Jason Lehman has an amazing story. He's a former cop who talks about how he went from wrecking his community to rebuilding it. Now, how did he get there? Jason felt like he was operating in the gray area as an officer early on in his career, and we're going to dig into what that really means. He was involved in a deadly force incident. He's had suicidal thoughts that have helped him build resilience in his life. He's being ambushed for his life. He's been through some ups and downs in his life. He realized what he was doing right and wrong and how he can make a difference in the community.
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My exceptional guest today is Jason Leeman. He has an incredible story. He's a former police officer who, just by the title, if you look at the episode, talks about how he went from wrecking his community to making it resilient. Now how did he get to that? Early in his career, Jason felt like he operated in the gray area of an officer, and we're going to dive down into what that means. He's been dead before's incident. He's had suicide ideations that have come and built resiliency in his life. He has an ambush on his life. He's had some trials and tribulations in his life. He's recognized what he was doing right and wrong and now how he can change it in the community. Now let's jump right into this episode.
How are you doing, Jason? I'm having the time of my life. Thank you so much.
I'm happy to hear you're having the time of your life. That's exciting news. I love when people say that and have some enthusiasm. Jason, can you introduce yourself to the audience?
Sure. James Jason, Lee Menaya, am a 16 year veteran of law enforcement who actually left the Long Beach Police Department in January and retired to go work as a subject matter expert and educational consultants to work to try and focus on 21st century policing with a focus on how we engage and the way that we strategically communicate. So I left the organization after spending a number of working in a number of different jobs I worked in patrol, I worked in a gang of honor crimes suppression team, I did some rotations through some other specialized units, worked as a community engagement officer. I know I have a face for radio, but I worked as a public information officer and then the last three years I spent as a sergeant supervising the best police officers in the city of Long Beach. I also have a nonprofit organization called Why Do Stop Me that I founded in 2012 and in 2012 I found that organization to help police officers and the public better unite ultimately to begin to see that desire is more important than duty. So by taking our actions from duty to desire we're able to reduce the acts of violence that we see on both sides whether it be the police officer or the community member. And we do that as an organization through providing training to both sides. And so that's how we work law enforcement and community training and I'm so excited to be here.
Yeah, yeah, you have to check out Jason's bio and see his videos and stuff like that. They're they're really awesome and you put on classes in the community, right? We do we do we put on community courses and the courses called tag and together achieving greatness. We actually thrive in putting on training the trainer programs in different cities where we take you know intermediate level law enforcement trainers and instructors who obviously care for their community and they go out there and they put on the trainings in their different cities. Our organization comes in and starts that training process with hopes of turning it back over to you know the the law enforcement instructor within that city agency jurisdiction area and then that's kind of how the community training happens. The law enforcement training side is something that we really been thriving on lately as well.
That's awesome. Jason, how did you come to that decision to leave you know law enforcement you know after 16 years?
Yeah, you know, it was a really interesting deal. I was working in my car 40 hours a week, then I was working overtime so that I could bank that time and take an hour and a half of kind of paid time, paid leave just so that I could take time off so I could do the nonprofit work and go work. And so ultimately what ended up happening was I was finagling away a system of making like 80 hours into the week and I just wasn't really seeing my family. I looked at what was most financially beneficial for the family and I also looked at my wellness and everybody's in a different place in their life. So when we look at where we are it's important for us to evaluate that I am sure there's a number of law enforcement right now that are thinking about leaving the job and it's not always the best thing to do and you have to you have to weigh a lot of different things before you make that drastic decision. Well for me when I thought about it, I said, you know what, I can impact 10 or 20 police officers as a supervisor and help a community or I can take the skill set that guy gave me and take it to a 30,000 foot level and be able to help impact more of the culture of policing in general and with that opportunity that guy gave me and with the opportunity to look at what that byproduct was which was more financial freedom, I said, you know, it's time for me to do all of that and I left kicking the screaming. I miss being out there. I miss being with the troops in the city along these two supervisors, the sergeants are very, very close to their officers and you know it's something that that part of it is something that I miss.
Yeah, let's touch on that a little bit because you know that's some pretty big leadership you know to be close to your officer.
That's a pretty big leadership shift kind of you know for the 21st century like to be close to your people that you're leading, how do you get close to your guys? It's interesting. When I first got on the job, you would never see your sergeant. You would see your sergeant when he told you where you were working. You would go into a briefing. Here she would tell you where you were working and the briefings weren't even really all that in depth and it wasn't you know there wasn't any real close, they didn't feel like there were close connections being made as much. Obviously there's always been those sergeants that have motivated you and that have been great leaders. But I think that supervision has taken more of a, I think effective supervision has taken more of an unseen approach and it's not because of the concept of trust but verify which a lot of people use. I think it's because when we know that the leader has our back, we don't care for leaders there. We feel comfortable with our leader being there. It's the leader that's micromanaging, it's the leader that's overbearing that helicopter sergeant that's just always feeling like they're doing something else that becomes a problem. But if you're back in your troops, why wouldn't you want to be close to him? Why wouldn't you want to be proximate when you can? Obviously they're facing their freedom they get to go on on that. But I think that from from log on to log off, there's a lot of things in supervision and leadership that leaders could be doing and some are, but some just really are not. And that's not always the fault of the leader. It's really the fault of the system of law enforcement leadership. We train leaders a year after they've become supervisors. Well, a leader is an officer on day one. So kind of confusing to look at it that way. And I could talk about that topic forever. But really it's about getting to know your people and speaking to them on a personal level not just a business level, right? I want to know how many kids you have. I want to know your first name. I want to know those kinds of things. There's nothing wrong with buying your troops and food and sitting there and eating with them and using that as a tool to communicate. There's a bunch of different ideas. And in our 21st century supervisor, it's a super-isered leadership course. I work with other leaders, both current and retired all the way up to the chief level, to come in and speak to current leaders and prospective leaders of and perspective, you know, sergeants about what it takes to be that effective, what we call on seeing leader, right, without being able to.
