- The sergeant knows exactly how to do my job - because he has done it and continues to do it.
- A good leader's style embodies a good mixture of structure and compassion.
- The sergeant has the wisdom to know when it is OK to bend (or break) the rules.
- He teaches us how to be better without being demeaning or making us feel stupid.
- "When he arrives at a scene, I feel relieved," Tony said and continued, "He knows just what I need done, where I need help and is there to share the load."
- When discipline is needed, it is an experience for me with much learning and a little pain - rather than one with much pain and just a dash of learning. Discipline is handed out fairly and when needed.
- The sergeant would never sacrifice one of his troops in the name of political correctness or politics. He has our backs. If we are right, he will fight for us all the way.
Tony said that Sgt. Don is one in a million. Unlike bad leaders, Sgt. Don has not developed a severe case of amnesia, nor has his backbone been removed.
THEN THE CALL CAME ON THE RADIO
It was about 1600 hours on December 20th - a cold winter's day in Michigan - and dusk was not far off. Dispatch called announcing the sudden death of 45 year old male in the condominium he shared with his girlfriend. The mother of the male had been summoned prior to the call to 911. She was already at the scene.
We had been sharing coffee with another young officer when the call came out. He would back us.
Both Tony and his backup were newly married; neither had kids. My mind raced. While dealing with death was common, dealing with a grieving parent under these circumstances at the scene would produce a whole new set of issues. Neither of the assigned cops had children of their own and therefore couldn't fully empathize with the mother's shattered life.
In the course of my police training work, I am frequently on ride alongs. Although I am a certified officer, I respect the "line." I am there to help in any way that I am asked. Yet, I am careful not to cross into territory reserved only for officers of the host agency.
Upon arriving, we found the decedent on the living room couch. The girlfriend was in a bedroom. The mother was bent over her deceased son, sobbing uncontrollably. The two officers took quick control. Mom was gently moved to a chair in the dining area where she answered my partner's questions.
About that time, Sgt. Don showed up. He was a pleasant man. After a short chat with Tony, the sergeant began the needed phone calls: the DB, the evidence technician, the medical examiner, etc. Each of the many perfunctory tasks was handled smoothly and seamlessly.
For my part, I sat with Mom. I listened to her. I tried to console her, knowing all the while that she was suffering the worst pain that a human being can endure. I kept her with me as she frequently wanted to go to hold her son. It was imperative that the scene and evidence not be contaminated.
When the E.T. arrived, I took Mom into a bedroom, explaining that it would do her no good to watch the process.
The sergeant seemed to act as though he was a servant to the two young officers. He made phone calls. He kept dispatch informed. When we needed to reach the man’s regular doctor, the sergeant and I took on that task in order to speed the process.
Interviews were conducted. Pictures were taken. Questions were asked and answered. Prescription medications were gathered and catalogued. The M.E. cleared the death as being natural. It was then time to wait for the funeral director to arrive to transport the body.
The sergeant said that he, the backup officer and I would hold the scene while we waited. Tony could retire to his patrol car to start writing the report.
It was then that I got to know Sgt. Don and why his officers value his leadership so much. Don told me that at 1600 hrs, when the call came out, he was in his POV with the key in the ignition. He had plans with his family for that Saturday evening and he wanted very badly to be with them.
Sgt. Don also knew that the next supervisor to come on duty would not arrive for an hour at 1700. Don made the decision that he would not leave his men in that kind of a situation. So, he went back into the station, got his patrol car and headed to the scene.
We didn't clear the scene that night until about 1900 hours. Sgt. Don was disappointed at the loss of his personal time with his family so close to Christmas. But, to Sgt. Don, those grunts (like me) are his family, too.
LEADING & LOVING
It a recent article titled, Loyalty & Love, I defined love: it is putting the needs of someone else ahead of your own.
We love each other so deeply that each of us would give our own life to save the life of a brother. But, do we love each other enough to do what Sgt. Don did that afternoon when he wanted to go home?