TBLL: Table of Contents

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership and culture development tactics. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help. Click on any of the titles to be taken directly to that particular blog.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. You can follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership or check us out on Facebook.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and, as always, LEAD ON!

06/25/14              Welcome to Thin Blue Line of Leadership

06/25/14              Thin Blue Line of Leadership Logo Explanation

06/29/14              Law Enforcement Lingo 101

07/10/14              Defining the Thin Blue Line Leader

07/17/14              Power, Passion, People, and Production

07/24/14              14 Ways to Create a Positive Squad Culture

08/07/14              3 Keys to Squad Expectation Success

08/14/14              Saving the World One Call at a Time

08/27/14             6 Ways to Positively Influence Officer Behavior

09/04/14             The 3 Accountability Relationships in Law Enforcement

09/30/14             Welcome to the Squad: New Officer Checklist

10/23/14              5 Basic Leadership Lessons

11/23/14               Law Enforcement Recognition Idea

12/17/14               Intentional Culture

01/07/15              Confusion of Sacrifice

01/21/15               Don’t Get Captured

02/09/15             Change and Reputation

02/19/15              Insubordination?

03/25/15              The 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments

04/07/15              A Law Enforcement Leadership Reward

04/14/15              Good to Great: A Law Enforcement Leader’s Viewpoint

05/18/15              BRIEFING IDEA: What makes a great beat cop?

06/02/15             Shifting Gears in Policing

06/23/15              4 Keys to Building Influence

07/15/15              5 Killers of Positive Culture

07/23/15              10 Keys to a Successful Oral Board

08/03/15              Creating “Wow” Moments in Policing

08/10/15              5 Steps to Develop Squad Culture

09/23/15              7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 1

09/29/15              7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 2

01/19/16               Transactional vs. Relational Policing

02/16/16               3 Components to Law Enforcement Leadership

02/29/16              HELP WANTED: Police Officers

03/16/16               Culture in Just 4 Words

03/29/16               A Simple Gesture

04/27/16               Trickle-Down Leadership

05/11/16                 10 Steps to Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 1

05/25/16                10 Steps to Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 2

06/08/16                3 Signs of a Miserable Law Enforcement Job

07/12/16                 TBLL Leadership Reading List

10/26/16                 10 Tips for New Sergeants

11/01/16                  PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model

11/16/16                  The 3 PRIDE Loops

11/30/16                  Leading with P-R-I-D-E

12/07/16                  Predictive Policing

01/09/17                 Briefing with Purpose

04/23/17                 Advanced Officer Training Day

03/26/18                 1 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Start with Why

04/03/18                 2 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Strive to be a Great Leader

04/11/18                 3 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Intentionally Create Culture

04/16/18                 4 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Building Unity and Loyalty

04/24/18                 5 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Personal Accountability

05/02/18                 6 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Show Recognition

05/09/18                 7 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Make People Feel Safe

07/30/18                 Leadership Accountability: Internal and External Accountability

08/08/18                 Leadership Accountability – It’s All About Me!

08/20/18                 Leadership Accountability – Control vs. Influence

06/24/19                 Loeb’s Rules of Medicine Applied to Law Enforcement

07/07/19                 Staying on P-A-T-H

09/21/19                 Small Words, BIG MESSAGE

09/30/19                 Leading with P-R-I-D-E

11/25/19                 What Will Your Verse Be?

12/16/19                 Praising Properly: Intelligence vs. Effort

01/13/20                 3 Simple Field Training Ideas

02/10/20                 Performance vs. Trust in Field Training

06/08/20                 Protests and Smile Buttons

08/10/20                 TBLL TRAINING: Utilizing Policing Priorities

08/31/20                 Field Training and Emotional Intelligence

09/07/20                 TBLL TRAINING: Debriefing Decision-Making

02/15/21                 Nextgen Field Training

Nextgen Field Training

In March 2019, I had the privilege of attending and instructing at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) Conference. I was able to attend multiple courses over the week, but the ones that had the most impact on me were a couple of classes on field training and applying stress appropriately during training. These classes got me thinking about my department’s field training program and the issues we were having training our next generation of police officers.

