Tag Archives: briefing

Briefing with Purpose

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” ~ Colin Powell
Success is absolutely about preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. As a leader of people, you have taken on the challenge of doing everything within your power to make your people successful. One of the best places to start doing that with your officers is in the briefing room. In law enforcement, the time that you get to spend with your entire squad together is extremely limited; therefore, it is up to you to make the most of it.

In my department, each patrol shift starts with a 30 minute briefing conducted by the squad sergeant. This is the only time that the squad has the opportunity to be together in same place at the same time without the next call for service pulling us away. (Most of the time.) There are many purposeful activities that can fill this time, but unfortunately they often just turn into “bull sessions” with no real purpose and become a waste of everyone’s time. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to have unplanned, open discussions in briefing so long as there is a purpose to it and it is not just a default due to a lack of planning on the part of the supervisor.

Prior to being a police officer, I was a math teacher for just shy of 7 years. I was educated on the importance of lesson planning, building themes, identifying “teachable” moments, and organizing curriculum. When you walk into a classroom of 30+ teenagers every day, you quickly come to understand how important organization is to facilitating effective learning. When I promoted to sergeant, these same lessons came flooding back to me and I found ways to modify the concepts to work within the given 30 minute briefing times I had.

As a patrol sergeant, I work four 10 hour shifts a week. I try to stay at least one week ahead with whatever I am planning for briefing training so I have some idea of where I am going and have time to gather resources or create them. With that being said, it is vital to not be overly invested in the briefing plan because things occasionally come up that may take precedent; such as a major call for service that needs to be discussed that offers some “teachable” moments. Below is an example of the form I used to plan my briefings . . .

lesson

Here was the thinking behind how my weekly planning was organized. DAY 1 was typically reserved for administrative topics. All of the emails, criminal info bulletins, policy updates, and more that needed to be to be shared with the whole squad were saved over the weekend for this day. The last thing I ever wanted was for administrative stuff to take over all of my briefings. I also found that the first day back to work for the week was usually not the best day for conducting briefing training. Once the admin stuff was out of the way, then I would end the briefing by recognizing some of the good work from the week before to start us off positively. This recognition was with the express intent of wanting to see those specific actions, attitudes, or efforts repeated by the squad.

DAY 2 and DAY 3 were reserved for Briefing Training. These could include any number of topics and may involve bringing in a guest speaker from another part of the department, using a short PowerPoint, leading a discussion on our successes/failures from a call, conducting a demonstration, putting together a scenario, watching a police-related video then discussing how it relates to our policies/practices/state laws, etc. There are so many great topics and activities related to our profession that can fit into a 30 minute time period to instigate learning and/or create culture. Ultimately, when planning briefing training, we are not trying to certify officers in anything, just share information so we are all on the same page.

DAY 4 was usually more relaxed. I would lead a discussion called “What did you learn?” in which each member of the squad would talk about one thing they learned or did differently this week on a call and if it was or was not successful. Finally, I would always end the last briefing of the week by recognizing some more of the fine work that had been done by my officers that supported our positive squad culture. There would also be an opportunity for them to recognize each other for things I may not have seen.

At the bottom of the weekly plan was a list of all of my officers. This gave me the ability to know who was or was not in briefing on a given day so either myself or an informal leader on the squad could follow up with them later regarding what we covered. As mentioned above, the power of having briefings with purpose comes from everyone being on the same page. Without this follow-up, you fall short on one of the best parts of having organized briefing plans.

With purpose, there is power. Time with the entire squad together allows a leader to communicate specific messages that puts everyone on the same page. This creates opportunities to share the mission, build squad culture, recognize good work, educate on policy/legal updates, discuss success/failures, and much more. Having these types of purposeful briefings are especially beneficial for newer officers, but also serve the purpose of being a reminder to the more senior officers about what is important.

I challenge you to find the time and make the effort to plan briefings with purpose and see the many positive benefits that come from it.

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!

10 Tips for New Sergeants

For the last 2 years, I have been a Field Training Sergeant. It is a pleasure knowing that I am having an impact on the future of my police department by training these new leaders. I see this responsibility as a vital one because if I do not do a good job, I am not just affecting that new sergeant, but every officer that serves on his or her squad.

