“Reimagining:” A Conversation

When I finished reading retired police chief Kristen Ziman’s book, “Reimagining Blue: Thoughts on Life, Leadership, and a New Way Forward in Policing,”  I knew I had to apologize.

When she spoke to the press club February 2, I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from her talk and bought her book afterward. As she was signing my copy in black Sharpie – “Fear is a liar! KZ” – I expounded brazenly on my formerly dim view of law enforcement and how she had moved the needle a bit into a “cops are people too” zone.  How generous of me.

And now I have charged myself with … not being … as open-minded as possible. (We won’t debate whether objectivity is possible today, okay?) Her book was a deeper journey into that cops-are-people territory, obviously for the writer as well as the reader. I can’t say she completely changed my view of all law enforcement or even law enforcement in general today, but she did convince me of several very important things:

  • A woman can run a traditionally masculine department, bringing traits based on kindness, positivity and individual strengths rather than punishment and conformity.
  • A police officer can have a sensible gun-control policy in mind.
  • Policing need not be based on brawn.
  • Journalists and police have similar freedom and safety missions.
  • Dialogue between those who hold views you believe to be different from yours is possible.
  • A former police chief can be a good writer!

In her speech, Ziman drew parallels between journalism and law enforcement.  “Noble Missions” as she described them, exist to serve and protect the public, journalists helping citizens to “make the best possible decisions about their lives, communities, societies and governments,” while cops “safeguard lives and property … protect the innocent against deception, and the weak against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.” Sounds like we’re almost a team, to me.

I didn’t expect to agree with her conclusions as much as I did during her speech, and I was equally surprised by much of her memoir.

I did apologize by email, and this was her reply: “I’m so glad you reached out. Thank you for your honesty about your worldview of law enforcement. It makes perfect sense why you drew that conclusion.”

Press club member Dayna Harpster has worked full time in journalism for 38 years – at weeklies, monthlies, and mostly dailies, including the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and the News-Press in Fort Myers. She was the editor for Expressions magazine for WGCU Public Media and now works as a communications specialist with the PBS station. She also teaches journalism classes for Florida Gulf Coast University.