During one of the classes on field training, the instructor asked the following – How much has policing changed over just the last 5 years? How about the last 25 years? The last 50 years? Then he enlightened the class to the fact that the two most common models for field training used throughout the United States have been in use between 25 and 50 years. That information hit me like a ton of bricks because it was starting to make sense to me why we were having the issues we were having. Law enforcement field training, either for lack of a better option or due to tradition, had failed to keep up with new philosophies in policing, improved instructing/learning strategies, and generational differences by continuing to utilize these models.


Shortly after attending ILEETA, I had the opportunity to attend the Excellence in Training Class put on my Brian Willis. During that class, he asked us to think of a program that we were responsible for and answer the following questions:

  • What do you want to START doing that you aren’t already?
  • What do you want to STOP doing that isn’t working?
  • What do you want to CONTINUE doing that is working?
  • What are you willing and able to CHANGE?

With the ideas from ILEETA still fresh in my mind, I began writing out my answers to these questions. By the time I got done and reread my thoughts, the seed had been planted. If I could turn these thoughts into a legit field training program, then my agency would have an amazing field training program. So, with those notes, I began writing it out and six months later the Nextgen Field Training Model was developed.


The purpose of the Nextgen Field Training Model was to bring our field training better into alignment with 21st century policing ideals and train new officers in adaptive decision-making while utilizing improved instruction/learning strategies. To do this, the Nextgen Field Training Model was built on five foundational principles:

  • Establish a simple set of Standard Evaluation Guidelines that clearly define the expectations of a successful solo capable officer while emphasizing the Nextgen process for getting to this outcome.
  • Create a culture of rewarding learner effort and learner risk taking with a distinct separation between training and evaluating built upon a crawl-walk-run experiential learning format.
  • Establish stronger connections between prior knowledge, skills, and experiences and the knowledge, skills, and experiences being taught during field training by implementing the most current instruction/learning strategies available.
  • Promote the officer safety concept of treating everyone with dignity and respect, but never compromising officer safety, good tactics, and appropriate use of force.

With these foundational elements in place, the Nextgen Field Training Model was taught to our cadre of current field trainers and implemented starting in September 2019. Over the last year and a half, we have seen excellent results with the 50+ officers-in-training that have gone through the program. Feedback from both field trainers and trainees has been extremely positive.  In coming TBLL posts, I will share more details related to the Nextgen Field Training Model and what has made it so successful.

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Your thoughts or comments on this blog are always appreciated either below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

TBLL TRAINING: Debriefing Decision-Making

This TBLL Training Video is a decision by decision debriefing discussion based upon an officer involved shooting that occurred in Fort Collins, CO in 2016. Some minor details of this situation were changed to stimulate certain conversation points. TBLL does not try to provide the “correct answers” to this incident in the video. This video is meant to be played during a briefing or roll call to stimulate conversation among officers and supervisors in the room. Being on the same page regarding decision-making and tactics is critical to safe and professional responses to dynamic situations. Below is an outline for leading the training discussion…see the video HERE or click the title below. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYb-29rFp_E)

If you have any questions or thoughts on this training video, please do not hesitate to contact us. Your thoughts or comments on this blog are always appreciated either below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership. Our email is tblleadership at gmail.com.

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!


