Mark Miller, Vice President of Leadership Development at Chick-fil-A, once said, “People will do extraordinary things when a vision resonates deep inside of them.” The simple briefing idea described below helps to create a vision of what makes a great beat cop. It gets the entire squad on the same page regarding what they should expect out of each other and themselves as they are working their beats and also provides a positive way for them to bring up issues they may currently be having with squad mates. With everyone on the same page, you find that it becomes easier for them to hold themselves and each other accountable. As a supervisor, this activity gives you a great starting point for having conversations about creating a set of squad expectations or discussing issues with current squad expectations.
BRIEFING IDEA: What makes a great beat cop?
Can you clearly define what makes a great beat cop? Stop and think about it for a moment . . . write down the top 5 traits you would expect to see. Now, ask yourself this, if you walked into your briefing and had your officers do the same thing, would their list be the same or at least similar to yours? The answer to that question is going to depend primarily on the strength of culture that has been established in your department and, more specifically, the one you have established on your squad. So, here is a simple idea to get everyone on the same page.
1. Before the briefing, choose 6 general categories that you feel a great beat cop can be defined by. For my briefing, I chose Leadership, Knowledge/Skills, Attitude, Communication (Verbal or Written), Productivity/Activity Level, and Use of Force/Officer Safety.
2. To start, walk into your briefing room and on a whiteboard draw a 2 by 3 grid for a total of 6 boxes. If you do not have a whiteboard, hang 6 large sheets of paper on the wall. I found that by not telling the officers what I was doing, it built up the intrigue of what was about to happen.
3. At the top of each box, write in one of the 6 categories that you chose in step #1.
4. To set the conversation up, ask your officers to envision what they think makes a great beat cop; someone that they would absolutely love to work with. Then, point out that there is probably a different vision for each person in the room based on their prior experiences. Explain that the object of this briefing is to define what WE, as a squad, believe makes a great beat cop so that everyone is on the same page when we head out to hit the streets together.
5. To help start the conversation, start by calling on officers directly, but in a rotation so everyone gets to have input. Ask each officer to give one idea to add to any of the 6 categories. I would suggest starting with the officers that you have previously identified as the leaders on your squad. When they are involved first, the others will be more comfortable speaking up. Do not forget to include yourself at the end of each rotation; you are part of the squad and when they hit the road your officers are an extension of your vision and leadership. For each idea you write, there is an opportunity for potential discussion or to bring up examples of times when you have seen officers exemplify this behavior.
6. After several rounds and the officers have become more comfortable with the discussion, review the items listed in each category. Read the items aloud and ask if there is anything that has been missed to complete the discussion for each category. This is your opportunity to steer the conversation towards areas the officers may not have thought about, but seek their input on the items you bring up. This cannot become the supervisor’s list or you will lose their buy-in. (Note: If you are generating a lot of good discussion, consider using a second briefing to complete the list.)
7. After the list is completed, write it down and put it into a presentable format to be handed out to the squad. See my squad’s final list below.
8. Hand out a copy of the final document to each officer. Review the items listed for each category and ask your officers if there is anything listed that they cannot agree to do on a daily basis. Emphasize that this description is what everyone, including the supervisor, should be shooting to be on a daily basis. In my briefing, I made the point that nobody is going to be perfect 100% of the time, but if we are striving to demonstrate all of the positive qualities listed, then we will be pretty great beat cops.
It may feel awkward to think about leading a discussion like this in briefing; especially if you have never done anything similar. If that is the case, my suggestion would be to set it up by sharing with your officers you want to try something different in briefing a couple of shifts in advance. By simply giving a heads up about the change, it will set them up to be more understanding when you start this briefing and they won’t waste the time wondering why this just came out of nowhere.
The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement leaders to be better than they were yesterday. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. To lead your officers in this direction, you have to make the most out of the precious time you have available in briefing to establish the culture you wish to have on your squad.
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