The personal, professional, and spiritual stagnation or growth of all rank and file officers is, on many levels, the shared responsibility of the Police Chief. Officers’ comport and work ethic on the street is in many ways a result of the type of senior leadership to which they are exposed. That, the quality and frequency of motivation provided to them is reflective of their leadership.
Before an officer is an officer, they are a person, a human being with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Many times the community and police leaders forget this. It is in this forgetting of the humanity of LEOs that “standards of expectation” start becoming unreasonably robotic. It is the police chief’s responsibility to ensure that the human side of his/her officers is not neglected by the expectations put on the officer and that, as a critical parallel room to grow is made available for all facets of the LEO.
The reason that the police chief has this tremendous social liability is because they represent the ultimate voice of reason. They are, therefore, the final filter of what can be detrimental to or positively impact the personal and professional growth of individual officers and the whole department.
Extra job policy, how the department funnels personal/personnel issues, and how the department treats the LEO when a complaint is made is extremely important. The manner in which a chief handles complaints can either destroy morale or build it. It can make the difference between an uninspired team effort or a copasetic, cohesive, and positive organizational environment that promotes safety, productivity, and proactivity. A correlation exists between moral, safety, and proactivity
Let’s discuss the extra job policy. In law enforcement, an extra job is often a necessity to supplement income and is also an integral part of the professional culture. Extra work policy can be a deciding factor of where to work their primary job for those who have an option. The more reasonable the extra job policy, the better quality of officer recruited and retained.
For example, a peace officer in GA, my home state can technically enforce state law anywhere in Georgia. I should have a wide range of available extra job opportunities. However, chiefs often exhibit an old understanding of only being able to work extra jobs within the primary job jurisdiction or “city limits.
The restrictive nature of the extra job policy is quasi-understandable though, because every police action that a LEO has the potential of being involved in off duty and outside the area of responsibility where regular duties are performed, can be an unwanted extension of liability for the department if boundaries aren’t carefully identified. Never the less, most of the quandaries can be absolved if the chief in acknowledgement of the delicacy of the issue provides training to all LEO’s wishing to enjoy the benefits of working an extra job. Training would encompass: protocol and ethics of the extra job, when and how to involve the uniform division of the jurisdiction where the extra job is located, the importance of informing the respective patrol division of your location, etc. would be some of the many topics inclusive in this critical element of training.
The police chief who acknowledges the critical impact that the ability to work extra jobs has on the livelihood of the LEOs and their families will help support the morale and quality of effort put forth thereafter.
The senior police executive who knows that he can’t afford to pay the LEOs their worth and additionally chooses to have an unreasonably strict extra job policy is in essence saying to the officer that they aren’t a person to them. They are simply viewed as an officer asset, from which maximum robotic productivity is expected. In these conditions the officer will not stay long and productivity will suffer. To put reasonable into perspective we will say the following.
Obviously a department will have a hard time (logically so) approving extra jobs out of the purview of regular jurisdiction such as bouncing for night clubs and it would likewise be unreasonable for a LEO to expect to work at a strip club, primordially because of the negative reflection and implication on the department. Again these issues would not be issues if they were covered in the training session described above and throughout.
An open yet well-structured extra job policy is the first step, but not the only step. That to simply say that the officer cannot work anywhere in the state because he or she could be a loose cannon is not an appropriate message. What we mean by open structure is that both sides, chief and LEO have an objective understanding of each other’s needs and why certain stances are inherent. That, a LEO would know better than to request to work security at the Playboy mansion and the chief, on the other side of the spectrum, would be willing to be as objectively accommodating as possible for legitimate extra job requests. Even proactive enough to scout extra job opportunities in surrounding jurisdictions for his/her LEO’s if not many are available locally.
All police departments, as mentioned earlier, must give extra job training as needed, to remind officers of extra job ethics, protocol, and the potential of professional and departmental liability when working extra jobs. In comparison, knowledge of a right is the important first step. The more critical second step is learning the contextual application of the “how and where” of social acceptability. In other words having the right, doesn’t always mean that it is the right thing to do.