Fort Collins Briefing Outline

SETUP: At 1920 hours, you are dispatched to a family fight at 919 N. US Highway 287 in Fort Collins, Colorado. The reporting party called 911 stating that her husband, Jerry Jackson, is outside of her home threatening her with a knife. He is described as a white male in his 60s wearing a plaid shirt and blue jeans. Jackson is pounding on the windows of the home trying to get in. Dispatch advises that your call is being upgraded to a subject with a weapon call. (Hot Tone) Shortly thereafter, you and a second officer arrive together and approach the front driveway of a large property. You immediately see a subject matching Jackson’s description and make contact with him… (Fort Collins OBC Video 1 Starts)

  • Fort Collins OBC Video 1
    • Shows officers arrive and make first contact with the subject.
    • Debriefing Questions for the Squad (Pause Video)
      • Risk Assessment: What is the danger? How much danger? Who is in danger?
      • What do you predict the subject will do next?
      • What would you do in the next few seconds?
      • How much of a threat would you consider the subject right now?
  • Fort Collins OBC Video 2
    • Officers observe knife, begin giving commands, and start working a plan.
    • Debriefing Questions for the Squad (Pause Video)
      • What important observations have you made so far?
      • What would you do in the next few seconds?
      • How would you describe the subject’s behavior to this point?
      • How much of a threat would you consider the subject right now?
  • Fort Collins OBC Video 3
    • Officers attempt TASER deployments, subject keeps moving closer, and they give warnings they will shoot.
    • Debriefing Questions for the Squad (Pause Video)
      • Is there any information you would like to have, but don’t currently know about this situation?
      • What do you predict is going to happen next?
      • What would you do in the next few seconds?
      • How much of a threat would you consider the subject right now?
  •  Fort Collins OBC Video 4
    • Officers shoot subject and begin post shooting process.
    • Debriefing Questions for the Squad (Pause Video)
      • Were there other options available to solve this problem? (Move a car between officers/subject? Hit with car? Pepper spray and charge with a shield? Get creative, but reasonable and acceptable within policy…)
      • How would you justify this decision?
      • What would you do in the next few seconds?
      • What concerns do you still have regarding this situation? (Securing subject safely, rounds that may have gone down range, status of victim, medical aid, etc.)
  • Fort Collins OBC Video 5
    • Officers work out a post-shooting plan and render emergency medical aid.
    • Debriefing Questions for the Squad (Pause Video)
      • What did you like best about their response after the shooting?
      • What could have made their response better?
      • What items still need to be addressed in this incident?
  • Fort Collins Shooting OBC Video played straight through. Final thoughts from squad?
  • The Rest of the Story
    • Larimer County District Attorney determined this was a justified shooting.
    • Key Findings in District Attorney’s Statement
      • Told multiple people he was going to make the police shoot him.
      • Officers took all reasonable steps to disarm and mitigate the situation.
        • Commanded 18 times to drop the knife.
        • Multiple warnings they would shoot.
        • Attempted use of the TASER.
        • Rendered Emergency Aid immediately.
      • NOTE: These “reasonable steps” applied to this set of circumstances specifically and will not necessarily apply to all shootings.
      • This is why understanding the Priority of Time is vital to good law enforcement decision-making. Understanding when you do and do not have time available to make decisions is critical.

Field Training and Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman wrote the book Emotional Intelligence back in 1995. The key concept behind emotional intelligence is that the better you understand and manage your emotions and the emotions of people around you, the greater your chances of success. In other words, make emotions work for and not against you. Whether it is during a call for service, traffic stop, conversation with a trainee, or an interview for a special assignment, your level of emotional intelligence is a key factor in how those situations play out.

The concept of emotional intelligence has a direct correlation to field training. The best field trainers are ones with high emotional intelligence because they not only control and utilize their own emotions effectively, but also those of their trainee and the other people involved in the calls for service they respond to. Emotionally intelligent officers can read people’s emotions and the atmosphere of a room as easily as other people read a book. This is an amazing asset to wield because it assists in their predictions about what will and will not work best in any given situation.

There are 4 domains to work on in order to improve your emotional intelligence and gain this edge for yourself…

1. Develop better self-awareness of your emotions.

Knowing what you feel, why you feel that way, and how those feelings are either helping or hindering you is the first step to developing better emotional intelligence. Take the time to slow down your thinking and explore why you feel the way you do whenever you have a strong emotional response to something. Why are you feeling anxious about a decision? What is causing you embarrassment, jealousy, or anger? Why do you love your significant other?

