I usually reserve judgment on another officer’s actions, no matter what his assignment or rank. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and see how their actions play out. That LEO experienced more than I could fathom or understand. His thinking, planning, and his actions based on his philosophy, are his (or hers) and his alone.
Certain officers holding certain ranks, however, speak not only for themselves but for their department as well. This is certainly the case for any department’s police chief. He (or she) serves as the department’s head and the highest ranking sworn officer. His decisions affect not only the personnel under his command, but also the city or town he works for.
He is a supervisor of all his officers. But beyond that, he is supposed to be a leader and that’s where Chief Thomas Jackson of the Ferguson PD failed miserably. He mixed his personal agenda up with what he was sworn to represent. The results were that he is neither a good supervisor nor a good leader.
A leader and a supervisor are two completely different animals. A supervisor often takes the position of overseeing his officers and staying to the background, only disciplining an officer when they violate some rule or procedure. That assumes then, that the officer who violated knew that he was supposed to do something, and he didn’t.
A leader doesn’t sit in the background waiting for an officer to screw up. He is in the front showing his men and women where he wants them to go. With his assumed superior ability to do so, he should know the way and how to get there. His officers look for him to guide them and ensure their safety and wellbeing.
There are those in any organization who are titled leaders, meaning they are given that leadership role because they were appointed to that position by the appointing authority via some evaluation process. This appointment is usually based on that person’s ability to manage a police force and all that that position entails.
We also know that some chiefs show no ability to lead their officers, but are uncanny administrators. That chief may rely on being heavy handed with discipline infractions being cited or he may just allow his officers to do what they think is right, but at no time does the chief ntercede unless told to do so by the municipal administration.
Some police organizations depend on the day-to-day running of the police department on the leadership demonstrated by their subordinate supervisors who have taken on the task of being “ natural” leaders but lack the appropriate rank to support that leadership role.
These are found in every organization including the police. The chief is expected to, in some way, support his officers, but at the same time support the administration’s agenda. Sometimes that chief has to decide the best course to take to ensure this delicate balance is maintained. Supporting both officers and the administration is no easy task.
This brings us to Ferguson and the troubles it has endured since the shooting of an unarmed male by one of its officers. Up until recently, the department’s position has been to let the investigation take its course and patiently wait for the results. That shows leadership and balances the scale between the officers and the citizens. Let justice take its course. Show no favoritism either way. A tough job for a chief, but as they say, “he’s getting paid the big bucks.”
Now the Chief Jackson, in one fell swoop, publicly apologizes to the family of the male shot even before any finding has been made officially. Even more recently, he joins the protestors marching on police headquarters, abdicating any leadership abilities he may have had. Oh yes, he’s still the chief, but in name only. Abdicating his leadership role has stripped him of anything more than that.
Beyond that, in the minds and hearts of his officers, what does he expect them to do concerning the protestors if he is one of them? Who, now, assumes the leadership position? He has let his personal agenda outweigh his duties as chief and now there is no leadership in the Ferguson Police.
For the sake of the department, his officers and Ferguson citizens, he should be asked to step down from his position and allow the department to be properly led, or the municipal authorities should remove him forcefully. No one is being served or protected by his actions except himself, and for that, he doesn’t deserve to be chief.
Captain Robert Cubby served for 38 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Police Department, now retired. A PTSD survivor, he has been involved in PTSD issues with the CISM team. A prolific author, Captain Cubby focuses on writing about his experiences and solving police problems. He is a National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) instructor about police matters and a frequent conference speaker.