Tag Archives: sergeant

5 Basic Leadership Lessons

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. The minute an officer decides to promote to a supervisor position within a law enforcement organization, they have chosen to take on the great responsibility of being a leader, coach, caretaker, psychologist, teacher, and many more.

Here are 5 basic leadership lessons for new law enforcement supervisors.

  1. Know the mission! As a leader in a law enforcement organization, it is your responsibility to know your department’s mission statement and goals. When guiding officers through calls, handling complaints, or evaluating a situation; the department’s mission is the guide. It should be more than just a few sentences in a general orders book of a framed picture on the wall; make it real by speaking of it regularly in briefing. Give examples of what it looks like on the road.
  2. Set clear expectations! This lesson is not referring to setting quotas or other quantitative measures. It is about clearly defining a path to success for your officers’ careers. It means defining how to treat people, use force appropriately, conduct thorough investigations, think critically under stress, and remembering that this is a career of service. The culture, your squad’s actions and attitudes, will be a reflection of the expectations you establish. (More on expectations.)
  3. Set goals! As a leader, you should obviously have your own goals, but this is specifically referring to assisting your officers in developing their own short and long term goals. Your own personal success will be derived from helping your officers reach their goals. Goals should be forward thinking and in agreement with department/district goals. In the short term, have your officers establishing goals they would like to accomplish in the next year that correspond to beat issues, crime trends, or other defined problems within their areas of responsibility. They should also consider trainings they would like to attend or other personnel development toward future assignments they would like to obtain. For the long term, discuss where they see their career in 5 years or 10 years; what specialty assignments they are interesting in, are they interesting in promoting, etc. Then you must assist them by providing training opportunities, helping them develop their strengths, and make connections with people that work in the officer’s area of interest. Use their goals as a springboard for having consistent, on-going evaluation conversations.
  4. Set the example! As a supervisor, it is vital that you are out with your officers on the road as much as possible. Not only does this show your willingness to be involved and “get your hands dirty,” but it also gives them the perfect opportunity to observe you in action setting the example of how they should be – representing your own expectations. Your officers will be watching closely to see how you treat people and make decisions; especially in the tough situation where they may not be sure how to act or react. When you come across a situation where your officers are unsure of a solution to their call, it provides you the perfect opportunity to teach them your decision-making process. Ask a standard set of questions to walk them through problems: What do you know? What do you think? Have you considered this? Then let them make the ultimate decision . . . example set!
  5. Recognize, reward, promote! As a supervisor, it is easy to see all of the things going wrong because typically you have just finished studying every nook and cranny of department policy to pass your supervisor test. The challenge is in stepping back and recognizing the good. Purposely train yourself to identify not only things that need fixing or reeducating, but those things that are being done above and beyond what you would expect normally from an officer. Once you begin recognizing the good, it is imperative that you find ways to reward those behaviors. (An idea on rewarding officers.) It does not have to be anything fancy or of monetary value, but simply telling an officer that they did a good job and specifically defining what they did good can go a long way. After recognizing and rewarding, it is just as important that you promote them. In terms of promote, that means to mention them to upper staff, bring it up in briefing, etc. Bringing these positive behaviors to light, will not only help the officer’s career, but will give other officers something to strive for.

Columnist Ann Landers once wrote, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” These 5 leadership lessons are nothing fancy or complicated. Years of research and development have not been done to come up with them. But, to successfully implement these leadership lessons in your daily routine as a supervisor it will take effort, time, dedication, and desire. As a supervisor, it is your job to recognize the opportunity.

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!


Advanced Officer Training Day

“If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”    ~ Thomas Jefferson

Recently, I participated in a testing process to become the supervisor of our police department’s Advanced Training Unit. This unit’s mission is to provide training on every major topic within law enforcement to 400 sworn annually – firearms, tactics, driving, reality-based training scenarios, legal updates, defensive tactics, etc.