As you answer these questions, you start to realize that your brain is simply responding as it has been programmed to do for thousands of years. Emotions are an internal self-preservation system regulated by hormones and endorphins. They are meant to help us avoid danger and seek out things that help us survive. The problem is that we are responding to a 21st Century world with a “caveman” response system. Why do you think we get that feeling to punch a computer when it isn’t doing what we want it to? Or swear wildly at a car that just cut us off? When you develop the ability to pinpoint the root causes of your own emotions, then you’ll be ready to focus on improving the next domain.

2. Develop better self-management of your emotions.

Once you improve your ability to identify why you are feeling the way you do, now you begin to be able to better manage your emotional responses to stimuli. The ability to manage your own emotions gives you the following superpower – emotional adaptability. Emotional adaptability is the ability to adjust your emotions from the current state they are in and redirect them in another direction that is better suited for success. For example, simply take a sentence and replace the words “have to” with “get to.” Do you have to pick up the kids from school or do you get to pick up the kids from school? Do you have to be a field trainer or do you get to be a field trainer? Just a simple turn of phrase like this can completely change your emotional response to the situation or circumstances.

Scientific research has proven that when you have an overall positive outlook you have a greater chance of success at whatever you are doing. Want to improve your emotional self-management and adaptability? Here are 3 quick and easy ways to do it…

  • Write notes of appreciation. Whenever you show appreciation for something, not only does it make you feel better by recognizing it, but it also makes the person you are recognizing feel good. That starts a cycle of positive reinforcement. Even something as simple as a Post-It Note that says, “Great job interviewing that DV suspect yesterday” can go a long way towards motivation.
  • Take the time to reflect on things in your life that you are grateful for. Each night before bed or each morning before you start your day, take just 5 minutes to write down 3 things that you are grateful for in your life. I started doing this about 3 years ago and I cannot begin to tell you how much I have benefited from this practice.
  • Take the time to develop a strength. Whatever you are passionate about, be sure to give yourself opportunities to spend time doing what you love to do – hike, mountain bike, collect butterflies, shooting, wood work, fishing – whatever it is make time to do it.

3. Develop better social awareness.

Social awareness is the ability to understand how other people are feeling in the moment. It is empathy, paying attention to others, listening to their words, understanding why they feel the way they do, and finding a common ground. The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and understand their perspective, not necessarily agree with it, is what social awareness is all about. How does your OIT feel after a difficult call or after making a mistake? Understanding that can greatly improve your response and how the conversation goes afterwards. If you are reading this right now and thinking, “this is bullshit,” you have just proven that this could be an area for improvement for you.  🙂

This same concept also applies organizationally. Do you have the ability to see how organizational decisions effect the big picture or do you just look at how it affects you? Can you put yourself in the shoes of your sergeant or lieutenant and understand where they are coming from? It is this ability that often defines the great from the merely average leaders within an organization.

4. Develop better relationship management. (The key to being an awesome field trainer!)

The final step to improving your emotional intelligence comes in your ability to influence, mentor, coach, lead, and inspire others. It is about nurturing relationships through the 4 C’s of influence – Contact, Communication, Connection, and Commitment. Contact is the amount of time you have to spend around another person. As you spend time around them, communicate, interact, and learn about them. It is only through communication that you find ways to connect. What do you have in common? Once you build a connection, that is when you get a commitment from them to trust what you have to say and be accepting of your influence. It is this influence that makes an FTO memorable to an OIT. Everybody can remember fondly the FTO that you felt was truly invested in your success and wasn’t just going through the motions.

We, as law enforcement, spend hours and hours shooting, driving, and practicing defensive tactics. But, if you really want to develop a skill that will put you in the upper echelons of successful police officers, it is the skill of emotional intelligence that needs to be developed. When you think about it, policing is about 20% tactics and 80% communication, but we train in the exact opposite of that fact. The best part of this whole thing is that the domains of emotional intelligence are complimentary. Meaning that any improvement in one automatically helps to boost the others.

