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Predictive Policing

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”   ~ Henry Ford


Within the P-R-I-D-E Adaptive Decision-Making Model, the first step to making sound decisions, especially in moments of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and anxiety), is to Predict. Continuously predicting potential outcomes, solutions, reactions, perceptions, importance, and viability of decisions is how a person starts down one decision-making path or another. Because of this, predicting is a vital cog in the machine that is the human brain and it’s processing of stimulus when trying to make decisions. Unfortunately, the overall importance of predictive policing, in these terms, is rarely recognized properly in law enforcement discussions, debriefs, or trainings.

Below are 5 points to consider regarding the power and significance of predicting in law enforcement decision-making along with specific law enforcement examples . . .

  1. As mentioned earlier, predicting starts the decision-maker down a path based upon the goal the decision-maker wishes to accomplish. How an officer believes their initial decision will work out in relation to the goal guides them through their next several decisions until something in the situation changes. Take the act of deciding what to eat for breakfast. That one decision begins an entire path of decisions and corresponding actions that all started with a simple prediction about what would taste good for breakfast.

LE EXAMPLE: When an officer gets in their patrol car and drives away from the station, there are predictions made by the officer to decide where to patrol when not assigned to a specific call. Does the officer choose the busiest area where they are most likely to locate criminal activity or do they choose the slowest area where they are least likely to locate criminal activity? The officer is predicting criminal activity and that prediction starts them down a path for the entire shift. Make enough of these types of predictions one way or the other and suddenly the officer has started down a path for their entire career. They have created a reputation. Are they a go-getter or a member of the R.O.D. (Retired on Duty) Squad? Law enforcement leaders must assist officers in seeing beyond just what is in front of them and learn to think 2, 3, or even 4 steps down the road of their careers.

  1. Accurate predicting of possible outcomes shortens reaction time. When entering into any situation, predicting narrows the list of possibilities that may be faced which decreases an officer’s reaction time to whatever comes next. When a quarterback walks up behind his offensive line and surveys the defense, he is narrowing down the type of defense he is about to face once the ball is hiked. He will put receivers into motion, locate the middle linebacker, and look for any sign that may give away a possible blitz. If the quarterback’s prediction is correct, then his reaction time will be reduced which increases the likelihood of completing the play successfully. Hence the reason the best quarterbacks in the NFL practically live in the film room when they are not on the field. More experience equals better predictions.

LE EXAMPLE: Predicting  possible outcomes that could occur when conducting a traffic stop reduces an officer’s reaction time to how the situation actually plays out once the emergency lights are activated. Based upon how humans respond to high levels of stress, there are three options that can manifest themselves to varying degrees – freeze, fight, or flight. Based on this, an officer should predict that the driver could pull over normally to submit to the stop, pull over to commence an attack, or flee in the vehicle. Once all of those options are considered, then the officer’s reaction time to respond to the driver’s actions will be quicker. Accurate predicting greatly increases officer safety in any situation because law enforcement is always reacting to the actions of others. If action is always faster than reaction, then law enforcement officers must do everything possible to reduce their reaction times. It starts with predicting. Law enforcement leaders can support this type of predictive thinking by playing the “what if” game with their officers and table-topping scenarios with varying circumstances to cover a broad spectrum of predictions.

  1. Predicting and weighing both sides of an issue is another form of predicting that occurs before nearly every decision. The greater the decision, the more time that should be spent predicting possible pro’s and con’s for comparison. The key is to recognize that pro’s and con’s are just predictions and not reality; at least not yet. They must be weighted based upon their reasonableness of occurring which leads to more predicting.

LE EXAMPLE: Predicting and weighing both sides of an issue can be exemplified in making the decision to go for a promotion or not. This is a huge decision that undoubtedly requires great consideration of all the possible good and bad that could come with it. A thorough comparison of possible outcomes, leads to making a better overall decision. Law enforcement leaders can help their officers with making predictions about major decisions like this by being accessible to their officers as a person, not just a boss. Be the kind of leader that is available as a mentor and willing to share thoughts on the topic at hand. When going into the unknown, everyone values the experience of someone who has been there and done that because it assists with making their predictions more accurate.

  1. Predicting what other people will think about a decision also greatly influences our decisions. Humans have a tribe mentality because, back in the day, tribes were a way to keep us safe from danger. Therefore, humans are greatly concerned with what others may think of their decisions. The underlying fear is that if other members of the group do not agree with my decision, then I may be shunned by the group which inherently makes me isolated and unsafe. As kids, everyone remembers being told that their decisions should not be based upon what others think, but let’s be realistic. Every decision ever made, at least to some degree, includes predicting what someone else will think about it – boss, fellow officers, friends, mother, wife, etc. As kids it was called peer pressure and it still exists as adults.

LE EXAMPLE: This type of predicting can best be exemplified through a squad culture example. If a new officer gets assigned to a squad where the entire squad always talks in briefing about misdemeanor crimes being a waste of time and that felony crimes are the only “real” crime, then that officer is going to be influenced into minimizing or ignoring misdemeanor crimes and only look for felonies. While felonies encompass the most serious crimes, there are important aspects to the job of a patrol officer that require investigating and arresting for misdemeanor crimes. But because this new officer does not want to be risk being shunned by those in his “tribe,” he may neglect misdemeanors even if he personally does not believe the same thing. This is the power of predicting and why law enforcement leaders must be extremely careful with the culture they create and/or condone within their squads. Everyone reading this should be able to recall any number of bad law enforcement cultures that have made it into the news at one time or another. Predicting social isolation by the “tribe” is what allowed those bad cultures to continue to exist as long as they did instead of someone stepping up to stop them.

  1. Predicting sets a tone. If after receiving the initial information regarding a situation an officer’s first thought is “this is going to suck,” then a negative tone has been set. The reverse is also true. If after receiving the initial information regarding a situation an officer’s first thought is “this is going to be awesome” or “I can handle this” then a positive tone has been set. This is such a powerful example of predicting because tone casts a shadow over everything that follows it. This is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy and it is all based on predictions.

