The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. One way to do this is by recognizing and rewarding great police work on a routine basis. Here is an idea that came to me the other day.
I found myself watching a college football game last weekend and was noticing the band, the cheerleaders, the crazy student section, the mascot, and of course the players. A thought struck me at that time regarding the strength of culture at these collegiate institutions. Then I began to pay particular attention to the helmets of the Florida State Seminoles and noticed that there were little tomahawk stickers on the player’s helmets. This was not something new as I have seen them on many other college team helmets, but today I guess it just struck me at the right time.
A Wikipedia search of “helmet stickers” revealed that recognition or pride stickers have been rewarded to players since the mid-1950’s for making excellent plays, selfless plays, and even for hard work at practices. The idea stemmed from fighter pilots that marked their planes to signify the number of kills or successful missions they had flown. Then I started to make a connection to police work.
Most police departments have awards that are given out on an annual basis, but if you really want to positively reinforce behavior then it needs to be done on a much more consistent basis than that. So, I created some law enforcement recognition stickers using the Thin Blue Line of Leadership logo and had them printed at evermine.com.
For a very small cost ($15+shipping), I received over 100 custom recognition stickers (1″ diameter) to give out in briefings to reward the great things that officers do on a daily basis. I am not selling anything or being paid by evermine.com to tell you any of this; I am simply sharing an idea and evermine happened to be the website that popped up first.
TYPES OF STICKERS: Walking into briefing with a couple of recognition stickers immediately makes everyone wonder who is being recognized and for what. It provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce more of the “smaller” things that do not rise to the level of an official ribbon or annual award. If you catch an officer changing a flat tire, give them a sticker. Have an officer that routinely volunteers to hold over a couple of hours to accommodate staffing needs, give them a sticker. If an officer does an amazing investigation or writes a great report, give them a sticker after they talk about it with the squad so everyone has a chance to learn from that officers great moment. Any action that supports what the squad is all about, the desired culture, should be recognized. This sticker is only given out when I, the sergeant, want to personally thank them or recognize them for some good work they did or a sacrifice they made for the squad. What gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated.
After the success of the above recognition sticker, I created a second sticker for our squad. These stickers can only be received by officers that are being recognized by a person outside of the squad or another officer on the squad.
It is a squad logo created of a lion (think LE Memorial) and stars to represent the people on our squad. These stickers were used for two purposes. First, when someone from outside the squad wants to recognize a member of the squad for something. These commendations could come from citizens, other supervisors, upper staff, etc. Secondly, the most interesting use for these stickers was for officers to internally thank each other when someone sacrificed to help them out personally. For example, when an officer found a good arrest and had a ton of items to impound related to the arrest and their squad mates stayed late to help them get done quicker. The next shift, they would come ask me for however many stickers they needed and in briefing would thank the officers that helped them out. The coolest part of the stickers is that they ended up perpetuating officers going above and beyond for their fellow officers to a whole new level than I had ever seen in policing.
The officers decide where to collect their stickers, but my suggestion would be their ticket clipboards to display their accomplishments proudly. Some put them on their locker or some other place they see on a daily basis. This serves as a consistent reminder of their many accomplishments and makes a statement about having a positive squad culture.
Do you have a similar way of rewarding officers in your department?
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