Stay safe and take care of each other. Thank you, as always, for everything you do to train the new officers of this department. It is greatly appreciated.

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership and culture development tactics. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time.

Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help. Continue reading our Twitter feed and check out our other blogs for tactics on creating positive culture. Share your thoughts or comments on this blog below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

TBLL TRAINING: Utilizing Policing Priorities


Almost 10 years ago, the Below 100 Program was brought to law enforcement agencies everywhere. That program emphasized that by following its 5 key tenants, US law enforcement agencies could reduce the total number of line of duty deaths in a year to less than 100.

The 5 Principles of Below 100 are…

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Wear your vest.
  • Watch your speed.
  • WIN – What’s Important Now?
  • Remember: Complacency kills.

All of those are crazy, simple ideas have had and continue to have a positive impact on reducing the overall number of law enforcement deaths each year. But, there was one thing that kept bugging me as a law enforcement trainer and it was the question, “What’s Important Now?” I love the concept of it and have even had the opportunity to discuss it in a training course taught by Brian Willis of Winning Mind Training who contributed that question. But there was just something about it…

To take that question to the next level, I believed that we could look at the common patterns used in answering it and develop a simple set of priorities that could be used to assist officers in their decision-making during high stress incidents. If these basic priorities could then be trained across an entire agency, we would have a force multiplier when it comes to decision-making all being on the same page. It was through studying and researching these patterns that the Policing Priorities were developed based off of ideas shared by other exceptional trainers, like Lou Hayes, and my own research regarding decision-making.

To assist in spreading this concept throughout my department, I created this briefing training video. These priorities are excellent for breaking down, discussing, and justifying decision-making at every level of the organization, during any call for service, and in every discipline of training.

The Policing Priorities are…Slide3

  • Priority of Life
  • Priority of Stabilization
  • Priority of Time
  • Priority of Apprehension

The link below will take you to the Policing Priorities Training video. Feel free to discuss it, try to break it, and test it out. We have found that they are applicable to every call for service we respond to. Whether it is an alarm call, traffic collision, burglary in-progress, pursuit, officer involved shooting, or an active killer, they apply.


Here are some related blogs that may help for deeper understanding of the Policing Priorities…

To continue building these decision-making fundamentals into the foundation of my department, the Policing Priorities are taught during Post-Academy, reinforced throughout Field Training, utilized during training modules, and then additionally reinforced with video debriefs of our own on-body camera videos demonstrating positive uses of the Policing Priorities.

If you have any questions or thoughts on the Policing Priorities, please do not hesitate to contact us. Your thoughts or comments on this blog are always appreciated either below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership. Our email is tblleadership at gmail.com.

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Small Words, BIG MESSAGE

Thin Blue Line Leadership

Yesterday morning, I went out for my typical run before the blazing Arizona sun made it unbearable. After a year or so of consistent running, I have finally gotten to the point that I can actually think while I’m running hard. So, when I veered off my regular route to break routine, I ran by a church that I normally would never see and noticed a sign similar to the one pictured above. That sign definitely got me thinking throughout the rest of my run and even into the next morning which is why I am writing this.

The sign is placed directly in front of the main doors of the sanctuary. It is at the head of the closest parking stall in a rather large parking lot. This parking spot was even closer to the church entrance than 5 handicapped stalls and the sign that said “Pastor’s Wife Parking…

View original post 391 more words

Staying on P-A-T-H

Thin Blue Line Leadership

Who are you as a leader? How do you know if the decisions you are making are meeting your personal expectations? Do you take the time to weigh your actions, attitudes, and effort against a personal mission and set of core values? Have you taken the time to define your own mission and core values? How do you know if you are staying on path?

