at least one prisoner rights lawsuit, pulled a woman out of her car for going ten miles over the limit, had his squad camera turned off. Between those 23 complaints and two lawsuits, Derek Chauvin had one reprimand in his personnel file.

These are bright red and screaming flags. Did your supervisors then verify, for example, that officers are using force consistent with training? At the lowest level necessary? That they are treating citizens with dignity and respect? Making truthful statements? Not singling out community members by race? Being unbiased, fair and impartial? Are your sergeants literally standing discreetly in the streets watching officers do what they do as a matter of routine? All that language came straight from your manual, §§5–101, 103–04, and 301(III). These are your requirements. Are you meeting them?


You are not even close. You cannot say with any certainty that the decay was limited to four. You can only say, decayed or not, the apples have been trained. See how bad that test is?

What do you personally do to ensure your ranking supervisors constantly build and re-build a non-overly abusive police force, and work to create community trust?

What do your ranking supervisors do to assess first-line supervisors, and how they identify, track, and prevent misconduct? Effectively apply management practices and accountability systems to protect your communities before an unlawful search occurs? Or excessive force? Or pre-empt intimidation, so the community feels free to come to MPD?

How do they assess — without a citizen ever having to complain — what officers do with their training? For example, do they respond to certain arrest scenes themselves, routinely review force episodes, review body-camera video, link officers to counseling or other support, and pulse-check community relationships?


To our communities for the most part, your body of work doesn’t hold as much value. We don’t have the luxury of being able to go up to a community member for the first time and say, ‘you know, those 99 calls I was on before went really well, trust me on this one.’”

First, policing is not special — let’s dispense with the whining. Full-grading on first-blush is a fixture in every profession. The higher the cost of error, the less space one’s “body of work” occupies on the pass/fail test. Once the cost of error passes into the irreparable range, the scale flips and one’s “body of failures” becomes dispositive. Next, always remember that while success/failure manifests through your officers, your supervisors are the ones sitting for the exam.


Those in MPD’s command must continuously evaluate their command. They must also note all deficiencies and inadequacies (§1–404). MPD supervisors are responsible for their subordinates’ behavior and actions (§1–405). They must evaluate subordinates, appraise their work (§1–406), and ensure that MPD rules, regulations and orders are followed (§1–405).

The duty is there. The manual spells out the details. The documentation requirement provides a means to assess performance. Following a catastrophic policing event, fire your ranking and first-line supervisors who failed to oversee conduct implicated in that event (i.e., force , searches, seizures, dignity, respect, truth, and so on).


The ugly truth is that police departments have not done the work and America has wasted decades on the remaining grossly inferior cure options. That works for all but Black America, as long as Black America alone carries the burden of your delay.

Today, I return that burden to you. He who suffers the consequence is more driven to find the cure. And who better to drive that than the one who put it into play to begin with?


The best way to tell the public this is to show them. I would prefer using the Chauvin killing as that illustration. Unfortunately, I am unable. The Minneapolis Police Department has not made sufficient information available to serve a purpose as specific as this.

Instead, I will use the Louisville Metro Police Department’s (“LMPD’s”) 2020 killing of Kentucky resident Breonna Taylor. This real event with real consequences will give the public an idea of the interlocking relationship between what a supervisor expects, what an officer does, and how communities pay the price. The test is not whether Breonna would be alive. The test is whether LMPD put the conditions in play, or failed to properly circumvent the conditions, that ended with Breonna Taylor dead.

And because I am who I am, I “tell” you anyway. You can find that here. That links LMPD’s policies to specific March 13th events. Then, it asks the question: did the supervisor take all preventative and oversight measures required to address or avoid this harm? Did they proactively oversee the application of each officer’s training, as it is their sworn duty to do?

LMPD’s Chief can obviously discipline and terminate LMPD supervisor staff. But note that — as is largely true across the country — Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has that authority as well.

The Louisville police and leadership collective bargaining agreements (“CBA”) expressly allow for it. The Mayor’s office owns, and can review, personnel files. Per CBAs U47 and U48, to “preserve confidentiality and protect the privacy rights of Members, access to Member’s (sic) personnel records shall be restricted to [the] Metro Government Mayor or designee,” among others. CBA U47, Art. 18 § 2(F)(vi); CBA U48, Art. 18 § 2(F)(vi).

Metro Government has the exclusive right to set employment standards, direct members, maintain operational efficiency, discipline employees per KRS 67C.301 to KRS 67C.327, and relieve members from duty for “lack of work or other legitimate reasons.” CBA U47, Art. 4 § 2(a)-(f); CBA U48, Art. 4 § 2(a)-(f). No reasonable interpretation of CBA U47 or CBA U48 bars severe and immediate consequences for non-performing employees.

He who suffers the consequence is more driven to find the cure. And who better to drive that than the one who put it into play to begin with?“

LMPD’s Standard Operating Procedures expressly allow for it. “Metro Government has the right to discipline or terminate/discharge members for just cause.” SOP §2.11.4.

Thus, as you consider what is to come, do so with the understanding that Mayor Fischer’s hands are not tied by the CBA or the LMPD SOP. He can, and has a duty to, step in and take action where his appointed leadership fails.

Finally, in both this showing and telling, it is important to note that nothing here is offered for, or constitutes, legal advice. I crafted a comprehensive, common sense response that anyone with an internet connection can replicate.

