Every law enforcement organization in the world has that “slug” or “lazy cop” that no longer goes above and beyond. Maybe above and beyond is even too much of an expectation. You know, the officer that occasionally causes you to wonder if you need to put a mirror under his/her nose to make sure they are still breathing. Unfortunately, the vast majority of officers that fall into this category are a product of their environment. An environment created by or allowed to be by their leadership.
These officers have been allowed to be in this useless state for so long because no one has ever held them accountable on a consistent basis for their actions, or lack thereof. Naturally, most cops want to do great work, but when allowed to become complacent or unmotivated, they become a blight on the whole department.
In the book EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey he writes, “If you as a leader allow people to halfway do their jobs and don’t demand excellence as a prerequisite to keeping their job, you will create a culture of mediocrity.”
The bad news is that you cannot change people. Only they can decide to change themselves through their actions, attitude, and effort. So, the question becomes what can you change? The answer is the environment.
By making consistent, incremental positive changes in the environment, you can alter the behaviors of your officers. Here are 6 things you can start doing tomorrow to change your squad’s environment and create lasting on-the-job behavioral changes.
- Recognize and reward the positive actions and attitudes of your officers. When you see something great, recognize it immediately and find a way to reward it. Other officers will see that success and then begin to duplicate that behavior. A hand written note, a shout-out in briefing, buying them a coffee, getting them into a training they wanted, or speaking positively about them to upper staff are easy ways to reward positive behaviors.
- Have your officers submit weekly or monthly goals to you and find ways to assist them in reaching those goals. Ask your officers for specific and measurable goals related to current issues in their beats. For example, spending more time in a neighborhood hit hard by property crimes, working extra traffic enforcement on a stretch of road that has had a lot of collisions, meeting business owners in their beat, etc. Use these goals as a springboard for consistent interaction and evaluation. If you let them leave briefing just to drive circles until a call comes out, then you are doing them, yourself, the department, and the community a disservice.
- Discover each of your officers’ policing passion. Turn them into the “go to” expert on your squad by sending them to passion-specific trainings and giving them temporary duty assignments with related specialty units. This will develop their strength in that area and set them up for future success as they test for those specialty units or promote.
- Establish clear squad expectations that correlate with your department’s mission. You know what a “rock star” officer looks like. Share that vision with your squad regularly – what constitutes success should not be a guessing game. Need a suggestion for setting squad expectations? See the Culture in Just 4 Words blog.
- Conduct frequent evaluation conversations that do not merely glance back at the past, but are primarily future-focused. Most, if not all, police departments require annual evaluations, but do not let that be the only feedback your officers receive. It does little to no good to bring up negatives from 11 months ago; especially if there is no longer an issue. Discuss issues immediately by defining the problem, reinforcing your expectations, and setting specific changes you want to see from this point forward. If your officers are exhibiting positive behaviors, refer back to #1 on this list.
- Get officer buy-in by giving them a voice to make suggestions for improvement. Create a method where officers can submit suggestions for their squad, beat, district, or the department as a whole. This gives you a great way to handle and issues brought up in conversation or during briefing. Just advise them to send you an email with a suggested solution for the perceived problem. Then, as the sergeant or first-line supervisor, you present those suggestions to the appropriate department parties. One extremely important piece to this concept is to always remember to give credit where credit is due.
What ideas do you have for changing officer behavior by modifying their environment?
Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!
The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership starts by building a positive squad culture. A positive squad culture nurtures your officer’s motivation and passion which, in turn, results in positive productivity and interactions with the community.