Every workplace experiences times of low morale and police departments are no exception. Here are five quick and simple solutions line supervisors can implement today with minimal effort to boost the morale of their officers.
Cops do not need a lot of positive feedback, but they would like more than they receive. Much of what they hear is in the form of "negatives" from supervisors, coworkers, civilians, and family members. Be intentional with positive words from one time daily to several per times a week. Tell an officer they handled a call well, their increase in arrests has been noticed, or tell them in roll call you appreciate how they work together as a team. However, do not go overboard with the positive feedback. This can make your officers suspicious or uncomfortable. Keep it simple, point out a specific behavior, and keep it honest.
Be Accessible & Visible
Create a culture where your officers know they can approach you about anything, whether it is a call they have questions about, a conflict with a coworker, or personal concerns. Think of different ways you can be visible that allows them to approach you. One suggestion would be from once a week to once a month, go to a local coffee house to collect paper or catch up on your administrative duties. Let your officers know where you will be and if they stop by, the department will buy them a cup of coffee. If they approach you, listen more than you speak, be positive in your responses and ask a lot questions to demonstrate interest. These simple gestures help them feel supported. An inaccessible or invisible line supervisor creates a culture of frustration, anger, and suspicion. Knowing you are approachable creates trust.
Officers need to know their department values them as employees. The equipment provided, pay scale, and benefits are one way to demonstrate how much they are worth. Not every department has the revenue to show value by providing new computers or an increase in pay, but begin thinking of incentives that can be earned. Possibilities include some added time off for going 90 days without calling in sick, or a cash bonus for a unique arrest. Celebrate working a big case with a shift party. On their anniversary date, give something to mark the day, such as a t-shirt with the department logo or a gift certificate to a local restaurant. People work harder for those who appreciate them.
Most officers entered police work out of a sincere desire to "serve and protect," eager to contribute to the improvement of their communities. Many officers begin to feel they are expected to put more emphasis on public relations than crime fighting and their initial sense of purpose becomes lost. A sense of purpose is crucial for strong workplace morale. As a supervisor, lead in ways that respect your officers' innate desire for purpose. Encourage innovation and self-initiative, create occasional "special assignments" targeting specific problems, facilitate collaborative efforts between officers in the patrol division and investigative divisions, and provide direct guidance from your own experience. Having a sense of purpose makes the job more fun.
Appreciate the Intangibles
It is easy to evaluate a cop by how many citations are written, how many arrests are made, or how many contact cards are filled out. These are tangible measures. The challenge is that officers begin to feel "it's all about the numbers," and this breeds resentment. Relying mostly on statistics to determine your officers' effectiveness may be easy, but it does not account for the intangibles. Every officer brings a unique personality and skill set to the job. Effective supervisors will know his or her people and how best to use their unique traits and skills. Learn each of your officers' strengths and interests and devise ways to incorporate them into an effective team. Let your officers know you are aware of, and appreciate, what they do well. Direct opportunities to them based on their strengths and skills. Finally, be able to "sell" and support your officers to others within your organization who may not know them as well as you do.