Tag Archives: relationships

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!

Confusion of Sacrifice

Finding a balance between home and work can be a daunting and difficult task for any profession, but when it comes to being a police officer it takes very purposeful effort to make it work. There is no need to recite statistics on law enforcement officers and divorce rates, we all know where those stand. The fact is that to be as safe and effective as possible on patrol, things at home must be good. A distracted officer is a liability not only to himself, but also his fellow officers. As a law enforcement leader, it is imperative that the topic of striking a healthy balance between home life and patrol life be discussed.

To discuss this topic further, the root of the issue must be unearthed. As a law enforcement supervisor that has been married for nearly 20 years, I believe that the issue begins with a confusion of sacrifice. Every shift, we go out on patrol and put our lives on the line for people that we don’t even know. We run towards the sound of shots, we get in the middle of fights, and we work shifts that normal people have never considered. That is the sacrifice we chose to make when we took on this job.

The confusion of sacrifice sets in is when we get home and are too tired, too emotionally unavailable, or have too many excuses for the things that need to be done at home and in our marriages to keep them functioning like well-oiled machines. Where’s the guy that ran towards the sound of shots, got in the middle of the fight, or worked a fifth 12 hour shift in a row? Where is the hero that went out and saved the world one call at a time? It is easy to understand how a significant other can become confused by the amount we are willing to sacrifice for work, but then not reciprocate that same level of sacrifice at home.

So, here are three things this can be done to help alleviate this confusion of sacrifice…

  1. Sacrifice a little sleep.

After working the last day of the week, nothing sounds better than a good sleep, but this is one thing that can easily be altered to demonstrate a little sacrifice for the home front. While working these crazy law enforcement shifts, our significant others and children are home living life without our presence. On that first day off, commit to just getting the minimum amount of sleep needed to get onto their schedule. Maximizing the amount of home time is vital to showing purposeful sacrifice at home.

  1. Plan one-on-one time with your significant other.

The amount of time available on a weekend depends on each department’s particular schedule, but during that off time, plan something that can be done one-on-one with your significant other. This does not have to be anything elaborate or expensive; just something that is purposely planned to allow time to talk, discuss the upcoming week, or simply enjoy each other’s company. While an actual date is phenomenal, it can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, a game of cards, or uninterrupted time sitting on the front porch. If there are young children and getting a babysitter is a hurdle, get the kids into bed, make or pick up a late dinner, and have an in-home date. Whether big or small, the main point is to do something purposefully each weekend.

  1. Share why being a police officer is important.

One of the biggest misunderstandings about being a police officer is the lack of understanding as to why – Why would anyone want to be a cop? To alleviate confusion of sacrifice in a relationship, it is vital that communication with your significant other is open regarding why working as a police officer is important to you. Share what is enjoyable about the job, the funny things that occur during a shift, something cool that another officer did, or that you were involved in. The more a significant other understands the “why” behind the badge, the less confusion of sacrifice there will be.

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!