As I was preparing for the testing process, I spoke to the 3 officers and 2 civilians that are assigned to the unit to assess what the biggest challenges are. In speaking with each of them individually, the one common theme was the perspective that department training had become something officers “have to do” and not something they “get to do.” I recognized this to be a culture issue throughout the department because, I too, had experience some of these same feelings as an officer and a patrol supervisor. Trainings felt like they were just the same old thing, but a different year.

When I was given the job of Advanced Training Unit Sergeant, I knew that the first significant move needed to be finding a way to help alter the department’s culture regarding training. It does not do any good to have awesome training activities/classes if only 30% of the department shows up and officers are looking to just do the minimum in order to stay certified.

I first met with the unit’s primary instructors as a team. We discussed what we believed may be the various causes of this culture that is so stagnant to learning. Then in response to those, we looked at what we could control in order to start addressing some of those issues. First, we discussed altering the times training was available. Instead of doing things on “banker’s hours,” we needed to be flexible and offer learning opportunities at various hours, including nights and weekends. It also meant leaving the training building and taking learning out to the 4 districts throughout the city. Then we talked about how we could apply our 4 Squad Culture Tenants of Positivity, Activity, Teamability, and Humility as instructors. This was going to be our new P.A.T.H. If we wanted the officers to demonstrate this kind of culture as learners, it was necessary for us to recognize that it starts with us demonstrating Positivity, Activity, Teamability, and Humility first. Lastly, we came up with the idea of creating the Advanced Officer Training Day because it was not going to be enough to talk about it; we needed to show everyone what was happening in the training unit.

The Advanced Officer Training Day was designed to be an internal conference-style training event to make learning policing fun again and share our new training philosophy. It order to avoid issues with staffing and overtime, 2 months prior to the training, every sergeant of each squad/unit was asked to nominate one person to attend the training. We asked for them to send who they considered to be the most hard working, informal leader of their squad/unit. This created a recognition opportunity for the sergeants and guaranteed that our audience would be comprised of the biggest line-level influencers in the department. The total number of officers was capped at 42 so we could make each class a small, intimate learning environment where they were encouraged to work as a team.

The next question became what did we want to teach? We reached out to our various connections throughout the department and came up with these 6 learning opportunities:

  1. Officer Down and Contact/Crisis Team Decision Making – This was an interactive class that took place in and around the department’s shoot house. The officers would be put into multiple scenarios with ever changing details that would force them to make quick decisions and implement plans regarding saving a downed officer or making entry into a structure. Once inside of the structure, they were then pushed to making more decisions regarding pushing, holding, or tactically retreating based up the circumstances.
  1. Effective Courtroom Testimony – This class was developed by an officer with a vast amount of courtroom testimony experience and two attorneys from the city prosecutor’s office. There was a quick presentation regarding testifying in court and then the students were each given a mock departmental report. They were to review the report as if it were their own and then would be put on the stand in the mock courtroom that had been set up in the back of the classroom. One of the attorneys played the part of a prosecutor and the other played the role of a defense attorney. Debriefs, questions, and comments were made after each officer had their turn on the stand.
  1. Drug Impairment Beyond DUI – This class was prepared by the department’s most experienced Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Officers reviewed the signs/symptoms of the 7 major drug categories that cause impairment and then discussed what other uses there are for this type of information beyond DUI enforcement. They discussed use of force reporting, interviewing techniques, identifying search/seizure opportunities, articulating the development of PC for searches, and multiple officer safety considerations. This classes was specifically designed to take very specific information usually taught in reference to DUI enforcement and generalize its application to all of policing.
  1. Advanced Pistol Range – The Firearms Staff was given the opportunity to present some fun, challenging firearms drills to push the students to the limits of their shooting abilities. These drills while fun and challenging still forced the shooters to focus on the basic fundamentals of marksmanship while also utilizing movement, cover, distance, etc to successfully complete the drills.
  1. Traffic Stop Quick Reaction Drills – On the driving track, officers were placed into a fully marked patrol car, asked to drive ¼ lap around the track, and then pull up behind the mock offender vehicle. They then were expected to react to whatever occurred from there. Scenarios ranged from a regular traffic stop where nothing of consequence occurred all the way up to one where the suspect jumps out of the car and rushes the patrol car. This was done in a fast paced, small group format and each scenarios was debriefed with the group using a Socratic questioning method to bring out the information the instructor was looking to emphasize. If mistakes occurred or there was a better suggestion for handling the situation, officers were given the chance to redo it and learn from the first attempt.
  1. P-R-I-D-E Adaptive Decision-Making – This class introduced officers to the P-R-I-D-E Adaptive Decision-Making Model and the utilization of “Policing Priorities” to guide their decision-making. This model discusses situational awareness and making both fast and slow decisions. Being introduced to this model provided the officers with a common language to discuss the various decisions they were making in the other classes throughout the day. This model was developed by Thin Blue Line of Leadership and you can read more about it here.