LE EXAMPLE: When an officer goes to training there will be immediate predictions made. Either this training is going to suck or this training is going to be awesome. How do you think it ends up? The vast majority of the time it will end exactly as it was initially predicted no matter how good or bad the training really was. If the officer’s mind was changed from one way to the other, how much work did that take to overcome the prediction? A lot. This is the power of the Predict Phase and how it can set a tone. This is the primary reason law enforcement leaders must be aware of the tone they set in briefing because soon afterwards their officers will be hitting the road making situational predictions that originate from either the positive or negative tone set by the leader. Leaders must also help officers recognize that having control of their actions, attitude, and effort empowers them and alleviates negative victim thinking which gets replaced by a powerful sense of positive self-control. This line of thinking sets a positive tone for even the most challenging of circumstances.

To support and develop sound decision-making, law enforcement leaders must get into the habit of having conversations with their officers regarding decision-making that goes all the way back at the Predict Phase. This can be done by asking questions such as . . .

“What did you think this incident was on your way there?”

“How did you think they would respond to that action?”

“What was your intent before you did that?”

“How did you prioritize your response?”

By asking these types of questions, law enforcement leaders can ascertain who is predicting and who is not. What they will discover is that officers that get the most complaints, violate policies/procedures routinely, and negatively impact the team usually do little, if any, predicting. On the other hand, officers that are great beat cops, effective communicators, tactically sound, and positively impact the team in multiple ways do an excellent job of predicting.

If a law enforcement leader want good decision-makers, then they must teach, share, and discuss predictive policing. Every decision starts with Predict.

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!


3 Signs of a Miserable Law Enforcement Job

“High school kids at In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A are doing largely the same job that kids at any other fast-food restaurant are doing, and yet there are a lot fewer miserable jobs at In-N-Out and Chick-fil-A. The difference is not the job itself. It is the management. And one of the most important things that managers must do is help employees see why their work matters to someone. Even if this sounds touchy-feely to some, it is a fundamental part of human nature.”     – Patrick Lencioni


The premise of the book “3 Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni is simply this – staying in a miserable job can have severely negative consequences on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. These consequences can affect a person’s life both personally and professionally and it does not have to be that way. The good news is that, as supervisors, we have the ability to combat the 3 signs of a miserable job and it really is not that complicated.

Here are the 3 signs of a miserable job . . .


“People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. . . . People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.”


“Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.”


“Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.”

In relation to law enforcement, if an officer is miserable in their job due to the factors of anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability, then what is the cost to them personally, their squad, their department, and the community they are supposed to be serving? Personally, they carry their misery home which adversely affects their family life. They become the salty grump in the back of the briefing room that complains about everything and sucks the energy out of all around them. To the department they are a liability because of the negative impact on the culture and the unpredictability of their actions on the road. The community suffers because the miserable officer represents the worst of the police department which erodes public trust and makes the job that much more difficult for the officers that are not miserable. How many officers are you picturing in your head right now that match this description of a miserable officer?

Here are 25 ways law enforcement supervisors can combat anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability . . .


  1. Create a team atmosphere within the squad where it is believed that we is greater than I.
  2. When you get a new officer, meet with them individually and get them on board with the squad culture from day one.
  3. Recognize good police work in briefing. What you reward will be repeated.
  4. Have officers debrief good calls for service and share their expertise and successes with others.
  5. Get out of the office and on the road with your officers. Try to get on a call for service or backup each of your officers during each shift, if time allows.
  6. Rotating having officers conduct briefing training based upon their policing strengths and interests.
  7. Meet with officers regularly to discuss their career goals and seek out opportunities to help them fulfill those goals.
  8. Get to know your officers’ families. Create opportunities for them to all get together with the other families of the squad.
  9. Send handwritten thank you notes to your officers’ spouses or significant others to let them know that you appreciate the commitment that the families make to law enforcement, too.


  1. Making policing relevant is about getting back to the “why.” Know why you chose to become a police officer. Know why you chose to be a supervisor. Share your why with your officers. Get to know their why, find opportunities to relate their why to calls for service, and discuss the relationship in briefing.
  2. As a supervisor, you set the tone and create value in community service. If it is important to you, it will be important to them.
  3. Promote public commendations in briefing by reading them aloud for all your officers to hear.
  4. Teach your officers to be good beat cops and take pride in their assigned part of the city.
  5. Get away from the term customer service and focus on community service. The term customer service cheapen what we do as police officers and builds irrelevance.
  6. Have discussions in briefing regarding who your officers serve. Point out that they serve not only the community, but they also serve each other. Discuss that you, the supervisor, are there to serve them.
  7. Teach your squad to have a focus on finding solutions while on calls for serve; not on producing statistics, being a band aid, or handling them as quickly as possible.
  8. Exemplify and promote a culture of positivity on your squad through your actions, attitude, and effort.
  9. Provide good feedback and evaluations to your officers. In return, ask for them to do the same for you.


Of the 3 signs of a miserable job, immeasureability is the most difficult for law enforcement supervisors to deal with directly. There is no limit to the number of statistics that can be measured for each officer: calls for service responded to, self-initiated activities, arrests made, tickets written, response times, amount of time spent on each call, number of community policing activities, etc. The question becomes, are we measuring the right things?

  1. Clearly define what the “rock star” police officer would do on a “perfect” shift based upon the mission, vision, and operational goals of the department.
  2. Determine what statistics officers and/or the department have the ability to capture that correspond to the “perfect” shift. If part of the “perfect” shift includes community policing and/or positive interactions with the community, then a way to count those interactions must be determined, as well.
  3. Set specific goals based upon what the “perfect” shift would look like that clearly define what success looks like for officers and provide them with a way to track those numbers.
  4. Ultimately, whatever is chosen to be measured must be supported by the officers’ direct supervisors because the direct supervisors will give the statistics being measure their value.
  5. Supervisors must assist officers in seeing the positive perspective to their seemingly negative activities like making arrests or writing tickets.
  6. The question to be answered is how do you measure community policing activity effectiveness? Do you count the number of positive citizen commendations, the number of people that say “thank you” after being arrested/written a ticket, or the amount of time dedicated to solving beat problems? This is where the difficulty in the measurability of policing comes into play and must be answered by departments everywhere.