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In a stunning display of incompetence on a loop, LMPD officers have reportedly falsified a sworn statement, misled the court to secure a warrant, acted without cause, executed an egregiously inferior raid of a lawful and private residence, used a grossly inferior team to do so, killed one innocent, arrested another, put even children and the unborn at extreme risk of harm, subverted evidence collection from the only neutral source available, degraded the integrity of a crime scene, contaminated physical evidence , tainted key testimonial scene evidence, tainted overall testimonial evidence, absconded for hours without a policy mandated chaperone to protect and secure testimony, “migrated” official statements inexplicably, cost the city $12 million in damages, and exposed the city to further costly litigation by citizens and LMPD’s own agents.

Those links all point to various articles written about the raid. Click here to view the LMPD investigation file that Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer made available.

The path of incompetence had to travel through at least seven firewalls of oversight before it reached LMPD’s Police Chief. That is, from LMPD’s raid team through its unit sergeant, immediate shift supervisors, overall Criminal Interdiction Division (“CID”) unit supervisors, training supervisors, the various performance review supervisors, and then the CID Major, Support Bureau Assistant Chief of Police, the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Police, and finally end with the Chief of Police.

It had to overwhelm LMPD’s 360-degree system of interlocking oversight, manifesting a “commitment to justice, equal treatment of individuals, . . . fair and impartial enforcement of all laws, [and] highest regard for individual and constitutional rights.”

LMPD requires supervisors to secure officer compliance with township and LMPD policies and procedures, and all applicable local and federal law. They must detect and investigate violations, administer corrective action, observe subsequent compliance, and notify others per policy; they must perform cyclic and episodic performance evaluations and reviews, and distribute outcomes per policy; and, they must document supervision and may impose consequences. A supervisor’s most pressing directive is to maximize effectiveness and minimize risk relative to procedures, laws, and agency priorities.

It had to defeat at least four constitutional disciplines, all of which require initial training, refresher training, general oversight and compliance review: 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendment privileges and restrictions.

It had to defeat a conservative ten performance disciplines, all of which require initial training, periodic re-training, supervisor oversight and compliance review: biased law enforcement practices, critical incident dynamics, search techniques, narcotics investigations, crime scene security and processing, evidence preservation, report writing, deadly force encounters, warrant acquisition and execution, application and use of wearable video systems (required per LMPD SOP 4.31.1 when LMPD executed the Taylor warrant), collecting and storing wearable video systems data, and medical emergency response.

And yet, of the 1,538 LMPD personnel in place on May 13, 2020, every supervisor, lieutenant, major, assistant chief, deputy chief, and chief in that decision chain retained his and her post save TWO: LMPD demoted former Lt. Kimberly Burbank, and fired former Police Chief Steve Conrad. Conrad took no action against the seven-plus failed firewalls between him and his LMPD agents. The Mayor did as well. And while the city has done a forward looking “top-to-bottom” general process improvement review, it has announced no backward looking supervisor non-compliance review.

LMPD officers can also come to mirror their leaderships’ mentality.

That is from an August 2020 email from LMPD supervisor Maj. Bridget Hallahan to LMPD officers about one of many protests in the post-Floyd wave. Maj. Hallahan has been relieved of duty.

This is from a September 2020 email from Officer Jon Mattingly to LMPD colleagues, sent after his March 2020 Breonna Taylor killing.

Officers cross attitudinal lines in synch with their leadership, so let me ask you this: if an officer executing a raid sees a potential suspect as completely unimportant, describe how you would expect that officer to behave when arranging the raid, behave when executing the raid, and treat potential suspects encountered during the raid?

This is no academic exercise. It is also not particularly complicated. We die because we are not important. Instead of putting everything you have behind defending the indictment while leaving the conduct in place, act as one who is humane enough to end the practice or step aside for someone who will.

Make leadership do their jobs or lose their jobs. It is long past time to take up true candor and courage.

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Do not let leadership continue running with a false bad apple / lone wolf narrative. Officers are not innocents, but the apples riding desks are holding the reins. Demand that Mayors and Chiefs supervise their supervisors until we get the culture to which the nation is entitled.



Be the force motivating the driver,

EMAIL: title42usc1983@yahoo.com. FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.pugh.79. TWITTER: @EsqPugh. View a Race and Profiling Lecture Series appearance here.
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Catherine Pugh is an Attorney at Law and former Adjunct Professor at the Temple University, Japan. She developed and taught Race and the Law for its undergraduate program, and Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal and Civil Procedure for its law program. She has worked for the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, and was a Public Defender for the State of Maryland. View her Race and Profiling Lecture Series appearance here. The view expressed here are personal. Nothing in this or any Medium writing is a legal recommendation, legal advice, or a legal opinion.

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“It takes the wisdom of the elders . . .” Thank you for teaching us, loving us, leading us all: Mary Stovall Davis Budd, Andrea Tucker, Lorenzo Pugh, Dorris Pugh, Jacqueline Wallace, Roger Wallace, Kenneth Davis, Sandra Davis, and Karen Davis.

Underground Railroad Quilt used as footer in a race / racism / justice discussion.
Quilts and the Underground Railroad

Keywords: racism, police misconduct, police accountability, police reform, society, culture, leadership.




Catherine Pugh, Esq.

Private Counsel. Former DOJ-CRT, Special Litigation Section, Public Defender; Adjunct Professor (law & undergrad). Developed Race & Law course.