Tag Archives: sergeant

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 cats 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.

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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 to wait for the mortuary company to pick him up . . . 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 TBLL 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!

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Good to Great: A Law Enforcement Leadership Interpretation

Jim Collins starts his book, “Good to Great,” with this simple quote: “Good is the enemy of great.” That quote struck me like a lightning bolt because, all too often, law enforcement gets stuck in the rut of thinking that good is a fine place to be. How often have you heard the phrase, “Good enough for government work” thrown around the department? We, as first-line supervisors, preach to our officers about avoiding complacency, but if we allow our squads to just be good then aren’t we exemplifying complacency in our leadership?

Good-is-the-Enemy-of-Great

Whenever I read a book of this type, I am always thinking about how I can apply it in my role as a sergeant of eight officers that are within my span of influence. So, I decided that I would write this blog to share my thoughts on the major concepts described in “Good to Great” and how I see those applying to law enforcement leadership.

Before going any further, let me give you an idea of how the “Good to Great” concepts were formulated. Jim Collins and his research team conducted a detailed analysis of over 1,400 Fortune 500 companies looking for ones that demonstrated a very specific pattern of growth: At least 15 years of good results, a clear transition point, followed by at least 15 years of great results. Great results were defined as having a total stock return of at least 3 times the general market over the same period in time. Of the 1,400 companies they looked at, only 11 met that very specific criteria. They then began the lengthy process of analyzing what the distinctive traits were that those companies had in common which took them from good to great.

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Now the question becomes, what does this business mumbo jumbo have to do with policing? Following the success of “Good to Great,” Jim Collins began hearing a similar question from multiple areas of social sector work – law enforcement, non-profit organizations, hospitals, education, etc. In 2005, he released a monograph (like an additional chapter) to supplement the book entitled, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors.” This supplement is geared specifically to the social sector and the unique constraints faced by these types of organizations such as hiring, firing, compensation, etc.

As he did in the original book, Jim Collins starts the monograph off with a profound statement, “We must reject the idea – well-intentioned, but dead wrong – that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become ‘more like a business.’” Business concepts on leadership have their place, but they must be properly interpreted in order to effectively be applied in law enforcement. Law enforcement must be led in a way that only a law enforcement leader can; by someone that has handled calls, made arrests, used force, and been in situations that they will never forget. The bottom line is this . . . law enforcement measures greatness through their service to the community, not profits.

Before proceeding into the “Good to Great” framework, the question law enforcement supervisors must answer is how do you define greatness in policing at your department? What specifically defines a good officer and what specifically defines a great officer? The only way to determine that answer is to look at your department’s mission statement, goals, strategic plan, performance evaluation process, etc. and understand how those things are measured at the officer level. Once it is understood what your officers must demonstrate in order to be considered great, under the guidelines of your department, then you can proceed in applying the Good to Great concepts.

Just a quick note to any chiefs or command staff that may read this . . . if you cannot define greatness in your organization in concrete detail, then neither can your officers or first-line supervisors. Honor-Initiative-Excellence are great qualities to put on the side of a patrol car or hang on a wall in the briefing room, but if you don’t define them in concrete, “this-is-what-it-looks-like” terms; then they are just words.

STAGE 1: DISCIPLINED PEOPLE

Level 5 Leadership: For a squad to go from good to great, it is first necessary for them to have what Jim Collins refers to as a Level 5 Leader at the helm. A level 5 leader is ambitious and initiative-driven when it comes to applying their department’s definition of greatness to their work as a police officer. I say police officer because regardless of rank, we all started as police officers and that is the common denominator when it comes to the reason we started in this career. Level 5 leaders demonstrate that it is more about the job and their officers than themselves. They share a passion for learning, teaching, and leading other officers in the proper way to police. Ultimately, level 5 leaders realize their success comes through making those they lead successful. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “The 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments.”)

level-5-leadership-hierarchy

First Who…Then What: The most valuable resource in a police department is not people, it is having the right people. The only way to take a squad from good to great is to have the right people on it; ones that are willing to get on board and make the transition to greatness. Unfortunately, due to the structure of police departments, we cannot always control who we have on our squads. Therefore, it is incumbent of the first-line supervisor to do everything within their power to mold their officers into being the right people. This will not always work, but it is an effort that must be made. Developing the right people can be accomplished through training, honest evaluations, handling call with them, briefing discussions, assigning them to ride with more experienced officers, good field training officers, etc. Once you have the right people on your squad, then you have to get them into the “right seats on the bus.” Assess the skills and talents that your officers possess and assign them to beats where those skills and talents can be best applied. Then, help direct those officers into specialty units that fit their skills and talents to benefit the department as a whole. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “6 Ways to Positively Influence Officer Behavior.”)

STAGE 2: DISCIPLINED THOUGHT

Confront the Brutal Facts: Confronting the brutal facts is all about retaining unwavering faith in the goal of becoming great while at the same time recognizing the challenges to that goal. They may stem from the community, the department, policies, staffing, politics, compensation, or internal squad issues.  You must possess the discipline to recognize your current reality and work tirelessly to improve the circumstances you find yourself in no matter the difficulties. Find like-minded individuals within the department that also have the desire to be great and collaborate with them to begin tackling the issues that you can control. Don’t waste your time on things you can’t control. Dealing with these issues will take dedication, time, and effort; but as long as your intentions are directed towards reaching the goal, the squad will come along. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “Change and Reputation.”)