The other day, I was instructing a class on Leadership Accountability to a group of 20 officers, sergeants, and civilian staff that are currently in my department’s leadership development program. On the whiteboard, I put up the following quote to generate discussion…


We began discussing the importance of a leader controlling their actions, attitude, and effort when looking for solutions to challenging leadership dilemmas. Then one of the officers asked the following question, “I get that the leader must adjust their sails to control what…

View original post 1,028 more words

Protests and Smile Buttons

A little over a week ago, an affluent shopping mall in the City where I work was overrun by looters and rioters using the peaceful George Floyd Protests as a smoke screen for their lawless activities. I was off that night, but was called in the next evening to supervise a Rapid Response Squad to handle additional threats that were being posted over social media for other parts of the City.

I spoke that night with some of the newer officers, mostly with less than two years on, about what they had experienced. As they spoke, their eyes would open wide and they all said they had never seen or expected to be in the middle of anything like that – even as a police officers.  There was fear behind those eyes and at the same time a twinge of anger for having been made to feel that fear. It was in that moment that I became truly worried about how things would play out if another similar incident took place and these officers had to respond. Are they professional? YES. Are they well trained? YES. Is fear an incredibly destructive force to professionalism and training? YES!

Smile ButtonThe next day I was home for a few hours before needing to return to work as the police department was being mobilized in a way that I had never seen before. While working on some things in my home office, I opened a drawer and found a plastic bag full of almost 200 smile buttons that one of my daughters had given to me. They were leftover from a school project she had done a little over a year ago and she had given them to me assuming I would find a use for them someday. I immediately took them out and put them in my duffel bag to take to work. I did not know how they would be used, but in these unprecedented times I knew that they may be useful because as human beings a legitimate smile goes a long way and when I saw these in the drawer, they made me smile.

As part of my duties with the Training Unit, I have been studying Mirror Neurons and their affect on communication. These are the neurons in our brains that are responsible for helping with empathy, understanding context, imitation learning, and more. They also are the same neurons that fire off positive feelings when we observe someone do something nice for another person. Yes, just watching another person buy someone a coffee or pick up some items they dropped on the floor gives third party observers a little jolt of positive feelings. This is the internal mechanism that tries to connect us as human beings and positively support our further existence through helping one another. Mirror Neurons are also the reason when some looks at you and gives you a genuine smile you cannot help but to smile back – they are connection builders.

Fast forward a week to present day. The department has been mobilized and some officers are going on working straight 10 days with at least another four to go. Tension is high, nerves are fraying, and we are in a state of constant concern that the looters and rioters will return based upon continuing social media posts threatening to do so.

Then we get word of a planned protest for Sunday in our City with an expected turnout of approximately 1500 people. When the Ops Plan came out, I scrolled through to see what my assignment would be. I found that myself and my fellow Training Unit supervisor were assigned to be parking lot security for the three main parking lots being provided for the arriving protesters. It was in this moment that I immediately knew how we could use the smile buttons that I was still carrying around with me.

Uniform Smile
My uniform shirt.

As myself and my fellow sergeant arrived at the all supervisors meeting, we both attached yellow smile buttons to the pockets of our uniform shirts. While at the meeting there were a couple of eye rolls and snickers, but there were also more than a few smiles with comments back that they liked the buttons. Some even asked for their own. The tension in the meeting was thick and it was clear that assisting this protest to go off peacefully was the goal of the day.

While driving from the meeting to our designated parking lot security spot, we started discussing our role for the day. We came to the conclusion that to be “standoff-ish tactical security” was not the way we wanted our first interactions with the arriving protesters to be. For lack of a better term, we decided to become the “Wal-Mart Greeters” of the protest. Our role was going to be to say “Hi” to everyone we see, explain why we were there, and offer them a smile button as a sign of peace and solidarity with the message they were there to share. The Message . . . Bad cops make the job of every good cop that much more dangerous and give the entire profession a black eye. We wanted them to know that we agreed.