Yeah, I think that's kind of a gap in the first responder world, both in police and fire side of things that you're expected to be a leader, but what leadership training do you really have? It's really, it's really awkward. And the fire side, it's even more weird to an extent because you're living for 24 hours together. And when somebody messes up, it's hard to pull them aside and tell them not to go back in and mess up. Cops are everywhere, they're widespread. You know, you have a firehouse with four, six, 10, 12 people. And it's really interesting to see that, especially when it comes to having to lead through the issues around what we do with probationary firefighters. It's, that's a huge change in, in idea and ideology, you know, whereas in the fire service, you used to kind of really be little probationary firefighters for the first year. And now you're really trying to bring them into the fold because if you beat them down too bad, what's going to make them an effective leader and either side of, you know, fire work leaks. So yeah, a lot of changes, lot of shifts.
Yeah, because you can take on both good qualities of a leader and bad qualities of a leader, dependent on who your leader is. And I think, you know, you, to become a good leader, you take different pieces of people you've been around, right? To form your leadership and learn from that and then try to pass that onto your guys.
Yeah, we have for sure.
Who was one of your mentors?
Ha, really? Ha, that's great. I have a couple of really, really big mentors in my life. In law enforcement, there was a leader who at the time was not a sergeant. He was a peer and his name is Jimmy Foster and, you know, Jim Foster in the Long Beach Police Department, his family's legendary. And this man pulled me aside in my second or third month and I was working with a horrible field training officer. And I literally went to work miserable. This field training officer would pull toe trucks over. And because the toe truck had a registration as was expired more than six months, we would toe the toe truck. Well, we would actually toe the toe truck while it was toeing another vehicle. So that the toe the toe truck and then toe the vehicle was found properly. This guy was ruthless. And, you know, doing those kinds of things to people, that's not what I signed up for. You know, if you have somebody working in a hardworking capacity and they haven't paid their registration for a month, you know, I understand, I operate for the state and all that kind of stuff. But, you know, sometimes that's one of those things you can just kind of let go. And, you know, hey, there's an officer asking for help three blocks away in this cop that was training me. He's like, ah, let's just keep eating. Are you kidding me, right? And so this officer Jimmy Foster saw my frustration pull me aside. And from that moment, actually, until today, he sees me do stuff on social media. You know, even when I'm gone, I'm gone from the agency and he didn't hit me up and be like, hey, you know, or he hears somebody say something, hey, you know, right? So, you know, it's interesting. I perze standards, the retirement standards, I'm not retirement age. And so he's like, hey, you really got to consider calling yourself retired. You might upset a couple of guys that really did the time, right? All that, all that makes sense, right? All of that stuff. All that stuff makes sense. He always has my back. He's a, he's a great guy. And then away from the agency, there's a guy named Gordon Graham. And I think most people know who Gordon Graham is, but he's the founder of, you know, really, really founder of modern day risk management. And he's done a lot of stuff in leadership. And I don't fault him that he worked for the CHP, but, but he, yeah, he's a really, really great leader. And there's a lot of great CHP officers. I've had the opportunity to train, but, you know, Gordon Graham has really helped me to stay on track. And one of the things that he told me that was so incredibly important is no matter what position we're in, the training on this is not the big piece. It's actually owning it if there's a high risk situation that we don't know we're going to get him, but we know it exists. We should be preparing for it.
Yeah. We should be preparing for that high risk low frequency situation.
You know, whether it be this podcast right here, what questions could you ask me, right? I have to be thinking about those kinds of things. Whatever it might be that come up, we have to be able to be ready and prepare. And that's another thing that we do a, we could do a better job generally preparing our leaders for and the front lines fire at least, you know, the high risk low frequency stuff right? Because Gordon says it best if it's predictable, it's preventable. And so how do we do that? But I've had a ton of, I mean, there are so many mentors I could name off right now, but, but what I, I love the question because without mentors, you will, you will never be in a leadership position. It just doesn't, it doesn't work. And one, one aspect of mentorship that we carry in to on-scene engagement with law enforcement is the best leaders have been impeccable followers. Right. Yes. When we teach community members, we let them know. We need you to follow on scene. If the leader, the cop is, is a leader. You're also a leader, but you're a leader as a follower on scene, sometimes during this interaction. If there's an issue, you need to report the leadership, the, the, the poor leadership that was done. So we're reported to the police agency. We want to cooperate now and then complain later, and what do we do if we go through that? We probably don't have a use of force. We probably don't find the rogue cop that just out of the blue comes up and just beat you up with a stick. Like, you know, last time I saw that happen, was probably in the, it heard of that happening, was probably in the 80s or 90s, right? It's got to take something, right, on one side or the other. So, you know, important to think about those things.
Yeah, I like that. I like, um, the wildland community does a, it's leader. It's a leadership, I think, is the name of the class. And I love that because you're, you're so, you're so right, you have to learn how to follow first. I feel like before you can, you can lead. And I think that's appropriate what you said, right?
You know, follow in, in the moment, right? Unless it's a massive safety concern or there's an issue, but then address it after. It's right. It's right. Police officers have to follow policy, but they also have to follow their heart. We, we lose a little bit of the heart through trauma and that loss of our heart. It makes us only look at word for word policies. And that's where the professional D.I.K. comes out.