The Hedgehog Concept: The Hedgehog Concept has to do with having simple, basic principles for your squad to follow that support the goal of becoming great and maintaining that greatness. These principles should be the intersection of the 3 circles – what you can be the best at, what you are passionate about, and what drives your department’s vision of greatness.

good-to-great

The first two circles are pretty self-explanatory, but measuring a police department’s vision of greatness can be difficult because it is not as simple as measuring profits in a business. A police department’s vision of greatness comes through in their community’s perception of them. Does the community trust that the department is there to protect them and act in their best interest with the power and authority that has been granted upon them? Like the Colorado River slowly forming the Grand Canyon, the thing to remember about the Hedgehog Concept is that the simple, basic principles of your squad need to be applied and reinforced on a consistent and on-going basis. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “Culture in Just 4 Words”)

STAGE 3: DISCIPLINED ACTION

Culture of Discipline: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. As law enforcement, we have a great deal of power and authority and we must be constantly accountable to the community we serve. There are many pressures that can instigate the slide down the slippery slope of dishonesty, malfeasance, and abuse of power. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the first-line supervisor, to nurture a culture of discipline within their squad that does the right things, at the right times, for the right reasons without emotion or prejudice and for the good of the community at-large. If a culture of discipline is set in place from the beginning, then having to deal with actual discipline will be limited to the minor mistake that can be handled and put into the past. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “The 3 Accountability Relationships in Law Enforcement.”)

The Flywheel: The flywheel is about consistently applying the concepts listed above in such a way that you start the flywheel of greatness spinning. The more the above concepts are applied, the faster the wheel begins to spin, and the less effort necessary to make it continue. Eventually, so much momentum is gained that it generates its own energy. The patrol culture you create is the first-line supervisor’s version of a flywheel. By putting the time and attention necessary into nurturing the right patrol culture, the first-line supervisor can start the flywheel of greatness spinning. If focus begins to slip and the Hedgehog Concept gets muddled up, the flywheel will begin to slow and greatness will begin to slide back to good or worse. Therefore, the entire process must be internalized by the first-line supervisor and assume their role to actively lead their squads towards greatness. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “A Law Enforcement Leadership Reward.”)

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

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Change and Reputation

Reputation1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change Awareness

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

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

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. By discussing topics like this, law enforcement leaders are tending to the welfare of the “whole” officer, not just the one in uniform.

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Don’t Get Captured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading our blog. The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. Development of a positive culture must be intentional; otherwise, who knows what will develop in its place.

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

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 everything 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!

A Law Enforcement Recognition Idea

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. One way to do this is by recognizing and rewarding great police work on a routine basis. Here is an idea that came to me the other day.

I found myself watching a college football game last weekend and was noticing the band, the cheerleaders, the crazy student section, the mascot, and of course the players. A thought struck me at that time regarding the strength of culture at these collegiate institutions. Then I began to pay particular attention to the helmets of the Florida State Seminoles and noticed that there were little tomahawk stickers on the player’s helmets. This was not something new as I have seen them on many other college team helmets, but today I guess it just struck me at the right time.

helmet

A Wikipedia search of “helmet stickers” revealed that recognition or pride stickers have been rewarded to players since the mid-1950’s for making excellent plays, selfless plays, and even for hard work at practices. The idea stemmed from fighter pilots that marked their planes to signify the number of kills or successful missions they had flown. Then I started to make a connection to police work.

Most police departments have awards that are given out on an annual basis, but if you really want to positively reinforce behavior then it needs to be done on a much more consistent basis than that. So, I created some law enforcement recognition stickers using the Thin Blue Line of Leadership logo and had them printed at evermine.com.

sticker

For a very small cost ($15+shipping), I received over 100 custom recognition stickers (1″ diameter) to give out in briefings to reward the great things that officers do on a daily basis. I am not selling anything or being paid by evermine.com to tell you any of this; I am simply sharing an idea and evermine happened to be the website that popped up first.

Walking into briefing with a couple of recognition stickers immediately makes everyone wonder who is being recognized and for what. It provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce more of the “smaller” things that do not rise to the level of an official ribbon or annual award.

If you catch an officer changing a flat tire, give them a sticker. Have an officer that routinely volunteers to hold over a couple of hours to accommodate staffing needs, give them a sticker. If an officer does an amazing investigation or writes a great report, give them a sticker after they talk about it with the squad so everyone has a chance to learn from that officers great moment. Any action that supports what the squad is all about, the desired culture, should be recognized. This sticker is only given out when I, the sergeant, want to personally thank them or recognize them for some good work or a sacrifice they made for the squad. What gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated.

After the success of the above recognition sticker,  I created a second sticker for our squad. These stickers can only be received by officers that are being recognized by a person outside of the squad or directly from another officer on the squad.

r1lion

The second sticker is a squad logo created of a lion (think LE Memorial) and stars to represent the people on our squad. These stickers are used for two purposes. First, when someone from outside the squad wants to recognize a member of the squad for something. These commendations could come from citizens, other supervisors, upper staff, etc. Secondly, the most interesting use for these stickers was for officers to internally thank each other when someone sacrificed to help them out personally. For example, when an officer found a good arrest and had a ton of items to impound and their squad mates stayed late to help them get done quicker. The next shift, they would come ask me for however many stickers they needed and in briefing would thank the officers that helped them out. The coolest part of the stickers is that they ended up perpetuating officers going above and beyond for their fellow officers to a whole new level than I had ever seen in policing.

Officers decide where to collect their stickers, but my suggestion would be their ticket clipboards to display their accomplishments proudly. Some put them on their locker or other place they see on a daily basis. This serves as a consistent reminder of their many accomplishments and makes a statement about the positive squad culture that is being nurtured.

clipboard

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

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

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!