This is what the schedule of the day looked like . . .

0800 – 0830         Welcome/Sign Up for Breakout Sessions

0840 – 1030         Breakout Session #1

1040 – 1230         Breakout Session #2

1230 – 1330         Lunch

1330 – 1520         Breakout Session #3

1530 – 1720         Breakout Session #4

1730 – 1800         Conclusion/Feedback Critiques

As you may be noticing, there are only 4 Breakout Session times, but 6 classes offered. This was a key factor in getting buy-in from the officers by giving them the opportunity to develop their own day of training. They got to pick the 4 classes they were most interested in attending.

Three of the classes were more firearms/tactical outdoor oriented and the other three classes were more traditional classroom-based learning opportunities. So, if an officer leaned heavily one way or the other, they were forced to try at least one other style of activity and push them outside of their “comfort zone.” Sign-up sheets were utilized to organize distribution of the officers among the classes and were capped at 7 officers per class.

In order to help spread the lessons learned, the officers that attended were given network access to all of the lesson plans, PowerPoints, and reference materials so they could create small blocks of briefing trainings for their squads/units to help spread the information further. The training made use of these influencers to not only spread the word about the changes going on within the training unit, but also the actual lessons taught in the classes. If officers do not feel comfortable teaching the information, then they had at least developed a connection to an instructor that could.

The Advanced Officer Training Day was run for the first time on Wednesday, April 19. It was an extremely successful event and was very well received by the officers in attendance. Anytime an officer leaves a comment that says lunch was too long and we could have saved time there to make the classes longer, then you know you have done something right. As expected, getting to pick the classes they wanted to attend was recognized as an integral piece to the success of the day. Other comments also recognized the instructors for representing the P.A.T.H. Instructor Philosophy which assisted in making the entire environment a more positive one geared towards learning. The department plans to run the Advanced Officer Training Day twice a year, so this will become an expected event and something others will be clamoring to attend all because they “get to,” not because they “have to.”

Well, this is not the typical leadership blog that comes from Thin Blue Line of Leadership, but packed within this blog are multiple leadership lessons and it also shares a tangible idea for other departments to consider as a unique training option. If you have questions about the Advanced Officer Training Day, feel free to comment at the bottom of this post or DM us on Twitter.

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!

TBLL – Leadership Reading List

Culture can be nurtured within a law enforcement organization in a number of different ways. I have been fortunate to have multiple opportunities to positively affect my department’s culture by being involved in the Field Training Officer (FTO) Program, as a trainer of Field Training Officers, as a Sergeant, as a Sergeant Field Trainer, and by assisting in the develop of our department’s leadership-based sergeant selection process. All of these opportunities have enabled me to develop a level influence within the culture of the department that I take very seriously. So, when I was asked by a sergeant test candidate what has influenced my personal leadership style and what resources I have used to develop the material that comes out on Thin Blue Line of Leadership, I decided to provide my recommended leadership reading list.

These books have been vital in the development of Thin Blue Line of Leadership content, my own leadership style, my community interactions, how I operate within my department, and also how I operate with my squad of officers. I can vouch for the value in all of them as there are multiple concepts that I have implemented from each of the books listed below. If you are not a big reader or just do not have the time, all of these books can be purchased and listened to by using the Audible app on both Apple and Android devices. About half of these books I listened to while driving in to work and the rest were read the old fashioned way.