Yeah. Nobody wants to be that person.
Yeah. I was just as I can do it, right?
Yeah, right. Right. First of all, it's up to you. It was happened nice day, right? Well, you know, that's a, that's a great human being that's gone through some things. And they didn't start out that way most of the time. And so it's, it's important to think about that. And it happens on both sides, you know, both sides of a, of a contact in the fire service, the police service, both sides can get better. And that's what we should be working on is getting better. Sometimes we're just working status quo mediocrity. I get paid, right? If I stay in the car, I don't get out. I don't get fired. You know, there's some of those things that happen. It's not all the time. But that's what I'm, that's what I'm working to prevent, right? Is, yeah, have a rest of to lose our, our driver or why.
Yeah, yeah. Because you have to have that empathy and sympathy at times, you know, for, I mean, the people that you're engaging with, you can't just be shut off.
Yeah. It's a name, and the, the issue with, was shutting off is we've been trained to shut off a lot. And we're not, we're not catching up with the training change. And so now you have these youth that are being trained a certain way, right? I mean, look at common core math. Two plus two as equal for us forever. Now it takes one hour and four people to answer that two plus two equals four, right? Then they have to go to the academy and the academy and they say, why do I have to do this? I told you so. Shut your mouth, right? And it's not always like that. But, you know, we want to be able to get back into, you know, answering that why and and working from that place of empathy and understanding, right? Without jeopardizing safety. We don't want to, we don't want to hug dogs, kiss babies and, you know, having space and various and butterflies, we don't, we don't want that. But we do want to be able to make sure that we are a strong, sustained guardian who knows how to be a warrior at that moment, right? When that moment comes. Right. So, 16 years in law enforcement, you have had to gone through some stuff in your career to get to the place you are today.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. What kind of things do you encounter over your 16 year career? He might be able to shed some insight on food listeners.
Yeah. We're not going to make this a 10 hour podcast, although we could. Right?
We can turn this into a four hour job. We're looking at five years. Yeah. Well, when I first got started, I started because I wanted to help the city of Long Beach. And I wanted to reduce crime. Dear police officers, you're not going to reduce crime. I hate to say that. You're going to help one victim. You're going to help. You're going to arrest one suspect. You're going to help one victim and you're going to arrest one suspect. That is what has has driven me now, but back then, I thought I could save the world. Well, when you think you could save the world, you moved too fast. It's just just one of those things, right? We are, we are partial superheroes of law enforcement, but we can't always do that, right? Because the kryptonite starts kind of setting in. So for me, I started learning not by the agency, but by individual field training officers or individual officers. That I could work in a gray area. And that gray area got me in trouble. And that gray area got me into internal affairs, that gray area got me suspended. And that gray area got me to be honest with you on to a gang violent crime suppression team. Not because the leaders knew I was in the gray area because I was producing stats.
I was producing stats and stats and stats. And so I was invited onto this amazing team. When I got onto the team, I was still this no nonsense cop that in central or in west Long Beach, they nicknamed tiny. Now I'll tell you, Jerry, I'm like six or more north of 300 pounds, right? Like there's there's nothing tiny about me, but I took on her. I was raised by certain individuals that exist not just in Long Beach. They exist all, they existed all over Long for us. And that you treat people with respect as long as they show you respect. But if someone treats you like an aval, you treat them as such. That was the most traumatizing approach I've ever taken. And I took it on a regular basis. Every time somebody disrespected me, I didn't show them respect. I disrespected them back. And I thought that respect was earned. Well, if respect is earned, that means I get to continuously disrespected my community until they earn it. That's a fallacy. That's a lack of leadership and it doesn't show that you're a leader in a positive way. So because of that, it led me to these minor issues that I thought were small. But over time they pile up. And I ended up getting suspended and my deputy chief of police told there was a allegation of a use of force, a unreported use of force. It was really weird. It was a unreported use of force that was in between two reported uses of force. Same person. So there's a lot going on there. There's not enough time to explain it. But for anybody that's in the law enforcement support community, you know, a use of force is where you take a certain amount of force. And then you have to report that use of force to a supervisor. And so in every agency has a different policy on what that amount of force might be. But ultimately you're fighting with people, right? It's too an extent. And, you know, I was very fortunate that that time I didn't do what they alleged. Or I would have possibly seen federal prison time. But it's not to say I didn't do bad things that were never alleged against me.
Here are five tips if you're feeling stuck in your life still. One, take full responsibility of your life. Don't be that victim anymore. You have to get past that. Number two, praise and enjoy the process. Focus on the journey when things get tough. Focus on the end where you're headed and why you're headed there. If you truly know, those little things are not going to knock you off your track. Number three, become anti-fragile. Once again, don't let those little things knock you down. They're in a breathing process though. You can get through them and knock it stuck in that moment. Number four, cut out the crappy friends that are sucking the life out of you because you can't excel if you're around a bunch of crappy friends that are not going to help you excel. And number five, you need to cultivate grit and press a variance. Knowing your journey and having it written down and having it destination is going to keep you on track and help you with that grit and perseverance on getting you to where you want to be. Now let's jump right back into this episode.
Yeah. Yeah. And in the most vulnerable way, I want to apologize to everybody out there because the things that I did early on in my career. They directly correlate with the person that holds the sign that says F the police today. And we sometimes allow those signs to traumatize us.