There are many more ways to combat anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability in policing. If these 3 signs of a miserable job are not addressed by law enforcement supervisors, then they will have to deal with the miserable officers they are allowing to be created.

“If you’re still not convinced that this makes sense or that it applied to you, this would be a good time to consider resigning your position as a manager and finding a role as an individual contributor.”  – Patrick Lencioni

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 Steps for Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 2

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 try to give a generic process that a law enforcement agency should duplicate, but I will try to make a few points that any agency should focus their process upon in their own way.

(1) How has the promotional candidate represented the definition of leadership as described in Step #2 in their current and past assignments?

(2) Has the promotional candidate contributed to the future of the agency as a Field Training Officer and how have their Officers-In-Training turned out?

(3) Is the promotional candidate an instructor of anything; do they share their knowledge and expertise with others to make those around them stronger?

(4) How has the promotional candidate responded to failure and/or correction in the past?

(5) How does the promotional candidate make others feel around them?

(6) Does the promotional candidate lean more towards being an optimist or a pessimist?

(7) Has the promotional candidate shown an ability to bring a team or squad together?

If an agency creates a process that focuses on these 7 questions, they will identify the future leaders that should be promoting and those who should not.

  1. Leadership-Based Sergeant Training Program

First-line supervisors have the most direct influence on their officers and sworn officers make up the largest percentage of any law enforcement agency. Even though sergeant is typically the lowest rank of official promotion, this influence gives them a great deal of power within the organization and in the development of the department’s culture. Therefore, it is imperative that law enforcement agencies have a well thought out leadership-based sergeant training program. The word sergeant comes from the Latin term “serviens” which means “one who serves” and it is important that a sergeant training program emphasizes this belief for the good of the department and the continuous teaching of leadership. Creating a Sergeant-In-Training (SIT) Program for officers that are seeking promotion which occurs prior to promotion and mimics a Field Training Officer Program, provides the agency with consistency in training among their leadership ranks. A good Sergeant-In-Training Program should be built upon the department’s definition of leadership. As the sergeant-in-training progresses through the phases of the SIT Program, the experienced training sergeant must ensure that the SIT adheres to the department’s definition of leadership in their decision-making, interactions with officers, running of critical incidents, and in all other duties of a sergeant. In these actions they will be evaluated and only upon successful completion of the Sergeant-In-Training Program will they officially promote.

  1. Experience on Rookie Schedules

The most easily influenced officers within an agency are the rookies. They come out of the academy full of piss and vinegar ready to save the world only to realize once they step foot on the streets that they really do not know nearly as much as they thought they did. Upon making this humbling realization, they become the most malleable officers with the entire department. Therefore, if there are schedules (ie. nights and weekends) within the agency where rookie officers conglomerate due to their lack of seniority, then there must be a mechanism in place to exemplify the application of the department’s definition of leadership as they learn to work within their new world as police officers. It is vital to have sergeants and hopefully a couple of experienced officers, possibly FTOs, they can work alongside that represent the highest standards of leadership within the agency. Having these models for rookies to watch and emulate at the early stages of their careers perpetuates both the desired culture and leadership style of the department. If change is sought within an agency, start by influencing the rookies. Over the long run, the rookies will work their way through the years of their careers and possible promotion to eventually complete the cycle of teaching leadership throughout the various schedules and ranks of the department.

  1. Mentorship at All Levels of Command

In order to support the department’s definition of leadership at all levels, there must be a trickle-down effect of mentorship. With a single, consistent message being passed through the ranks, the cycle of leadership will be further disseminated. Experienced officers should mentor newer officers. Sergeants should mentor their experienced officers. Lieutenants should mentor their sergeants and so on throughout the agency’s ranks. The key is that the agency’s definition of leadership must be the one consistent message throughout. (Example “Trickle-Down Leadership”)

  1. 360 Evaluations & Feedback

The final step for teaching leadership in law enforcement creates the guidelines for making sure all involved in the teaching of leadership remain true to the message. Having an evaluation system established that takes into account the perspectives of those above, at, and below each rank in the chain of command will provide the feedback necessary to motivate leaders to stay true to the department’s definition of leadership. True leaders should not fear what they may hear from those they work with and around in their evaluations, if they have been true leaders directed by the definition of leadership put forward by the department. They welcome the feedback and opportunity to learn and improve as leaders. If evaluations of a leader are negative, then that should serve as an arrow pointing out the direction in which additional leadership training and mentorship should take place. If negative feedback continues after additional training and mentorship have been given, then consideration should be made into whether or not the department wants that leader to remain in a leadership position because it will be at the expense of those they are supposed to be leading. These evaluations need to be active and on-going. Receiving feedback once a year is not nearly enough to provide an accurate guide for leadership. Once a quarter would provide a more regular supply of information, but the key is that the evaluation process must be quick and simple. A time consuming evaluation process done 4 times a year would do nothing but add more paperwork to an already administratively burdened profession. The key to having success with this type of process is that the definition of leadership is clear, trust in the process is developed, and an environment of education and learning is supported.

By implementing these 10 steps to teach leadership in law enforcement, the department gains a clear and concise message of leadership throughout the organization. Once all ranks within the department share the same message, the effort needed to sustain this culture of leadership will lessen. Inspired leaders will inspire officers which will improve policing and thus improve the community they serve.

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 Steps for Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 1

“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 it is that you are currently working for “some non-leading people.” I can empathize with how you are feeling and guarantee you are not alone in that feeling. In fact, most law enforcement agencies have their fair share of “non-leaders” who are in positions of higher rank. Policing is a noble profession with an amazing purpose and plenty of fun, exciting moments; but all of that can be overshadowed by working for a “non-leader.”

Law enforcement agencies hire people from many different facets of life. Some come from the military, some come from the business world, and others come straight out of college. Every one of these people enter the law enforcement profession with many different prior experiences and therefore different definitions of leadership and what it should look like. To teach leadership within a law enforcement agency, this fact must be addressed.

It is imperative that law enforcement agencies develop a strategy for teaching leadership and developing leaders within the organization from the moment an officer is hired and throughout the entirety of their career. Only then can an agency begin to achieve leadership excellence throughout every level of rank.