We began approaching arriving protesters as they were filtering from their vehicles to the staging area to await the start of the march. Everyone was greeted with the biggest smiles we could give them (without looking too awkward, I hope) and then we would ask if they would like a smile button as a sign of solidarity and hope for a peaceful protest. Unlike the tweet below states, this was not a PR effort on behalf of the department, it was just two cops trying to build connections.

Tweet from a protester.

The responses were overwhelmingly positive. It was amazing how a smile button could break the tension of the moment and tear down the barriers to allow positive communication to happen. People gave us handshakes, returned smiles, thanked us for being there, asked questions, and immediately put on the buttons. Multiple people explained to us that they support our specific police department, but were there to support the bigger message across the nation and we shared our agreement. The immediate connections that occurred in those brief encounters were undeniable. This was quite honestly one of the coolest moments of my entire policing career and I will never forget it.

The protest march lasted for nearly two and a half hours and could not have run any smoother. As they were leaving the area, my partner and I got about our duties of traffic control and assisting pedestrians across the street, it was awesome to see people still wearing the smile buttons. Even the ones that did not have a button had a real smile on because they felt like they had been able to voice their concerns about law enforcement and been heard. We made sure to smile back and ask how the march was activating those amazing little mirror neurons and building even more connections.

It is not going to be huge sweeping changes or reforms to the law enforcement profession that are going to make the difference. It is going to be continuous small acts of positivity and discussion that officers do every day to build positive connections that will make the difference.

I challenge other officers to break through the fear that may come from these challenging and changing times and find ways to build positive connections. Get a smile button, put it on your uniform, and then have a few extra in your pocket to share with someone to start a discussion. Even if they do not stop to talk, I guarantee they will at least smile at the attempt. Smile buttons can be found here….AMAZON LINK.

A genuine smile will get us a long way.

10 Steps for Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 2

Thin Blue Line Leadership

10 Steps

This is Part 2 of 10 Steps for Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement. To read Part 1, click here.

  1. Leadership-Based Promotional Processes

When it comes to promoting higher in rank, every department seems to have their own unique process; usually some combination of written tests, assessment centers, oral boards, etc. Most of these evaluation tools focus more on the managerial qualities of rank rather than leadership qualities. In order to promote the continual learning of leadership, promotional processes must be based upon leadership demonstrated in the past, present, and most likely into the future. That is what a leadership-based promotional process must be based upon; the prediction of continued leadership into the future. I will not attempt to give a generic process that a law enforcement agency should duplicate, but I will try to make a few points that any agency could focus their process upon in their…

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10 Steps for Teaching Law Enforcement Leadership – Part 1

Thin Blue Line Leadership

“The rank of office is not what makes someone a leader. Leadership is the choice to serve others with or without any formal rank. There are people with authority who are not leaders and there are people at the bottom rungs of an organization who most certainly are leaders. It’s okay for leaders to enjoy all the perks afforded them. However, they must be willing to give up those perks when it matters.”

~ Excerpt from Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

A couple of weeks ago, I received a direct message on Twitter that asked the following: “I was in the military and have been a police officer for 10 years. I would love to hear how you teach leadership. I’m not trying to be a doubter, but I work for some non-leading people who don’t know or understand leadership or how to lead.”

First, let me say how unfortunate…

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Transactional vs. Relational Policing

Thin Blue Line Leadership

As a law enforcement supervisor, have you ever tried to explain to someone what good policing is? Sometimes putting things into words can be an extremely difficult task. If you are like me, the first hundred times you try to answer this question you find yourself jetting off into all these tangents about handling calls, traffic enforcement, conducting thorough investigations, making big busts, taking down the “really bad guys,” and somewhere in there working with the community. By the time you get done it feels like you just named off a bunch of different tasks and never really answered the question – What is good policing?

One night, I was driving in for my overnight shift listening to the “EntreLeadership” podcast and they were interviewing a gentleman named Mick Ebeling. What really struck me was when Mr. Ebeling began talking about transactional and relational marketing as it relates to his…

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