SWAT Team Commander and Community Moderator

Alex EmbryAlex Embry has been with me as a moderator for more than seven years. He also happens to be a SWAT team commander and training sergeant at the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, outside of Chicago, where he has worked for 12 years.

He is one of two moderators, of my current team, that works in law enforcement. This isn’t something we did deliberately, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence. There are some really interesting correlations between good law enforcement and good moderation. That’s what we explore with Alex on this episode, including:

  • Why policing and moderation are about more than identifying violations
  • How to limit and address abuse of power and corruption
  • When suicide and offline threats should be taken to law enforcement

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Big Quotes

“We have a saying in law enforcement: ‘If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.’ And that’s a bad thing if you end up in front of a judge trying to explain actions. It’s the same way with [online] communities [because] everything’s documented.” -Alex Embry

“I think that documentation is as important in communities as it is in law enforcement for the end goal, for what we’re trying to achieve, because I can’t make an arrest without showing a history. I can’t make decisions about what arrest is the correct one without showing a history of the documentation. [For example,] how many times have we been here? What has this led us to before, and what has and hasn’t worked on the solution side? I think when you look at the community forums, you see the same thing.” -Alex Embry

“I don’t want people to see me as a robot, sitting in a windowless room, deciding the fate of each and every post and member. I’m not sitting here with buttons with everyone’s name on it, waiting to press them.” -@patrickokeefe

“I think the best thing that cops can do [in] staying connected with the community is actually not be afraid to get out and talk to people, and be human to the people that you can be human with. … I think one of the worst things we ever did was get air conditioners in the cars, so we can drive around with our windows up all the time, listen to our music and be on our cell phone, talking about how we really dislike this person or that person that we were on a call with just a second ago.” -Alex Embry

“Agencies just can’t foster an environment that allows abuse of power. Any time an agency basically puts a rubber stamp on an action that’s abusive in some nature, they basically send the message to everyone else in the department that that behavior will be tolerated. And if that behavior is tolerated long enough, that behavior becomes the norm for the agency.” -Alex Embry

“Several years ago, when I was on the road, we had an individual make suicidal statements on Facebook. Several of his Facebook friends saw this, contacted us and sent us to his house. One of the Facebook friends happened to know where he lived, even though he didn’t post that on social media. We search the house. We find him. We actually ended up cutting him down from where he tried to hang himself in his basement. … The guy literally had roommates in the house with him, and they had no idea this was going on. We’re pounding on their door, going into their house, and they’re like, ‘We have no idea. I don’t even think he’s here.’ And lo and behold, we end up cutting this guy down through no intervention of the roommates, but solely through a social media outlet.” -Alex Embry

About Alex Embry

Alex Embry is a 12 year member of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office where he is currently assigned as the training sergeant. He is presently the commander of sheriff’s office’s multi-jurisdictional SWAT team, on which he has served for 9 years. During his time on the team, he has worked on entry, as a sniper/observer, assistant team leader and team leader.

In addition to his work in law enforcement, Alex co-owns Point of Impact Firearms Training, which specializes in tactical shooting performance, and owns and operates Alpha BJJ, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy, in Woodstock, IL and is ranked as a black belt in BJJ under Mike Budnik. Furthermore, he holds black belts in two forms of Kempo and an apprentice instructorship in Jeet Kune Do.  During his time in martial arts, he has also spent time in Pekiti Tersia Kali and runs a training group out of Alpha under Paul Ingram of the Kali Center.

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