These books were all written from the perspective of the business world; not policing. Therefore, as I read each of them, I continually asked myself “How does this apply to policing?” and “How do I incorporate these ideas into my squad/department?” Then I molded the ideas I liked into my leadership style, community interactions, department interactions, and/or squad expectations. For two of these books I have written a law enforcement synopsis and those are linked in the book titles. I have also linked each book’s picture to Amazon in case you are inspired to buy any of the books mentioned.

In case you are wondering, I do not work for Amazon or any of these publishing companies. I simply want to share some good leadership knowledge with you. Enjoy . . .

Start with Why     Leaders Eat Last     Entreleadership

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey 

First fast fearless      Energy bus     Training Camp

First, Fast, Fearless by Brian Hiner (Ret. Navy Seal Lieutenant Commander)

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon

Training Camp by Jon Gordon

Hard Hat     Soup     You Win

The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon

Soup by Jon Gordon

You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon

Turn Around     Failing-Forward     Miserable

Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet

Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni

Five Dysfunctions     The ideal Team player     Good to GReat

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Currently I am reading “Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War” by Dan Vandergriff and believe that it will soon be at the top of this list. I truly hope you get as much out of each of these books as I did. Please let me know if you have any reading suggestions for me and I’ll check them out.

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!

A Simple Gesture

I am a police officer that just happens to have the rank of sergeant. I have 8 police officers that work with me to keep the community we serve safe on one of the toughest work schedules and largest districts in the department.

One week a few months ago, due to scheduling issues out of my control, my squad of 8 officers was reduced to just 4. I knew that we were going to be slammed handling the same amount of calls for service that usually come in, but with half the number of officers.

At the beginning of each shift that week, I walked into the briefing room and extended my hand to my 4 officers for a handshake. I told them that I appreciated them being there and for all of the hard work that we knew was ahead of us.

What I found was that the simple action of shaking their hands in advance of what was before us served two purposes:

  1. The handshakes demonstrated respect for my officers by showing appreciation for their presence in the face of a tough situation.
  2. The handshakes also negated the negative of the situation and turned it into a positive to be fought through as a team, not to be put out by.

In recognizing the power of this simple action, I felt compelled to find a way to continue building the same connection with my officers that started with these simple gestures. With the busy week over, I had the weekend to consider how I was going to use it going forward.

I walked into our squad briefing the next Wednesday and looked around at my 8 young officers ready to hit the road. Without thinking about it for a second, I extended my hand and began walking around the room shaking each of their hands and saying, “Thanks for being here.”

To this day, I start every Wednesday briefing just like that. Do not underestimate the power of a simple gesture and the positive effect it can have on your officers.

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!

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!

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!

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.


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!

Squad Expectations: The P.R.I.D.E.S. MODEL

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership starts by creating a positive squad culture. The P.R.I.D.E.S. Model is a framework for establishing squad expectations that support the goal of cultivating a positive squad culture.


The purpose of establishing a framework is to create guidelines that are flexible to any situation’s circumstances, easy to remember, and easy to apply. The P.R.I.D.E.S. Model is a framework that is clearly defined and sets officers up for success. Consistency is established by routinely reminding officers that this framework is the expectation that governs everything they do and how they will be evaluated.

The P.R.I.D.E.S. Model directly addresses two prongs that define a squad’s culture – actions and attitudes. Actions and attitudes that fall within the framework of the P.R.I.D.E.S. Model should be rewarded as a matter of routine practice to reinforce desired behaviors. Rewarding positive behaviors will foster a positive squad culture where every officer knows how to excel under your supervision. Actions and attitudes that fall outside of the framework become easy to address because the model clearly defines the boundaries of what is acceptable. By regularly referencing the P.R.I.D.E.S. Model, common ground is already established to start conversations addressing issues of concern.



The “why” behind using this model is that it focuses on establishing a positive patrol culture. By establishing a positive culture based upon actions and attitudes, not a generic list of rules, officers recognize a supervisor that truly cares about doing the right things for the right reasons. Once this model is established and being supported by the supervisor, it will begin to support itself through momentum. Officers that are engrained within the P.R.I.D.E.S culture will bring new officers into the fold as soon as they join the squad. This momentum occurs because, deep down, everyone wants to belong to a group that is truly doing something positive and bigger than its individual pieces. In the end, a positive patrol culture will reflect in how officers interact with the public that they serve.