Just so we are on the same page, here is how my department handles sergeant training. Sergeant field training is a 5 week process – 2 weeks with one training sergeant, 2 weeks with a different training sergeant, and then one final week back with the first training sergeant. At the end of each shift, the Field Training Sergeant completes a daily activity report that summarizes and scores everything the prospective new sergeant did throughout that shift. While writing these daily activity reports, I have noticed that there are certain bits of advice that I seem to be repeatedly writing for every sergeant I help train.

So, here are my 10 tips for new sergeants . . .

  1. Successful sergeants spend 80% of their time working with people and 20% doing everything else. Sergeants that fail to inspire, have a poor squad culture, and breed negative officers focus more on everything else rather than people and building relationships.
  2. Successful sergeants find ways to teach their officers to be adaptive decision-makers; not robots that only understand “if – then” statements. When opportunities present themselves, sergeants explain their process for making difficult decisions and everything they took into account. Then, when their officers face similar situations they will apply their own similar process.
  3. Successful sergeants never waste briefing time. There is always something that could be discussed, debated, trained, or learned in briefing. This is one of the few opportunities when sergeants have their entire squad’s attention at one time; make the most of it.
  4. Successful sergeants understand that policing is a complicated profession. Both sergeants and their officers are going to make mistakes at some point. Do not hide mistakes, share them openly and turn them into learning opportunities focused on improvement. Mistakes are fine, just don’t make the same one twice.
  5. Successful sergeants recognize, reward, and promote good police work by their officers. They use whatever methods are available at their department to make this happen anytime an officer goes above and beyond. Not only does this create a more positive culture, but it also spurs on more officers to look for opportunities to go above and beyond. What a sergeant rewards will be repeated.
  6. Successful sergeants have a vision of the culture they want to have on their squad. Squad culture is defined as the conglomeration of your officers’ actions, attitude, and effort. If you asked another sergeant to describe your squad in 4 words, what words would they use? That is your culture. If you don’t like those words, do something about it.
  7. Successful sergeants do not lead from their desks. They get out on the road with their officers and find ways to serve them throughout each shift. They never believe themselves to be too good for the “grunt” work of being an officers; they get in there and get their hands dirty occasionally.
  8. Successful sergeants recognize that their actions, attitude, and effort tell their officers what is important to them. If a sergeant speaks negatively about their schedule, some situation at the department, or some aspect of the job, then don’t be surprised when the officers have that same opinion or are representing that opinion openly. Negativity breeds negativity.
  9. Successful sergeants know what they do not know, then they find ways to compensate for those areas. If they are not good at tactical situations, they talk to the department’s SWAT officers about various scenarios and how they would handle them. If they are not good at traffic or investigations, they build relationships with motors or detectives that are respected. The most important aspect of this tip is that a sergeant never fakes knowledge and gives bad advice to an officer. This will kill their credibility. If an officer has a question that the sergeant does not know the answer to, the best thing they can do is say, “That is a great question, I don’t know, but I know someone who will. Standby and I’ll call you right back.”
  10. Successful sergeants never allow themselves or their officers to stop learning. The minute a sergeant thinks they know it all is the moment they begin sliding towards mediocrity. A sergeant values training and realizes that the more training they can get for their officers, the better their officers will be on the road.

Got a tip you would give to a new sergeant?

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!

Shifting Gears in Policing

Recently Harvard Law Review published an article by Seth Stoughton entitled “Law Enforcement’s ‘Warrior’ Problem.” It discussed the need for law enforcement to move beyond the idea of being “warriors” and accept the concept of becoming “guardians.” Stoughton wrote that the concept of being warriors started with the best of intentions, but has “created substantial obstacles to improving police/community relations.” Whichever side of the discussion you fall on, warrior or guardian, it is a huge over simplification to think that a single mentality can define the role patrol officers must play each shift to remain safe and protect the community. Law enforcement cannot be one or the other; we must have the ability to fill many different roles dependent upon the circumstances presented by the situation.

As a patrol sergeant with one of the youngest squads in the department, I knew that it would be vital to define the mentality I expected my officers to have while on the road. I could not support a singular mentality whose sole purpose was to either keep them safe or allow them to more easily interact with the public. Through this internal debate, I concluded that one of the biggest challenges facing law enforcement is getting away from any concept that takes a “one size fits all” approach. Patrol officers should not be asked or expected to be just warriors or just guardians. They should be expected to be and trained to be warriors, guardians, caretakers, counsellors, educators, enforcers, and community representatives with the ability to shift gears from one role into another seamlessly based upon the circumstances of the call.