Here are the first 5 steps for teaching leadership in law enforcement:

  1. Hire Leadership Potential

Teaching leadership starts by hiring the right people. In order to develop leaders, an organization must identify people in the hiring process that are self-reflective, values based, and authentic. They must possess the capability to assess themselves and their actions honestly. An ability to identify both strengths and weaknesses is vital in the development of a leader. Their values must be clear because as a police officer they are going to be given great power and we all know that with great power comes great responsibility. Clear values also make decision making easier and good decision making is a key characteristic of good leaders. Authentic people know who they are. They are comfortable with themselves and can therefore withstand the pressures of the job; both inside the organization and out. If this were easy, every law enforcement agency would do it. In order to find these people in the hiring process, the true leaders within the agency must be involved in the process at all levels. This is key because those that are true leaders and have seen true leadership possess the unique ability to spot other leaders.

  1. Define Leadership

In order to define leadership, a law enforcement agency must start by defining its desired culture. Culture should answer questions like the following: Who do we want to be? and What are we all about? As mentioned in previous blogs, culture is made up of an agency’s prevailing actions and attitudes over time. Defining desired actions and attitudes creates the culture. (Example “Culture in Just 4 Words”) Only when a clear vision of the desired culture exists can specific leadership characteristics be defined. Defining leadership means thinking about the desired culture and asking the following question: What specific actions and attitudes do leaders within the organization need to be exemplifying in order to promote the desired culture? (Example “The 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments”) Do not confuse this with a generic department vision or mission statement. Defining leadership means to identify specific actions and attitudes that leaders and developing leaders should be applying to everything they do and every decision they make.

  1. Learn about Leadership

True leaders are lifelong learners. They recognize that there will never be a point in their career when they can just relax, stop learning, and become stagnant to knowledge. To create this atmosphere of lifelong learning, law enforcement organizations must encourage and provide leadership education. In the same way officers train regularly in defensive tactics, firearms, and legal updates, leadership training should be just as regular. Too often, leadership training is left up to individuals to seek out their own learning. If an agency takes the time to define their own style of leadership, then they should be supporting it with training that builds off of their leadership definition. Departments can encourage discussion groups at each level of rank where similar challenges and successes can be shared with each other. Develop a preferred leadership reading list that contains books that support the definition of leadership chosen by the department. Here are some books that have defined my definition of leadership: Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, You Win in the Locker Room by Jon Gordon, The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, First Fast Fearless by Brian Hiner, EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey, QBQ! by John G. Miller, Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet, Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I have personally read all of these books and this same list is given to anyone within my department that has a desire to learn more about leadership.

  1. Identify Informal Leaders

If a department adheres to Step #1: Hire Leadership Potential, then it is imperative that the current leaders within the organization keep a constant watch for officers that are demonstrating leadership potential from informal positions. Here are a few key behaviors that identify informal leaders: They teach others how to be better officers. They learn from their mistakes. They take the lead on calls for service. They absorb learning about the job. They do not fear hard work. They find ways to help others. They bring others together. They are not scared to give or take advice. They are active participants in briefings. They are always looking to be the best officer they can be. They stay positive and seek solutions when issues arise instead of mindlessly complaining. Once identified, find ways to recognize and reward their leadership behaviors. This will not only reinforce the leadership behaviors of the informal leader, but will also spark other officers to follow their example. (Example “A Law Enforcement Recognition Idea”)  It is also necessary to keep these informal leaders stimulated by involving them in discussions about leadership or introducing them to the department leadership reading list – See Step #3: Learn about Leadership. Finally, challenge these informal leaders to start planning and doing what is necessary to move into more formal leadership roles within the department such as testing for a specialty unit or becoming a field training officer (FTO).

  1. Leadership-Based Field Training Officers

Creating a leadership-based FTO program starts with going back to Step #2: Defining Leadership. Basing the testing and selection criteria off of this definition is key. The defined actions and attitudes that the department identifies as the qualities it wants its leaders to exhibit should be used to create test questions, oral board questions, and/or scenarios. The candidate pool should primarily be filled with the informal leaders identified in Step #4: Identify Informal Leaders. Once selected, FTO School should not only be based upon reinforcing the defined leadership characteristics, but also on instructing/evaluating in one-on-one situations, progressive trial/error based learning, positive engagement, and situational decision-making. Unfortunately, many FTO schools spend the majority of their time on administrative tasks, documentation, and strict policy adherence to mitigate liability. While these are important, leadership-based FTO programs should be built upon the belief that a trainee does not care how much the FTO knows until the trainee knows how much the FTO cares. This belief is most easily ingrained into new FTO’s if they have had it exemplified to them by their FTO’s and experienced the success that can be had from it.

These are the first 5 of 10 Steps for Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement. The next blog post will continue with Steps 6 through 10.

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. Inspired leaders, inspire cops, improve policing, create better communities. It’s just that simple! 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!

Culture in Just 4 Words

THE SETUP: A few months ago, another sergeant asked how my squad of mostly brand new police officers was having such great success on the road and in the community. I attributed it to the culture that we had created as a squad in the briefing room and then worked hard to exemplify each shift on the road. When he asked what my squad’s culture was, I quickly rattled just 4 words – Positivity, Activity, Teamwork, and Humility. As I said these 4 words aloud, the other sergeant looked at me like I was holding out on him and I replied, “No really . . . that is our culture in just 4 words and it works.”

THEN IT HITS ME: The realization that came to me as we continued this conversation was that a strong, sustainable culture should be just that easy to define, explain, understand, and apply. Culture has to be tangible and not just something that is said. It also has to be easily articulable and reproducible by all that are involved within it.

THE HOW: I pulled out a piece of paper and divided it into 4 boxes. At the top of each box I wrote one of the words that I had told the other sergeant about – Positivity, Activity, Teamwork, and Humility. Knowing that culture is defined by our actions and attitudes, I made sure that I could define each of the words in terms of both. Here is what I came up with . . .


  • Know your “why.”
  • Community service – treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  • Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.
  • Recognize each other for good police work.


  • Strive to be the most active squad in the city.
  • Calls for service are our priority, but initiative fills the gaps.
  • Take pride in your beat, know your beat, and work it as such.
  • Be a leader on calls – step up where others fear to.