Yeah. Well, next time you see the sign, I hope that you understand that I helped create that sign. And I'm sorry about that. But if you just went up to the person holding the sign, not during the riot, but if you just went up to the person holding the sign and introduced yourself by first name and put your hand out and extended out all of branch. I'll have branch 90% of the time you will you will build an advocate. You will build somebody who will understand that you are human. But what do we do? We line up and go hide or put on mask or and then you know who messes with us. The people that aren't holding the signs. That's who messes with us. And so the people that are holding the signs that see us messing with those people back with violence. They want to hold the signs more. Well, I helped to unfortunately, I can't say it was a positive help, but I had a negative help to create that. I did that because I was trying to deal with a lot of power at one time. So as I got into these incidents, after getting suspended, I literally walked my deputy chief told me you don't deserve to be a police officer. And I walked out of that room after speaking with the deputy chief prior to serving my suspension and I had a conversation with God. And I don't care if you believe in God or not, but if you don't have a higher power in your first responder, you're probably in a little bit of trouble. I don't know if you're going to have to talk down to keep talking down to people because there's nobody above you, right?
Yeah, so it's true.
I don't know what to tell you. Just keep talking down to people. I realized, and I had a aha moment, it was like a snap of a finger. I realized something that was mind-blowing. And I thought about it all my own. I thought, you know, I have to do something like I signed up to do. Like I signed up to do it a certain way, and then things had changed. I got to go back to the way I signed up to do. Because I wasn't doing that. I wasn't doing what I took a oath to do. I was breaking down a community that I swore to uphold and protect. And so months go by, and I get into a undercover drug deal that goes terribly bad. And the undercover drug deal we have, a suspect, the drug dealer who's going to make the second drug sale to a confidential informant. This confidential informant is a trusted confidential informant. He says this drug dealer has a gun in his waistband. We develop a plan. We put people in uniforms in the front uniforms in the back. We even hide two guys and plain clothes in the bushes right outside of the department complex. What I'm developing and explains to you is called a foolproof plan. So what was good to happen was the informant was going to come out of the gate. Put the hood up, which is a hit sign. Hey, it was a good sale. The two plain clothes guys are going to wrap around. They're going to go into the into the, into the area of the apartment complex where there's no exit. No back exit or nothing. And this is, back the drug dealer ran up an exterior staircase and down an exterior balcony. And literally like one of the, one of the actions from the movie, the predator where he just jumps far. He jumped without touching the rally from the second story landed on the first story. As my partner put our car in uniform put our car right in the perfect spot. A partner got out. He pointed his gun out. I mean, he ran up and punched my partner right past his gun. But we're back to my partner. We run south down down the sidewalk. And me shaped a little bit differently at the time to be honest with you. I catch him. And a major use of force and shoes. And I get him handcuffed. And when I stand up, I take a deep breath. And I look down. And he's not breathing. He's dead. And I thought to myself at that moment something different than the dozens of use of force I've been in before. I thought I could have done something differently and what was it. And I thought to myself, he could have done something differently and what was it. Right? Like fourth grade.
Yeah. It's weird.
Yeah. You know, if you have a band of critical incidents, things go really fast. They go really slow. And they kind of just moves back and forth. And you know, I've been in a number of critical incidents before. And this one felt different. And unfortunately, unfortunately, the fire department responded and brought a heartbeat back. But unfortunately, he was taking off life support days later. And after I was told that I'd done everything right, which was the word. The other word was it was a good deal. I could not come to take that it was right or that it was a good deal. So I'd done everything by the book in policy and all of those kinds of things. And so what could I have done differently? What was it that I could have done? I spent like two years trying to figure out what it was I could have done. And I kid you not after that incident. And after speaking to my deputy chief, I was hardnosed, great police work. Just doing good stuff. Commodation, commendation, commendation. And I was doing work that was just exactly what I started with. I was doing it ethically. Like, you know, all of the work we do, smart policing is what we should be doing. Not fast policing, not slow policing, smart policing. We should be thinking through how we do this. It's not always about the felony. It's not always about the bond with the community. It's kind of in between. And I have great times of my team. And then I would go home and I would sit on my couch. And on dozens of occasions, I would plan and plot and how I was going to kill myself. And it wasn't because of that act. It was because of the times that I may have possibly cussed out a mother and father child while wearing a police uniform. Or the times where I may have twisted somebody's arm. Maybe a little bit harder than I had to. Or the times where I put somebody in the back seat of a police car after running and chasing and catching him. And while I was catching my breath outside of the car, they were catching their breath in handcuffs in the back of a car in a small box. And I would sit on the hood and talk to my peers about where I was going to go to lunch. Instead of getting in the car and offering due process of the law and driving them down, those little aspects where I could, I knew I could have done better. Those things caught up with me. And that gray area work caught up with me. But what I didn't know is I didn't know that it was going to catch up. And that's the problem with trauma. If you're in traumatized situations today, if you don't handle it by being proactive, oftentimes you don't know what's going to come of it in the future. And so while I was literally planning out where the frames splatter was going to go on my wall, thinking about where I was going to sit and what my family members were going to do with the gun right next to me and trying to think through this stuff. I lost stuff, I lost friends, I lost family, I lost relationships. But at work I was dead on. As a matter of fact, when I tell, I just started telling me stories, and it was the last couple of years. And people come to me and they go, what? You were going through, how come I didn't tell me? Well, I couldn't, I couldn't be that weak out there. I only be weak here.