Officers must possess the intelligence to quickly assess a situation, decide on the role they must play, and then execute it successfully while continuing to assess their ever changing environment. As law enforcement supervisors, we have to assist our officers in rectifying the conflict between showing compassion, empathy, and understanding while at the same time being ready to maintain control of the situation and possibly use force. Training the ability to show compassion, empathy, and understanding while also maintaining officer safety is the challenge law enforcement faces and the primary reason why a “one size fits all” mentality so easily took hold in the first place. One requires constant thinking, adapting, and assessing; while the other allows for simplicity.

Department training must adapt to this more complicated and effective style of policing. Just as it is critical for officers to have on-going training in firearms, legal updates, emergency driving, and defensive tactics; it is equally as important to find training techniques that emphasize problem-solving, de-escalation, and proper “gear selection” based upon a call’s circumstances. There must be an emphasis on finding solutions to problems and not just being a Band-Aid.

I understand that making training changes within a police department can be like turning around the Titanic; so here are 10 ways patrol supervisors can reinforce “gear shift” thinking within their squad.

  1. When officers call you with a question, walk them through your decision-making process by asking these 3 questions: 1) What do you know? 2) What do you want to do? 3) What is your intent with the chosen solution? Then affirm their answer or provide other options, but ultimately leave the decision up to the officer unless it endangers or violates rights.
  2. Take the time to train officers in all of the department’s available resources and referral services such as crisis lines, shelters, etc. Knowing the options available to them increases the number of possible solutions to a call for service.
  3. Debrief calls in detail and discuss alternative options at critical decision points.
  4. Send officers to outside trainings that build their knowledge base in other roles such as Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), negotiating, and de-escalation techniques.
  5. Be on the road as a resource to your officers, but refrain from taking over calls unless necessary. Help them to recognize opportunities to use the department’s available resources and referral services when making an arrest is not the best “gear” to be in. Remember, solutions not Band-Aids.
  6. Tabletop training scenarios in briefing with multiple acceptable endings: arrest, warning/discretion, use a resource, or make a referral. Just like reality, there is rarely a single correct answer.
  7. Discuss de-escalation techniques and how to tone down “command presence” without sacrificing officer safety. Have officers that have attended training on topics like this share what they learned upon returning to the squad.
  8. Recognize and reward thoughtful, creative problem solving in briefing. What you reward will be repeated.
  9. Bring experts into briefing to discuss department resources and all the ways they are available to help officers when they are on calls. Do not assume that your officers know all of the resources available to them.
  10. Train your officers to be leaders on calls. When officers from other squads are hesitant to make a decision, your officers can take them over and set the example of finding solutions.

So, how does law enforcement need to be training for the future? Not just as warriors and not just as guardians, but as thoughtful officers that respond to situations in the most appropriate gear for finding solutions to the problems they are presented with.

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. 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 for them to demonstrate on your road.

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!

BRIEFING IDEA: What makes a great beat cop?

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 as they are working their beats and 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 will find that it becomes easier for them to hold themselves and each other accountable. As the supervisor, this activity gives you a great starting point for having conversations with officers that may not be living up to 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.Jason's Stuff P6

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.

Board

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 the officer’s 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.

R1 Designs

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 regular 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 shift or two 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.

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!

Thin Blue Line of Leadership Blog: 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.

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!

This blog is meant to serve as a table of contents for all of our past blogs. Click on any of the titles to be taken directly to that particular blog.

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 Loop

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

Insubordination?

“Sergeant, what if blah, blah, blah, blah…”

If you have never had the pleasure of being a sergeant for a squad of new officers, then that first sentence may not make a lot of sense. But, if you have, then you know exactly what I am talking about. How many briefings turn into “what if” sessions with each situation getting a little less likely to ever occur? Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to be gained by playing the “what if” game in briefing, but sometimes even you, the sergeant, get hit with a question you’re not sure of the answer to…

So, what do you do? You put on your best pondering face and say, “that’s a really good question.” Secretly you’re just trying to buy more time for yourself to create a reasonable response so you can maintain that all knowing aura about yourself as the sergeant. Immediately after giving your best s.w.a.g. (scientific wild ass guess), one of your slightly more experienced officers blurts out, “You can’t do that.” The officer then proceeds to give the correct response. Silence fills the room as everyone waits for your reaction…

Before you continue reading, I want you to pause and consider what would you do? I ask that because in this very moment you are about to make a leadership decision that will have far reaching consequences. Your reaction will answer 3 questions for every officer in the room…

  1. Do you value different thoughts/opinions than your own?
  2. Is briefing a safe learning environment?
  3. Where does your pride and ego stand when it comes to being wrong?