  • We before I.
  • Many hands make light work – have a “how can I help” mentality.
  • We back each other up – stay safe.
  • No gossip, no complaining – find solutions.


  • Get involved – policing is experiential learning.
  • Don’t fear mistakes, learn from them.
  • Remain humble and continue learning.
  • Take training seriously; continue growing throughout your career.

The above 4 words and defining bullet points are what best describe the actions and attitudes of my squad and what we want to project to everyone we interact with in the department and the community. The next step was presenting it to the squad.

THE PRESENTATION: On the presentation day, I explained to my 7 officers the conversation I had with that other sergeant and how this all got started. As I spoke about each of the 4 words and their corresponding bullet points, I used specific examples of times when I had seen these actions and attitudes displayed previously by them. I wrote each of the words on the outside of a box that I had drawn on the whiteboard. When everything was said and done, I explained that if everything they said or did on this job could fall into the confines of this box then they would know that they were doing policing the right way. It is only when actions and/or attitudes don’t fit into that box that problems occur and build distrust between police departments and their communities.

REINFORCEMENT: Whenever a new squad member comes to the squad, I go over these same 4 words in the same way as described above. The only thing that changes are newer, better examples. This serves 2 purposes. First, it reinforces the importance of our culture to the officers that have heard it before and keeps it fresh in their memory. Secondly, by going over this on the new officer’s very first day of joining the squad it solidifies how important we take our culture and begins to quickly assimilate them into the fold. If there are no new officers coming to the squad, then I make sure it gets discussed at least once every couple of months.

Between squad expectation presentations, it is vital to positively reinforce the desired culture. Whenever my officers handle a tough call, solve a problem, or demonstrate a great attitude about a tough situation; I make sure to mention it in briefing the next day and thank them for their outstanding service and commitment to our squad expectations. I make sure to specifically attribute whatever they did to the word(s) it best corresponds to. Culture in 4 words has gone over even better than I expected. In fact, they now recognize each other in briefing when they see something on a call that I was not able to get to. This reinforcement creates a positive cycle that just continues building and building and building.

THE CHALLENGE: Obviously, if you are still reading this far into the blog I have peaked your interest. Answer the following questions to get you started . . .

  1. If your squad was running exactly the way you wanted it to, what 4 words would you chose to describe your squad’s culture?
  2. Once you know your 4 words, list 3 – 5 specific actions or attitudes for each word that exemplify specifically how you would like to see that word expressed by your officers.
  3. Present your 4 words to your squad.
  4. Take the time and make opportunities to positively reinforce the 4 words of your culture.

Squad expectations need to be about establishing culture; not rules. Police departments have plenty of rules, laws, and policies to follow; that’s what those big books of general orders and revised statutes are for. If you get the culture right; the rules will take care of themselves. So, I challenge you to discover your 4 words and get them out there to your squad.

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 and 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!

HELP WANTED: Police Officers

In August of 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton led the Endurance Expedition on a voyage to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. Prior to the expedition, Shackleton needed to raise a crew and posted the following help wanted advertisement:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”

Even after posting such an unflattering advertisement of the trip ahead, sailor’s responded. In the book, “Quit You Like Men” by Carl Hopkins Elmore, Shackleton said that the response to the advertisement was so overwhelming that “it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him.”

By January 1915, the Endurance had become trapped in the thick Antarctic ice and began to break apart forcing Shackleton and the crew to abandon it. They had to set out on foot dragging lifeboats and supplies across the ice for any chance of survival. Eventually they located a suitable place to establish a camp. Shackleton realized that in order to survive they were going to need to take matters into their own hands; so they developed a rescue plan to seek out help.

Prior to Shackleton leaving on the rescue mission, a crew leader told Shackleton, “Whatever happens, we all know that you have worked superhumanly to look after us.”  Shackleton replied, “My job is to get my men through all right. Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” To make a great, long story short, it was only through the crew’s dedication and Shackleton’s leadership that they were eventually rescued over a year after the ship had become trapped. This is a fabulous story of leadership, sacrifice, and survival, but what really caught my attention was still the unflattering help wanted advertisement that attracted such a positive response from prospective sailors.

With the current climate surrounding law enforcement, how would a help wanted advertisement have to read in order to be just as truthful and unflattering, yet attract exactly the type of people we want in policing? Maybe it would read something like this . . .

HELP WANTED: Men and women wanted for hazardous 20 – 25 year career. Long hours during all times of day and night enforcing laws created by politicians you don’t necessarily agree with. Low to moderate wages protecting and serving a community that you may not even live in. Solve problems and risk life regularly for people that you don’t know and possibly don’t even like you while constantly transitioning between the roles of counselor, guardian, enforcer, educator, warrior, caretaker, and community representative. All interactions with the community must be recorded on video. Actions, especially mistakes, will be highly critiqued, criticized, and possibly penalized. Honor and recognition in event of success.

Honor and recognition in event of success . . . is that all it takes? Yep, along with being part of something greater than yourself and believing that on each and every call you have the ability to make a difference in another person’s life. Those are the results that we, those that call ourselves police officers, are looking for when we chose this career. As Shackleton stated, “Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” That is why we make the “superhuman effort” for a job that has this kind of description.

So, how do we maintain this level of effort? We remember our “why” . . .

Why did I chose to be a police officer?

Why did I chose to be a leader of police officers?

If you read those questions and cannot articulate an answer, or worse don’t remember, then I challenge you to sit down, brainstorm some ideas, and seek the words that describe why you were inspired to choose a career with this type of help wanted advertisement.

As soon as the right words come together and you can clearly articulate them, put them somewhere very safe where they cannot be forgotten. Your “why” will get you through that 20 – 25 years career just as it got Shackleton and his men through their expedition without a single life lost. If you get the privilege to lead officers through their policing careers, share your “why” often to motivate and inspire greatness in them so that they too may receive “honor and recognition in event of success.”

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 and 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. 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!

7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 2

This blog is Part 2 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team. If you would like to read Part 1, click here.

