Tag Archives: sergeant

3 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Intentionally Create Culture (Video)

Welcome to the Thin Blue Line of Leadership Blog. We’re going to continue with Core Value #3 of the 7 Core Values for Building a Team.

For my department, I created a leadership training based upon the TBLL Blog entitled, “7 Core Values for Building a Team.” Within this training were 7 short videos that utilized modified interviews from the EntreLeadership Podcast which were set to law enforcement related images and words to enhance the parallels. These videos served as an excellent starting point for discussion and debate over the 7 Core Values for Building a Team. The third video is from an interview with Jon Gordon on the EntreLeadership Podcast. It is focused on Core Value #3 – Intentionally Create Culture.

Over the next few weeks, the other related videos will be added. Please comment either here or on YouTube and let us know what you think. If you like the videos, we’ll look into doing more of them going forward.

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time and Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Share your thoughts or comments on this blog below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!


7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 2

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

  1. Build unity and loyalty.

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

  1. Exemplify, then expect personal accountability.

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

  1. Show recognition.

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

  1. Make people feel safe.

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

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

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

“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

“Entreleadership” by Dave Ramsey

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

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

“Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time and Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Share your thoughts or comments on this blog below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 1

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

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

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


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

  1. Know the why.

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

  1. Be a leader.

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

  1. Actively create culture.

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

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

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time and Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Share your thoughts or comments on this blog below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

5 Steps to Develop Squad Culture

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

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

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

  1. Know what is already out there.

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

  1. Identify what is important to you.

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

  1. Visualize yourself in that environment.

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

  1. Put your culture into words.

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

  1. Develop a mechanism for reinforcing your culture.

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

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

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time and Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Share your thoughts or comments on this blog below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Creating “Wow” Moments in Policing

Why does the general public like the fire department better than the police department? The simple answer is this, the fire department is better at creating positive “wow” moments – saving lives, putting out fires, and of course getting 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.


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!

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?


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.


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.


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.”)


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.”)


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.


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”)


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!