Yeah. And so what I found out was my, I had some loved ones introduced me to therapy and therapy is the best thing ever. You know, I see a therapist with counseling team international, her name is Shawna. She's the best. I don't care who knows. And it helped me to kind of figure things out. And you know, from 2011 on, I found methods of resiliency. I believe that I'm probably as strong as resilient as anybody. There's a chance I might die for getting cheeseburgers. So I'm not. But you know, I could drop a couple now. But I was very fortunate that I was able to turn things around. And I turned things around at a good time. Because, you know, the team that I was on, we were receiving some threats, some death threats. And there was a threat that we were going to be ambushed and killed inside of a park one day. And that came right after I started finding my resilience and my a little bit more of the emotional wellness. Right when I thought I was doing good, worked like balance everything is great. And here comes, right? And that's kind of how God has done it for me, you know, but putting a lot on my plate, but never too much as I could hand it. And now I have to figure out what I'm going to do. And I kind of relapse a little bit. I walked into our team and I told our team, let's go, let's go, let's get on right. And that's not always the best approach, right? Vengeance for vengeance is hard.
Yeah. And said that I personally had gone too hard on the gang and I had been too aggressive of a person. And what that translated to me was, was I've been too disrespectful. You don't jeopardize safety by being respectful or you don't jeopardize safety by being disrespectful. You jeopardize safety by being disrespectful. And since I'll realize that, right? And what I realized after I walked into a classroom with kids and I spoke to a group of kids. And you know, I can tell you that story if you'd like, but when I walked out of that classroom, that was the development of my mindset, which is if I spend more time with the people that I don't like, then I'll start liking them. I'll find them to like. And so when I get on scene of calls from there moving forward, and I had a rude or disrespectful or even resistant community member, hey, I'm setting up shop. Hey, FU. Hey, look, man. I'm not quite sure why you want me to F myself, but I want to know who you are. My name is Jason. Can we talk? What? Or if I walked up and somebody says, hey, you stop because I'm black. You know, sometimes police officers out of frustration say, no, I didn't stop because you're black. You know, what's wrong with us? I said, you know, I didn't stop because you're black. As a matter of fact, when me and you were born, we never chose to color of our skin. We agreed to that. Well, yeah. And racism and hate bias and bigger to you, bigotry, they're all learned. Would you agree? Like, you don't have a gene for hate? Well, yeah. Well, guess what? I'm one of the ones that doesn't have that hate. Right? And so can me and you start off from here? Is it that you don't like the police or that you don't like me? And you get the person go, I don't like the police. Well, you know what? I got to be honest. There's a couple cops in Long Beach. I don't like either. Right? To this moment. Yeah. And maybe they'll listen to this podcast and they'll recognize, I still don't like them. If I spent more time with them, I might find something like about them. But right now, I don't. And so, you know, I realize that the answer to those two questions in dealing through my trauma. When I said, hey, what could I have done differently prior to using serious force, right? Right? It's an engaging with people that were difficult. And the people that ran from me and the people that fight it are following. And I could have told them, hey, we could have done this differently and I really didn't appreciate that. As a matter of fact, what you did, it scared me, brother. And I want to go home to my family and I want you to go home to your family. And in the future, if we see each other again, I want you to know that I got your back. I just hope that you have mine, Sue Man. You made a decision and that decision does not define you. What you're doing is a uniform and the uniform does not define you. And so, when I meet you at your Vegas moment at 2am, when you're 21st birthday as a police officer, I can't hold everything against you. And when I started learning that, it helped me because now I knew I could do my best with everybody. As long as it's not jeopardizing safety, right? And that allows me time. It allows me distance. It allows me to understand the escalation. It allows me to understand so much more because I think what would I want a police officer to do to my son if my son accidentally tried drugs, right? What I'm going to police officer do my son and my son wasn't a back seat of the car melding off. What I want that police officer slam the brakes on, you know, what, what is it that I would want that police officer to do? And that's how I treat people. You know, so that was the first question, the answer, the first question of what I could have done differently. I found it. And then what could he have done differently? It's really, really weird. He'd been contacted more than 30 times. And if you said his name in the agency, he was known. He was the A-hole, the poop bag, the this and that. If one of those 30 cops were to take in the approach, I just explained to you. Then maybe when he saw me, it wouldn't have been that big of a threat. That cop would have represented me for the future. So now what I teach when I teach to, when I talk to speak to police officers, and I also speak to the same thing in the community members in a different way is, when you meet somebody that doesn't like you and they're the A-hole, if you spend more time with them and explain to them how you want to be treated in a relationship, because that's what you're in. They guess what the relationship will get better. But if all you do is screaming you on a relationship or stay quiet, tell me when that's ever worked. It's the same thing on the streets. We have to be able to take this relational approach and bring it on to the streets because you can have one big traumatic instance. And you're going to, if you work in law enforcement, you're going to. You're not going to avoid it no matter what. That big one is coming, right? It might be. But if you build your, your, your fair people around you that supports you and you do things right the rest of the time, you will have put so much deposits into your positive bank in your head, that you can take it withdrawal of that negative and you still, you're still full of positive. You're still full of, of vigor and of life and of enjoyment. And so you, it's a lot easier for you to, make it work. But if everything's negative and then you get into some negative stuff, and negative, negative doesn't equal positive in this one. And so, you know, that's, that's what ended up happening for me. So, you know, a number of different incidents, you know, from, you know, deadly force stuff to, you know, you know, dealing with with the death and dying of very, very young people and, you know, those threats and just just a combination of stuff. And, you know, before any of this, it's only if this is true. When you're traumatizing, you don't know what to do. You go home. You tell your family you traumatize them. Or you go home, you keep it to yourself. You traumatize yourself. It balloons you, they're going to explode, right? Or it's all in the physical out. There's, there's no, there's no in between, right? You're not going to keep there in the balloon. So, you know, that's, that's my story on, on the trauma on duty.
Yeah, what did other officers around you start thinking about you?