How does a police senior executive create a strategy to resolve personal or professional issues into a productive result? Officers can have a variety of problems. These problems can be interpersonal in what may feel like a bully system. Each issue represents an opportunity for the police chief or supervisor to interject and impart their knowledge and wisdom. This tightens team bonds.
To the extent possible, the police chief that becomes a mentor to the organization will get the best results from the person/officer and the team. We can’t forget that the chief also has the critical dual role of ensuring order in the ranks. To the extent possible the chief will delegate certain aspects of mentorship to the rank and file, leaving him/her necessary time for the many other responsibilities that he/she has. This will happen naturally though, as indirectly depicted in “The art of war by General Tsun Su.” When the general (in our case the chief) instills his/her strategy and philosophy of leadership to all ranks beneath them, everybody will participate in the cultivation of quality people, which will eventually as the end result become everybody’s responsibility on some level. The chief is responsible for the first step as well as necessary steps thereafter.
One strategy which may prove helpful in effectively addressing issues is the creation of a unit that facilitates problem solving, addressing situations before they become a departmental issue. This unit could be called the Chain of Command Liaison and could be led by the Chain of Command Commander, working directly for the office of the police chief. States that have unions tend to handle this function through them. Although an internal structure, creating an internal sense of responsibility is ideal from my point of view, because it would seem that as it is the primary role of the union to enforce objective outcomes when departments, in certain cases, fail to do it themselves, it should likewise be the internal objective of every department to do the right thing without being told to.
The reason for the existence of this unit is also to ensure uniformity of practice in all zones/districts, uniformity of leadership psychology, and a uniform way for the department to preemptively prevent and proactively process personal and professional issues.
The existence of this unit will also prove helpful as it could officially monitor ideas for innovation as formulated by officers and command staff. Additionally this unit will break up relationships within the organization that prove to present a conflict of interest. An example of such relationship would be a commander romantically involved with the dispatch commander. Who would the LEO seek haven and resolve in if they were in a verbal altercation with a dispatcher? Whose side would the commander take? Whose side would the dispatch commander take? Would the outcome be fair for the LEO? What kind of objectivity would there be?
The creation of such a unit does more than just help build sustainable morale, although if that was all it did, its existence would still have purpose. Morale is so critical to all aspects of the profession that a unit that by design protects it and foments it is paramount.
Addressing complaints against police officers has always been a difficult issue. Effective handling of complaints against LEOs has a big impact on how officers will trust police leadership. In turn, this has a direct correlation with productivity. If the LEO believes that the command does not back them personally and professionally, the effect is devastation. If the complaint is a legitimate one there is no question as to what command should do, however keep in mind that a certain document tells us that you are “innocent until proven guilty.” By backing your LEO up we mean, you obviously thought you could trust them or you wouldn’t have hired them, so a good chief will stand behind their LEO until said point when the allegations are proven after a due internal and if needed external process is resolved.
If a police executive will allow himself/herself to facilitate the spiritual, personal, and professional growth of the LEO we will find that the subordinates will respond favorably. Subordinates working for such a chief will be more willing to devote the time to making meaningful and valuable contributions to the department. The public perception of rank and file officers will be used as the yardstick by which police executives are measured.
Officer Eric Aguiar, LLB has a passion for fairness and seeks to assist personal, professional, and spiritual growth for LEOs. Eric believes that leaders must foster and motivate law enforcement subordinates and co-workers. Everyone in the profession deserves the opportunity to grow into the role they wish to fulfill. Eric taught legal courses at a North-Atlanta technical college for 7 years before starting his law enforcement career. He currently serves as a Georgia Perimeter College police officer, positively influencing students, faculty, and staff. Eric was recently credentialed in negation by Notre Dame University. He believes that negotiation skill is an important leadership asset. His ultimate career goal is to serve as a police chief who focuses on professional growth and team development by cultivating a department culture supporting good morale and uniformity of leadership at all command levels.