  1. Build unity and loyalty.

Unity and loyalty . . . Aren’t those 2 of the greatest words to have around when it comes to being part of a team? When unity and loyalty are present, trust is flowing in all directions within the squad, precinct, district, or department – top down, bottom up, and laterally. But, there is a caveat to this and that is that there are just some people that won’t buy-in to the concepts that help build a good team. Regardless of the amount of effort expended on creating the right environment, they will just never get it. So, the leader has 2 options. They can decide that they are just not going to do anything to build a team and therefore they lose everyone. Or, they can work hard to build a team and get the buy-in of the vast majority of the people to create something really special within their department. There is no great secret to building unity and loyalty. It is one of the oldest concepts around. Treat people the way you want to be treated. That’s it. If you want to build unity and loyalty, then no matter how difficult the situation is, just ask, “How would I want someone to treat me under these circumstances?” The consistent practice of that concept will take a person a long way in their growth as a leader that creates positive cultures based upon unity and loyalty.

  1. Exemplify and expect personal accountability.

Personal accountability is a tough one for many because it means stepping up and taking responsibility when the world is falling apart around them and/or their team. Personal accountability is easy when everything is going great, but not so much when things are turbulent. Leaders must be cautious about forcing personal accountability upon their teams because if it gets crammed down their throats, they will immediately reject it. To bring personal accountability to the team, the leader must first exemplify it to their officers to show how it is done and how it leads to positive growth both personally and for the team as a whole. They need to see it first because the greatest fear in applying personal accountability is that they are going to get themselves into some kind of trouble when they do it. The best thing about applying personal accountability is that it puts the leader in control of the situation. The leader is saying through their actions and attitude that “the buck stops here.” Once that control is accepted, the leader must begin asking questions that lead to solutions and not allow themselves to fall into a victim mentality. Here are some examples of personal accountability questions – What can I do? How can I learn from this mistake? What can I do to make a difference today? How can I be better? Because each of these questions is based on the concept of “I,” it puts the leader in control of developing a solution to whatever the problem is. After the team sees personal accountability applied by the leader day in and day out, they will also begin applying it to their tough situations. Having a culture based upon personal accountability is one of the biggest differences between having a culture of mediocrity and a culture of excellence.

  1. Show recognition.

All of the above listed concepts are great, but they do not mean a thing if they are not engrained into the culture of the team. A leader has the amazing opportunity to pick and choose what gets engrained into a team’s culture by being selective of the actions and attitudes they recognize, reward, and promote. But, it all starts with the leader first having a vision of where they want the team to go and how they want them to get there. They must define the path and the goals to be achieved if the path is followed. Then, the leader must focus on finding behaviors that officers are doing that support that vision. When actions and attitudes are present that support the leader’s vision, it is imperative of the leader to recognize them and find ways to reward them for the behavior. One of the simplest rewards a leader has at their disposal is verbal praise. When giving verbal praise, do not just say, “Good job;” be specific about what the behavior was that made it good. If the leader says, “Good job, I really like the way you took the time to calm that victim down before doing the interview,” then not only has the leader praised the officer, but they have defined what exactly the behavior was they liked. After recognizing and rewarding something like that, what do you think that officer is going to do they next time they interview a really traumatized victim? That’s right, they are going to take the extra couple of minutes to talk to the victim on a human-level before getting down to the facts of the situation. After recognizing and rewarding the behavior, it must be promoted. One way to promote positive behaviors is to bring them up in briefing with the rest of the team around. This creates a second opportunity for the leader to recognize/reward the officer and then promotes it to the other member of the team. Obviously, the bigger and better the behavior, the more substantial the recognition, reward, and promotion should be. For example, if due to the heroic actions of an officer a person’s life is saved, then hopefully the department has some kind of official life saving award that can be given to the officer and thus the promotion of the behaviors goes to the highest ranks of the department. The key is to remember that what gets rewarded gets repeated.

  1. Make people feel safe.

To build a team, a leader must make the people on the team feel safe. Safe is not referring to the inherent dangers of the job. Safe, in these terms, means from the internal turmoil that can be present within an organization or the team itself. When there is turmoil within a group, like backstabbing, complaining, or general apathy, then no member of the team will ever feel safe within the group because they are always worried about what is going on when they aren’t around. It isn’t until they feel safe within their team that they can go out into the community and do their best work because they know that the team has their back. Creating that sense of safety is the job of the leader. When there is safety within the team, the natural reaction is the development of trust and cooperation. Trust and cooperation will lead people to do amazing things; things that are above and beyond the call of duty. When an officer stays late to help another officer impound a bunch of evidence, that shows that they have a level of trust and cooperation built. That trust and cooperation comes back in spaded when that other officer is wounded on a call and the team comes together to rescue him or her in the face of danger. In order for this level of trust and cooperation to exist, everyone must believe at their core that the other members of the team would be willing to do the same thing for them. Ultimately, people just want to feel like they belong. If there is a strong sense of belonging among the members of the team, then trust and cooperation will flourish among the group.

Instead of looking at culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value as 6 different items that a leader must work at getting across to their group, look at it as the single task of building a team. Think back to the best teams you were ever a part of and ask what it was that made those teams so special. What you’ll find is that the team had culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value in what they were doing. By building a team, the leader is creating a lens which each individual officer can look through as they go about doing their job each shift and see things in a similar manner instead of through just their own individual perspectives. Only then will officers be willing to drop their own personal agendas and give their blood, sweat, and tears for the good of the organization and the community.

If you would like to read further about these concepts, here are some good reading suggestions:

“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

“Entreleadership” by Dave Ramsey

“QBQ! The Question Behind the Question” by John Miller

“The Energy Bus” or any other book by Jon Gordon

“Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek

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 and 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. 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!

7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 1

As leaders, there are terms you hear bantered about on a regular basis that are great conceptual ideas, but often lack real-world practice – culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, value. Typically, it is not the lack of desire to implement these concepts, but a lack of concrete know-how. So, Thin Blue Line of Leadership is going to give away the answer for effectively implementing the concepts of culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value with the least amount of time and effort necessary. Ready, here it comes . . . BUILD A TEAM!

Right about now, some people reading this might be thinking, “Wait, aren’t terms like culture, vision, and mission supposed to build the team for me?” The answer to that question is a simple “no.”