You know, it was very interesting. I've gone from a very well respected, hard-nosed cop, with the way I was doing things, to a cop who was considered in the middle, to a cop who people have considered overbearing a, you know, a kiss ass, you know, somebody who is now in it for himself, you know, in our profession, if you're in the middle, you're doing really well. If you start going too high, the other people start getting upset, and it's quite odd. It's like, hey, don't get recognized for doing great things, just do middle, in the middle things. And so, when I started, you know, look, I'm not great at very much to be honest with you. It's the truth. I'm not, I'm not great at very much. I believe I am great at a couple things. And so, those things I found a way to excel at. If all of us did that in, in our profession, I think it would be so much better. But what happens if I'm a police officer that's going out there nowadays and doing too much work, people look at me and they go, amen, slow down. It'll be here tomorrow, you know, time heals all calls. You know, oh, you have a extra job, you got a, you got a side job, a second job. You might not want to do that, right? Because if you do that second job, it's going to mess you up on your first job and part of that's true. But part of it's absolutely incorrect. If I have a skillset to grow out and speak to people and help them get better, why can't I be a cop and still go do that every once in a while? If I have a skillset to be a carpenter, let me go be a carpenter in my spare time. But if the skill set directly correlates to what you're doing on duty, a lot of people start getting seen to start getting quite frustrated. So I have a great number of people that support me now in what I do. But there's a number of people that say, hey, you know, Jason is this, you know, this guy that just travels around and and tell stories to people and and does that kind of stuff. So this support has been different throughout my time when it came to me hurting people didn't know. I had not talked about it on duty at all. I had a couple of conversations breaking down crying when I had to, you know, leave my directed enforcement team and maybe one or two leaders knew about that. You know, because of the stuff that I was getting getting involved in. I was very fortunate because I actually came back about a year later, another long story, but I left the team and went up north, we're going to auto theft task force and, you know, kind of say, hey, just go hide for a while. It will be okay, which is also very weird, right? Like don't like hide from something that so I did that and I came back onto the team and started doing some great stuff on the team. But yeah, it's the support has been all over the place. I couldn't even really pinpoint kind of if it's been, you know, all the time or down all the time, it's been all over the place. I think a good message for a law enforcement officer that's working right now in this traumatized state is if you can find a way. To focus on responses to events and not the events themselves, you will always have positive outcomes. Always, if the events bother you, hey, we lost the karate control restraint. Oh my gosh, I can't do this job. Great Scott. Well, that guess what, you don't make the rules, right? It's like they said in top gun, right? We don't make policy. We're the instruments at that policy, right?
I'd reject pilots out there in police cars guns badges shot guns AR 15s. The ability to think better than 99.9% of the people they show up to serve and we serve everybody so well, but we don't back each other emotionally. We are we are so good at fixing others. We're horrible at fixing ourselves. So what I'd say is find people that you don't normally hang out within your agency, which ultimately would probably mean you're probably don't like them.
Spend more time with them. Find out about them. Don't tell about you, right? We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Keep your ears open and listen to them and actively listen and hear them because you might be the only person that's hearing them throughout their entire day. They may be going home to nothing. They may be in the middle of an abusive relationship. They may be in the middle of abusing drugs and you don't know what they may be in the middle of thinking about or plotting and planning how they're going to kill themselves in a few weeks. And you've interrupted that. In my last six years in law enforcement, my last six years in law enforcement for police officers that I worked with all committed suicide. And I could tell you, I only knew of one of them that was even halfway hurty. And it's because we can do a better job. Just can. So yeah, that's that's that's the deal with that.
Yeah, that's that's awesome. I love your enthusiasm, your attitude and the way the you approach approach things. I'm like, man, that's why you write you do have a certain well, you have a couple of skill sets clearly, but getting out there and sharing your messages is both awesome, both awesome, the with the nonprofit and then going to to speaking, because I feel like that's right starting to kind of bridge those two worlds a little bit. And we all definitely can do a better job that we only lose that caring about other people. It triggers us right it triggers us to to what normal reaction that it triggers for responders is anger right. And that's it.
And you know, it's funny because you can't be curious and furious at the same time. And so if you can teach yourself to be curious before you get furious, you do a whole lot better. Why is that person angry me and why am I allowing one of my nine indicators of rage there's nine things that enrages why am I allowing one of those to enrage me what is it that's making it happen. And there's going to be times where you're enraged, but leaders effective leaders don't have bad days they have bad moments.
Yeah, I like those bad moments become bad days because they're not being effective and they allow that bad moment to ruin their entire day.
And so we sit there and think about that there's a leadership system that all of us can use and I'm going to provide in about 60 seconds. Four parts and it's just like legs to a table on top of that table's fairness leaders need to be fair. The first one is voice and providing others with voice. The second one is new child being understanding we have to say our mom was wrong sometimes. And my mom raised me to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I can't treat people the way I want to be treated if I don't want to be treated like me. So I'm going to treat people the way they want to be treated without jeopardizing safety. The third one is respect and providing respect to everyone. If I chase a sex registrant who just molested a child down the street and I have to shoot them because they turn in point of gun at me. I am going to go render aids and bring their heartbeat back as much or try as much as I would anybody else in the community. Not because of the stuff that they did that I didn't like, but because I respect their heartbeat. I don't respect their decisions. I don't respect what they've done. I want them to be in prison for life, but I'm not going to be judge jury next to Cusher and I'm not going to just just render aid because it's policy. Don't want to lose my job. No. I'm going to use my first aid skill set to do that and you could think of me however you want to think of me. But I'm going to feel good at the end of this day because God forbid that story about that sex registrant was all made up. And I find out that everything about them wasn't true and everything was incorrect and before I know it, now I get hit with the realization that that was the child of a police officer. Then how am I going to feel? Do horrible because I don't know where people came from and then the last one is trust and building trust and that effective trust system is so important because trust is not immediate it is earned. Respect the immediate trust earned, voice neutrality trust respect stable table fairness on top. It's amazing. Go out there give it a shot and you know I hope that that helps some people.