The first task in establishing a framework that supports a positive squad culture is to clearly define what actions your officers are expected to do during a shift. These actions can be broken down into two categories: respond and initiate.

RESPOND: Any action not generated by the officer: report calls, domestic violence calls, fights, alarm calls, disturbances, emergency traffic, etc. Any paperwork generated on any of these calls for service would also fall into this category. Responding is not just work based. It also means reminding officers to respond to their fellow officers, their families, and themselves.

INITIATE: Any action generated by the initiative of the officer: traffic stops, check subjected, close patrols, consensual contacts, beat problems, motorist assists, community policing activities, etc. Any paperwork generated due to the initiative of the officer would also fall into this category. Beyond police activities, initiating also includes functioning as a team and maintaining the P.R.I.D.E.S. culture.

These two actions, responding and initiating, are a simplified way of categorizing the plethora of actions that may be taken by an officer during any given shift. The expectation is that when the officer is not responding to activity, then they should be looking to initiate activity. On a busy shift with a lot of calls for service, there would be a rise in the amount of time spent responding to activity. On a shift with minimal calls for service, there would be a rise in the amount of time spent initiating activity. This does not establish any specific minimums or maximums limiting an officer’s activity level; nor does it define a hierarchy of actions. This allows officers the ability to work within their areas of strength and succeed accordingly. The key simply to maintain a high activity level.


The second task to establishing a framework that supports a positive squad culture is defining how your officers go about the actions of responding and initiating. While this is the last piece of the model to be discussed, its importance should not be taken lightly. Establishing the proper attitude is the foundation for the whole thing. There are three necessary attitude components to properly support the actions taken by your officers.

DECIDE: All decisions should be made based upon the law, department policy, best practices/procedures, officer safety, spirit of the law, equality, fairness, and in support of the department’s mission. A sound decision will apply all of these sources equally. As a TBL Leader, you should be conducting briefings with purpose to make sure your officers are trained in the most accurate and up-to-date information possible.

EVALUATE: Every decision, even those made with the best of intentions, should be evaluated as a standard practice. The more that is at risk in the decision, the more evaluation that should be done. Routinely discuss evaluation questions with your officers. When an officers calls you with a question about a call for service they are on, use these same questions to walk them through your decision-evaluation process instead of just giving them the answer. Examples of evaluation questions: What are the options? What evidence is present to support a particular decision? What is the ultimate goal of this decision? What was the decision made and how was it reached? Why was/is this the best course of action? What could be done better the next time a similar situation presents itself? The more officers practice evaluation, the less they will need external confirmation they are making correct decisions you support.

SERVE: Law enforcement serves to protect the community by establishing the thin blue line separating the good from the bad; order from chaos. In doing this, it is imperative for officers to recognize that they have chosen a profession based on service. This is NOT to be confused with being subservient. People are policing and as such officers must always remember their duty to serve their community, department, family, fellow officers, citizens, victims, and even the suspects they arrest. Throughout their careers, your officers are going to be asked to take on tasks or assignments that they do not like. The TBL Leader must consistently and strenuously remind them that the work they are doing is valued no matter how big or small the task. Serving is an officer’s “why.” When officers lose their “why,” they lose their way.

By operating within the framework of the P.R.I.D.E.S. Model, officers are given clear expectations related to time management, production, public interaction, officer interaction, decision making, evaluation thinking, etc. Discuss it daily. Walk through situations/scenarios using it. When you feel sick of talking about it, you will be about halfway to your squad fully accepting, understanding, and integrating it.

The absolutely vital key is for you, the TBL Leader, to consistently reinforce the model and explain the “why” behind it. What is the “why” behind the P.R.I.D.E.S. Model? To build and establish a positive squad culture that officers desire to be a part of because it is something bigger than themselves.

Do you think the P.R.I.D.E.S. Model could work 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!