Here is how I replied, “You’re right – I hadn’t thought of it like that.” We then pulled up the applicable Field Order and read over it as a squad while discussing other situational possibilities. What easily could have been viewed as insubordination or a challenge to my authority was turned into one of the most productive briefings I ever had. I valued the fact that he had the gumption to speak up and say something when I was wrong.

Ultimately, if you limit other thoughts and opinions, you limit not only your own growth, but that of your entire squad. Obviously, in police work there are times and places when an officer just needs to do what they are told, but this was not one of them. The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, consider the subliminal messages you are sending to your squad based upon how you respond.

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 discussing topics like this, law enforcement leaders are tending to the welfare of the “whole” officer, not just the one in uniform.

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!

Change and Reputation

Reputation1

As a police sergeant, I have 2 primary goals regarding the officers on my squad: 1. Keep them safe. 2. Assist them in being successful at reaching their goals. To assist them in being successful with their goals, I find it is necessary to help give them perspective on the “big picture.” In law enforcement, it is easy to get caught up on short-sighted issues that demoralize a squad like staffing, compensation, negative public perceptions, etc. With that being said, I wrote this and read it in one of my recent briefings.

Change and your reputation go hand in hand in any organization, but in a mid-sized police department it is even truer – there is nowhere to hide within a 400 person department. We all know the phenomenal street cop whose career was or is being derailed by their poor reputation/attitude. More times than not, their poor reputation/attitude is related to their inability to deal with change effectively.

Change is inevitable. The only thing that stays constant is that circumstances and situations are always changing. How you deal with change comes down to your own personal responsibility and accountability – What do you expect of yourself? This defines not only your ability to deal w/ change, but also develops your reputation within the organization. Are you a whiney victim of change or are you someone who can deal and work within the system that is present?

The sooner it is accepted that the system is what it is and will always be slow to respond, the easier it becomes to deal with organizational lapses. Organizations, like people, are inherently flawed – no organization is perfect because they are run by human beings who are made up of attitudes, egos, and emotions. To move beyond the lapses, though, you have to take the long view and not be focused on just the short-term. So, the question becomes, how can you react to change to get the best outcome and solidify a reputation as a positive, forward thinker?

First, when change is approaching, ask this question of yourself, “What can I do?” This is the most direct and proactive response you can have. Sometimes you’ll have the ability to affect change before it is upon you and sometimes you won’t. The key is to remember that working within yourself is the only thing you actually have true control over. By taking initiative and working from the front, you can often help direct change in a more palatable direction.

Reputation2

But, what if there is nothing you can do to directly affect the change that is coming? I answer that question with a quote from Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

If you can’t effect the situation directly, then whining, complaining, or having beat office bitch sessions will do nothing but hurt YOUR reputation. The perceived “problem” will rarely be blamed because it is so ambiguous and comes from “they” levels. You know who “they” are, right? I implore you not to see change as something that is out to get you – it is vital to your career success to be a person who can identify the positives and opportunities that come with change.

There are 3 things you are always in control of when it comes to change – your attitude, your actions, and your effort. The common denominator to all 3 of those is YOU – you are in control and no one can take that away unless you let them. It is all about being proactive, not reactive.

Here are 5 steps to help deal with change in a positive, forward-thinking manner. These steps are adapted from the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

Change Awareness

  1. Accept that change happens.
  2. Anticipate change.
  3. Affect change, if possible.
  4. Adapt to change quickly by adjusting your perspective.
  5. Enjoy change by being in personal control of your response to it.

Ultimately to succeed, not just within an organization, but in life, it is about survival of the fittest – your ability to adapt and overcome to change. Just like responding to a call, the situation is always going to be fluid. How you respond is your choice and builds your reputation either for the better or for the worse!

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 by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. By discussing topics like this, law enforcement leaders are tending to the welfare of the “whole” officer, not just the one in uniform.

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!

Don’t Get Captured!

“Work hard, have fun, be safe, and don’t get captured.” I end every patrol briefing with those four simple requests. The first three are pretty straightforward. It was the last one that generated snickers from my patrol officers, but that was fine by me; I knew they had heard it. Each briefing for a month and a half ended in the same way, but the snickers slowly faded. I assume they probably thought I was nuts to continue making the same dumb joke every shift. Then, I shared the meaning . . .