Yeah, is that something you also teach in your nonprofit to people?
Yeah, and that system is weird if I say it that way a lot of people don't recognize what it is. But I have to admit where I got it from. There's this right up in law enforcement that a lot of cops don't like and it's called the president's task for the report on the president's task force on 21st century policing. And that's where I got it's called procedural justice the problem with procedural justice courses are that procedure justice courses are typically taught by a person who has done a lot of research on the brain PhD done all these things. But they haven't sat inside the window inside of the police car looking out the window and so their training doesn't come with context. They just have the content and when it comes to training it's not this it's not the specific content that matters as much as it is the delivery system. Sure, so we bring our training brings delivery systems that are credible, believable and motivating to help change morale and to help answer the why people should change because think about training when it comes to being a first responder you train but do you change? Well, if you train you don't change you're not training training change your modified behavior by definition, I'm a definition guy. And so we want to be able to look at that and that's that's super important to think about but yeah we do teach on that we teach on we we have about 12 different training and then I speak to go in about 20 different topics when I go around and do keynote speeches. And I speak not only to police but I speak to fire and the corporate the corporate sector as well, you know, because fairness is something that will help us with success in any world that we're in.
something that I thought about when you're talking about that and like believing everything you hear about someone like there's so much of that that is just like you learn about serviting like oh I heard this about you, but it's actually not true like and I've something I tried to do later on in my career and maybe I didn't do is good job in the beginning of my career but serving pretty well is that. You build your own relationship with a person don't let someone else build that relationship for you because. You're just going to disrespect them or not learn about them or care about them and maybe you actually like them and it's what the other person put on you to think about that other person is doing any such a disservice. You know, it's actually traumatizing to think about it. Let me give you a scenario because if there's a active cop listen this I want them to hear this but we as we become more senior and law enforcement we use terms that we don't mean. So a sergeant may say hey that tweaker was out there but when the sergeants out there they're really caring for the person they're just using that to describe what people think. Well if I tell us a two-year cop, a tweaker, a tweaker, a tweaker when they go out with two years on they treat people like tweakers that doesn't that's not okay. Well there's a scenario where a young police officer joins a search 14 and that young police officer let's say that his name is officer James, okay. And that's not his name but officer James is the young police officer two years on the job goes to search for a briefing and the senior detective 20 years on hey we're going to get Johnny Johnny's against your Johnny's from this gang and Johnny's always strapped he's always got a gun. Seven out they finished a briefing and seven of them walk up to the house all seven of them see Johnny on the front porch Johnny goes to reach for his waistband officer James shoots no one else does. When the investigation starts taking place the question becomes why did only officer James shoots shoot why do you think that is. You know go ahead because the senior detective told a two-year cop he's always got a gun. That that is not you have to look at this right you cannot look at this that way you have to look at it from this objective lens and say hey what. So how would how could we make that change in our culture it's so easy it's like this ready hey guys last time I saw Johnny was five years ago and five years ago he had a gun so be careful. It's night and day and if parents could parent their children in the same way hey there are a couple police officers out there that might hurt you for being black but the majority of them are great. And it's a great chance that if you listen to them everything's going to be okay. It's those types of ideas that help us because then we get to go make up our own mind as we approached them and as we see them and it makes us actually want to go get to know you tell me somebody sucks I got a fight past that they go find out find that out now. So you know what let me go hang out people that suck like if you say hey you know what I don't know much about them or you know even if you're upset with somebody hey you know they they did something wrong to me but doesn't make them a bad person I had a bad experience they may be cool. It's just it's just weird it's weird and what you said it's great you brought that up though. Power of words man it's power of words incredibly it's life changing for the good and for the bad and both on the street office every ever in your life right the power of words is so. And so the term is a situation right determines outcomes that you may like you said facilitate in a good or positive way by what you say. You know you put your job before your family or something like that right that's like I mean you might as well tell me to man up if you say that right that's hurtful and those are words that she didn't mean that but those are words like whoa like that's not cool. And it's it's because the words are powerful no matter where we are you know if we think about it the closer we act to who we are at home. When we get to work right the closer we could be as as you know. Back to complexity and anyway, that is everything going on. We don't have to do that. If somebody kicked in my office door, which is my home office, somebody kicked them off his door, do you know that I'm going to turn on? I'm going to utilize safety? Like, I'm going to do it. But I don't have to be that way until that happens. Right? Like, I can just be me. Again, I can still be me, right? So, you know, I hope that everybody that hears this thinks about that. Be who you are, whether you become a formal leader or whether you stay up here and subordinate to others, whether you're at home supporting an officer or first responder or, you know, thinking about becoming a first responder, don't don't change you. Be who you are. Change your leadership ability and prove, but continue to be who you are through that improvement. Because you can't fake it. And if you try to become something that you think you need to be, you have to turn that off to become you again. And there's a traumatizing force there that we oftentimes don't recognize. So just keep that in mind. Doesn't mean you should let your guard down. It means you shouldn't, you know, be kind to people. Just don't let people take your kindness for weakness and see humanity when you're dealing in at home and in your in your work life.
Yeah. Doesn't that steal away from your resilience when you're turning on and turning off all the time?