The concepts mentioned above are great for formulating the background of a team and defining the reason that a team needs to exist. But, in order to effectively implement culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value with a group of people, each individual must feel they are an integral part of something bigger than themselves. A part of something where each member feels like they truly belong and are among others that believe similarly to the way they do. Only then will they be willing to give their blood, sweat, and tears to make culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value work effectively for their squad, precinct, department, or organization.


Here are 7 core values for building a law enforcement team . . .

  1. Know the why.

There are 3 pieces to every team: the what, the how, and the why. What and how are typically the easy parts to understand; they define what the team does and how they do it. For example, we are police officers that enforce the law and here is the ginormous book of General Orders that says how to be a police officer. The why is where it becomes a little more complicated. The why is referring to the reason a person ever wanted to be a police officer in the first place; that core belief inside that drives them to run towards danger for people they have never met. To build a team, the leader must know their why and maintain it as a strength throughout their career in both good and bad times. Then, a leader must learn their officers’ why’s and cultivate them in much the same way the leader does with their own why. Finally, the leader must be willing to talk about it. Talk about their why and their officers’ why’s on a regular basis to keep the why fresh in the front of their minds through each and every shift. This provides purpose, value, and clarity to the members of that team.

  1. Be a leader.

Being a good leader is not a theory. Being a good leader is taking concrete, positive actions for the good of the team and repeating them over and over and over. The key piece to the last sentence is that it must be for the good of the team. The leader must put the needs of the team above their own with the realization that ultimately the success of the team equates to their own success. A good leader must be authentic. They cannot walk around the department pretending to be something they are not because over time everyone will see through the charade. A good leaders knows their own character, strengths, weaknesses, and values to the extent that they can clearly articulate them to anyone who will listen. Lastly, a good leader recognizes that they must give long before they can expect to get from their team. Until a team knows that a leader cares for them and has their best interests at heart, they will still be just a group of individuals. To build a great team, there must be a great leader.

  1. Actively create culture.

Culture . . . one of those magical words that gets thrown about leadership circles, but only a few can define. So, here is the definition of culture – it is the prevailing actions and attitudes of a team demonstrated over time. Actions and attitudes, it really is that simple. To begin actively creating a culture, a leader must first know what they want their culture to be. What are the actions the leader would like to see their team value the most? Once the actions are defined, then a leader must nuture the attitude with which they want their team to carry out those actions. Recently in law enforcement, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the attitudes or mentalities with which officers do their job. Are we warriors or are we guardians? The leader of the team must make that distinction, exemplify it on every shift, and expect the same from their officers. The key is that the leader must be intentional about it. If the leader does not step up and steer the culture in a particular direction, then a culture will still form, but it may not be the desired one. The final question that must be answered is when do law enforcement leaders have the opportunity to actively create culture when officers work the majority of their time as one or two officer units? The answer to that is simple – to actively create culture, it must start in the briefing room or meeting room for leaders that are higher up in the department. By defining the actions and attitudes of the team over time in a briefing setting, where everyone hears the same words at the same time, the leader is able to efficiently share their cultural vision with the team. As law enforcement professionals, we have to win in the briefing room before we can truly expect to win in the community.

This is just Part 1 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team. If you would like to continue to Part 2, click here.

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 and 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. 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!

5 Steps to Develop Squad Culture

Whether you are a brand new law enforcement leader or one that has been around awhile, you must recognize the importance of developing a squad culture. If a squad culture is not developed intentionally, then the leader will be putting him or herself at the mercy of whatever fills that culture vacuum. So, the question becomes, how do you intentionally develop a squad culture?

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of developing a squad culture, there are two things that must be understood. The first thing to understand before developing a squad culture is the definition of culture. The culture of a group can be defined as the conglomeration of a group’s actions and attitudes over time. The second thing to understand in developing a squad culture is that it doesn’t happen in a day, it has to happen every day. It must be taught, explained, reinforced, and made a priority in everything your squad does for it to take hold.

Here are 5 steps for developing a positive squad culture . . .

  1. Know what is already out there.

Before you can begin to establish your own culture, you have to have an idea of what is already out there within your organization. Study what is and what is not working. Then, seek out the leaders that are having success in developing their squad’s culture and talk to them about it. Save yourself some time and learn from their experience. Also, consider your own past experiences with law enforcement leaders. What did your previous sergeants do that made you feel like your work mattered and you were part of a team? Start isolating traits they had or things they did that helped to support the squad culture either positively or negatively. Sometimes your best learning experiences can come from the worst leaders by defining what you do not want to be or do.

  1. Identify what is important to you.

Now that you have seen what is out there and thought about past experiences, it is vital to identify what is important to you. What are the top 3 – 5 traits that you would want your squad to be known for – teamwork, officer safety, problem solving, being active, trust, positivity, treating people right, innovative, hardworking, caring about the community, responsive, rewarding, etc. Those are just a few of many words that could be used to describe a positive squad culture. The key is to settle on the ones that you want to make the focus of your squad.

  1. Visualize yourself in that environment.

After deciding on the 3 – 5 traits that you want your squad to be known for, you must now begin to visualize yourself being in that environment – see it, feel it, hear it. Start making your own personal actions match those traits you selected. If you chose teamwork, then it is imperative that you exemplify teamwork. Remember the definition of culture, it isn’t this ambiguous thing floating in the sky; it is the consistent actions and attitudes of your squad. Just as officers are told to play the “what if” game while thinking about calls they are responding to, the leader must play the “what if” game with the tough situations they may face as a leader and then look at them through the lens of the culture you desire to create. Ask yourself, how would having a strong, positive squad culture help deal with this? Walk through situations like an officer having a personal issue at home, handling an officer discipline situation, one of your officers involved in an officer-involved shooting, or dealing with a year without pay raises. Do the traits you chose to exemplify your squad’s culture support handling those types of scenarios? If not, refine them until they do.