A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room watching one of the best television shows ever made, HBO’s The Wire. Jimmy McNulty, played by Dominic West, and the group of characters that had come together to run a wiretap had been disbanded and reassigned back to their old assignments. The scene opens with a Baltimore Police Department lieutenant giving a patrol briefing. At the very end of the briefing, he closes by saying, “Don’t get captured.”

As a patrol officer at the time, I thought that was a pretty funny way to end a briefing. The simplistic meaning I came up with was that it was a comedic way for the writers to get across the danger that exists on a daily basis working patrol in Baltimore. For some inexplicable reason, this phrase stuck with me. I decided, years before promoting, that I would end every briefing I lead with “don’t get captured,” but for very different reasons than the simplistic one I thought of the first time I heard it.

Don’t get captured truly has a much deeper meaning. Think about it, what does it really mean to be captured? Here are my two reasons for ending each briefing this way:

First, to be captured means you or someone leading you has created a situation that is beyond your control; too far behind enemy lines, surrounded. In law enforcement, it is very easy to metaphorically get too far behind those lines. It could be walking into a domestic violence call without backup, trying to break up a fight without recognizing the encircling crowd, or getting pulled into a foot pursuit without knowing what is around the corner. These are all situations that good patrol officers need to learn to recognize and respond to appropriately so they don’t get behind those lines. The same sentiment holds true for the law enforcement supervisors that are running emergency traffic and giving commands to their officers.

Second, to be captured also means that you gave up or for some reason stopped fighting. As officers, we all accept the reality that we may have to physically defend ourselves and survive long enough for backup to arrive. If we give up, quit, and stop fighting; then the consequences could be life threatening. Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Could there be any truer statement than that for the patrol officer that is in a fight for their life?

So, why do I end every patrol briefing by saying, “don’t get captured?” I do this because it serves as a subtle reminder to the men and women I’m leading to always be cautious of their surroundings and to never give up. Backup is coming . . . just keep fighting.

Thank you for reading our blog. 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 by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. Development of a positive culture must be intentional; otherwise, who knows what will develop in its place.

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!

A Law Enforcement Recognition Idea

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 that is by recognizing and rewarding great work on a routine basis. Here is one idea that came to me the other day.

I found myself watching a college football game last Saturday 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.

helmet

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 the 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 my own PD Recognition Stickers using the Thin Blue Line of Leadership logo and had them printed at evermine.com.

sticker

For a very small cost ($15+shipping), I received over 100 custom recognition stickers (1″ diameter) to give out in my briefings to reward the great things that my officers do on a more routine 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.

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, 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 every one has a chance to learn from that officers great moment.

UPDATE: I ended up creating a second sticker for my squad. The first one is the one displayed above with the sergeant striped and thin blue line background. This sticker is only given out when I, their sergeant, want to personally thank them or recognize them for some good work they did or a sacrifice they made for the squad.

r1lion

The second sticker is a squad logo I 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 wanted 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 the 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 this whole thing is that it 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. The key is that the behavior you want repeated has been recognized consistently.

clipboard

Do you have a similar way of rewarding officers in your department?

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!

Welcome to the Squad: New Officer Checklist

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 begins the moment an officer arrives on the squad.

The world of law enforcement is hectic enough without having to reinvent the wheel every time a new officer gets assigned to the squad. Taking the time to establish a list of items to cover upon arrival promotes consistency, shows positive leadership, and continues the creation of a positive squad culture.

Below are some items to consider when creating a New Officer Checklist. They are in no particular order and each department and/or assignment may have their own specific items that should be included.

  1. Verify the officer knows their current chain of command.
  2. Describe the personalities of their new squad mates, their strengths, and the overall group dynamic.
  3. Go over squad expectations. Describe what a “rock star” looks like and how you plan to provide feedback consistently.
  4. Share any specific district/beat goals, issues, and initiatives that are on-going.
  5. Provide information on who to talk to regarding district resources and equipment.
  6. Ask the new officer about their background, family, strengths, goals, training they are interested in, and areas they would like to improve in.
  7. Ask the new officer what their expectations are of you as their new supervisor.

This list is not one to cram into the new officer’s first shift. Getting through the first 4 basic items will set them up with what they need to know immediately. The last 3 items will set the new officer up for future success.

 Is there anything else you would include in your New Officer Checklist?

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!