Brutal. I mean, it's, it's, that turn on, turn off thing is really, really hard. And I'm not a psychologist or a therapist, but I'm going to work. I am going to be starting my PhD program here. But when you think about it, right? You don't even have to study that to know that it's right or wrong. All you have to do is squeeze something around a body part for a while and then let go and watch it try and fight back and then do it again and watch it try it. It just doesn't really quite make sense. So that's like great analogy. I like it. I like it. Very simple. Can you can everybody can understand it and you can know, you can, you can't get kids. Don't put rubber bands on your head or anything. I just say it's just just to think about it.
So Jason, man, you've had some incredible insight. I love that love the power of the words, love what you're out there doing in the accomplishing for sure that bridge can be closed, right? Between like we can bridge that gap, just takes training and changed, like you said, to do that. Before I let you go, Jason, where can people follow you and find you?
Well, not at my house. Y
eah, all right, right. Whether it's a party?
People can, I have two great communication tools, but one of them is actually better than the other. I understand how scary social media can be for first responders, but if you're smart and, you know, if you think about this term, if you're a warrior on social media, you do a lot better than if you're the one out there posting a lot of stuff, right?
Being a social media warrior, that's turning up and turning off so don't do that either. But social media is a great tool. And on Instagram, I'm at Jason Lehman 64. It's Jason, J. S.O. and Lehman, LEHM-A-N64 on Instagram. Facebook, I think, is Jason.Leamand.50. And then you can email Jason. Lehman at wisdom.org, WYSM.org. You can check out our website, which is WYSM.org or wisdom, which is the acronym for WYG Stopping. And WYG Stopping may simply came up because after speaking to youth, I realized that we need to do a better job of telling people why we stopped them. And that it's just that easy. So that's how the community training really got formed. But yeah, those are the best ways to be able to communicate to reach out. And I want everybody to know, I will go anywhere in this country or anywhere in this world to help the best get better. And so if that, if you're sitting here saying, hey, we need somebody for a conference, or we need somebody for a training to go speak inside a jail to speak to a prison to speak to 13 your roles or to speak to 80 your roles. Whatever it might be, I have a training team of amazing leaders, but I personally myself would love to be able to go out and engage with anybody from the community, from law enforcement or even from corporate America or government. So I'm really excited to have been on the show. And I can't show my appreciation enough for this platform, you know, and it's incredible. But the people that listen to this don't just ask others to listen to this, but ask others to follow this and to subscribe to this podcast. Because what you don't know is that to have a podcast means to have an amazing platform. But if nobody steps on the platform, it starts not feeling good. So open up that platform, you know, hit the likes and the subscribers and everything else because we want to make these messages happen for somebody that needs it. And the first person that listen to this might not be the person that needs it, right? It might be the bridge to the person that needs it. So go out there and if you if you engage with something that's good, share it and share it with a whole heart and be big on sharing it when you get out there. So thank you so much for the opportunity, I can't thank you enough brother.
Yeah, thank you so much. And be sure to check out this website. The YouTube channel too, right?
We have a YouTube channel. We have team wisdom. My bad team wisdom is the YouTube channel TeamWYSM is the YouTube channel. And we're also team wisdom for the business on Instagram and Facebook as well.
Yeah. I said, you know, I got to take you with me to market us. It's just going to look.
Yeah, because you want to go check that out because I think you'll have a better understanding what Jason's out there doing because it does bring some visual perspective to the two different groups. This Jason's talking to. So thank you, Jason. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
So I appreciate things again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcast. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our hosts, Jerry Dean Lund, do the Instagram handles, at Jerry Fire and Fuel or at Enduring the Badge podcast. Also, by visiting the show's website, Enduring the Badge podcast.com for additional methods of contact and up-to-date information regarding the show. Remember, the views in a pines expressed during the show, solely represent those of our host and the current episodes guests.
Founder of WYSM
In January of 2022, Jason Lehman retired from the Long Beach (CA) Police Department as a Sergeant, after serving for 16 years. While at the LBPD, Jason spent most of his career working uniformed and plain-clothes street-level gang and violent crime suppression. Early in his career, Jason was involved in numerous critical incidents including acts of deadly force which led to PTSD and ultimately led Jason through numerous bouts with suicidal ideations. Jason was introduced to therapy and has since learned a strong system of resiliency. By becoming more vulnerable, Jason learned he was able to show the community he served that he truly cared without jeopardizing safety.
In 2014, Jason founded the National F.O.P. endorsed training organization entitled "Why'd You Stop Me” (WYSM). WYSM’s mission is to provide empowerment training to both police officers and the public to improve legitimacy and reduce acts of violence during encounters by taking attitudes “From Duty to Desire.” Jason’s unique training approach partners law enforcement and community trainers to instruct, motivate, and lead those who they train. By utilizing both face-to-face interactions and digital engagement, Jason has spent thousands of hours on a quest to develop a system to teach others how to seek to better understand one another. His message is simple to hear, but challenging to live:
When we seek to better understand the people we don’t “like,” we find true success.
Jason left his traditional law enforcement role to focus on his work as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on Community Policing, where he combines his skills in 21st Century Leadership, Procedural Justice, and Strategic Communication. Jason has spoken to more than 40,000 leaders in the public and private sectors. Jason’s most recent honor has been closing the 2022 FBINAA National Academy Conference as the Keynote Speaker engaging more than 3,000 law enforcement leaders with a talk on the “Future of Policing.” Jason has been recognized as an SME on Communication and Community Policing by major organizations such as Lexipol, Fox News, the National F.O.P, the New York POST, and the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to name a few. Jason has appeared numerous times on television, radio, and print media. He has been recognized for his heroism on duty as a street cop, for his work off-duty in uniting police and the public, and for his philanthropic efforts in funding scholarships for “At-promise” youth.
Here are some great episodes to start with.