  1. Put your culture into words.

Finally, it is time to take the traits you chose and put them into words that your officers can understand and relate to. Help them to understand why it is valuable to have a well-defined culture. As you create the wording to define your culture, keep the following questions in mind: Are they worded in a positive way? Avoid words like never, no, and don’t. Are they simple to understand? The less complicated the better; not because your officers aren’t smart, but because you want your culture to be easily adaptable to a multitude of situations. The more complicated you make them, the more restrictive they will become. Do they bring value to your officers? If they don’t, then what is the point in the first place? Do they have the potential to motivate and inspire? Ultimately, people decide if they want to be motivated or inspired, but that doesn’t mean your culture can’t be the fuel for motivation and inspiration. Does your culture provide opportunities for feedback? Feedback goes both directions; feedback for you and feedback for your officers. A solid culture is rich in trust which makes feedback able to be given and received without concern about negative ulterior motives.

  1. Develop a mechanism for reinforcing your culture.

As stated earlier, culture is not made in a day, it is made every day. You must teach your squad to look at every situation though the lens of the culture by talking them through incidents, scenarios, and calls for service with their relationship to the squad culture explained. Develop mechanisms to quickly reward officers when their actions and efforts support and build up the desired culture. (Also see blog: Law Enforcement Recognition: Idea #1) Vice versa, be willing to have the tough conversations when officers do things that do not support the culture. But, first and foremost, to support your desired culture, YOU must exemplify it in everything you do. Without that consistency from you, the leader, the squad will not take the culture seriously and you will run the risk of being labeled a hypocrite.

After going through the 5 steps listed above, you should have a good handle on the concepts you would want to base your own squad’s culture on. If you would like to see the results of me going through this same process, read the blog entitled Culture in Just 4 Words. I purposely chose to make my squad expectations the cornerstone for establishing my squad’s culture. Squad expectations should be about the culture; not policies and procedures. Cops know the policies and procedures through their General Orders. A strong, positive culture will support doing the job the right way without making officers feel like the rules are more important than they are as people.

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 and 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. 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!

Creating “Wow” Moments in Policing

Why does the general public like the fire department better than the police department? The simple answer is this, the fire department is better at creating positive “wow” moments – saving lives, putting out fires, and of course getting kittens out of trees. Sure, as law enforcement we have our positive moments too, but we also have the disadvantage of having to hold people accountable for their unlawful actions by making traffic stops, writing tickets, placing people under arrest, and occasionally using force.


It would seem that law enforcement is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Therefore, it becomes imperative of law enforcement leaders to support, recognize, reward, and promote their officers when they have the opportunity to take initiative and create positive “wow” moments for those they serve.

I would like to share a story that occurred a couple of weeks ago which represents the concept of creating a “wow” moment in policing. Anyone who has ever worked overnights can sympathize with the call that comes out with only 30 minutes remaining in the shift. The call that you know is going to unexpectedly cause you to stay late.

This particular call happened to be a 90 year old male who was having difficulty breathing. The two assigned officers arrived at the nursing home to find the fire department doing their best to save the elderly gentleman’s life, but ultimately learned that this medical call had become a death investigation. As the primary officers, they both knew they were now going to be on this call for at least a couple of hours past their regular time off.

The officers began doing their due diligence with the investigation – speaking to the reporting party, taking notes, locating a doctor to sign the death certificate, and so on. After just over two hours, they had everything completed with the investigation and were ready to go home to get some much deserved sleep before coming back that evening to do it all again.

As the two officers were getting to the nursing home’s front doors, they heard one of the nurses mention that the deceased’s wife was on her way there. The nurse mentioned that the couple had been married for 67 years and she still lived on her own just down the road. The officers spoke briefly and then asked one of the nurses if they could go back up to the room before the wife got there.

In order for the fire department to do their job, the elderly gentlemen had been placed on the floor, his clothes removed, LEDs placed all over his body, and an oxygen mask put over his face. That is how he was left by fire and after completing their investigation that is how he was left by the officers . . . until they heard about his wife.

The two officers returned to the room and carefully moved the elderly gentleman’s body up into his bed. They removed the LEDs, rebuttoned his shirt, took off the oxygen mask, pulled up the covers, and made him look as if he was comfortably sleeping. They passed by the wife without saying a word about what they had just done and for all she knew this was exactly how he had passed.

That is how you create a “wow” moment in policing. While the wife will probably never know what they did, every employee at the nursing home that saw the actions of those officers experienced a “wow” moment. Service to the community that goes above and beyond what you could ever ask for or expect; service that makes the average bystander step back and say, “wow.”

How many times do you think the nursing home employees shared that story? What do you think the positive trickle-down effect is from this one event? We’ll never be able to quantitatively measure it, but just knowing the power that negative police interactions can have gives you some idea. The key is that we, as law enforcement, need to continue getting better at creating these “wow” moments.

Here are 5 ways that law enforcement leaders can help officers become better at creating positive “wow” moments:

  • Point out opportunities that present themselves. The first step is just recognizing opportunities that are there. Being a supervisor that is out on the road with your officers puts you in the position to see the potential and help lead your officers down the path of creating a “wow” moment, if they don’t see it themselves. Think positively outside the box.
  • Support your officers when they find an opportunity. Inevitably, opportunities to create “wow” moments are going to come when you are slammed with calls for service or are running under staffed. Being a leader means that you are willing to take on extra work when needed to support officers that find an opportunity to create a “wow” moment. You may have to help cover calls or do other work to make up for their temporary absence from the road, but in the end it will be well worth it.
  • Recognize “wow” moments when they occur. To reinforce the effort made by officers to create positive “wow” moments, you must keep a watchful eye out for when they occur and note them for future reward.
  • Reward officers for their effort to create “wow” moments. Once you recognize that an officer has gone above and beyond to create a “wow” moment, it is imperative that you reward it in some way as soon as possible through whatever means of recognition your department has. If there is no formal way through the department or it doesn’t rise to that level, create an informal way to recognize the effort within your squad.
  • Promote both the officer and the “wow” moment. Publicizing the exceptional work done by one of your officers is not only good for the officer and his/her career, but also for the department. The more often “wow” moments are recognized, rewarded, and promoted both internally and externally, the more likely they will be to be repeated. Once this is done effectively enough times, the momentum will help to keep the “wow” moments coming without nearly the effort it took to get them started. In addition, as other officers hear about the varying ways “wow” moments have been created and were rewarded, the more innovative they will be in finding their own opportunities to create “wow” moments.

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 and 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. 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!