Make 90% Your Goal

There is the old maxim about police work is akin to that of a jet pilot: 90% boredom and 10% stark raving terror. I don't know who said this first but I have heard this statement thousands of times. If you are a young sergeant and trying to get your squad squared away, better read this one.

It is very quiet midnight shift, all is quiet, nothing is stirring, not even a... but hey, wait a minute what is my squad up to? This is where young sergeants become gray and young officers without direction get into trouble.

Silver Buffalo jousting - pushing shopping carts with the front of the police car towards your worthy opponent's car and shopping cart (AKA silver buffalo).

Most of our police training, rules, regulations, and other policies are designed for the 10% critical infrequently occurring events. Yes, they can be highly dangerous, great liability and will always be the lead off story on the 11 o'clock news. Who knows? If you are having a really bad day you could make the morning talk shows. Law enforcement has been very good in preparing its officers to face these critical incidents and their aftermath. So what really gives the first line supervisors a symptom for the antacids? When good officers get bored and get into needless mischief, which will wash away all of the 'atta boys' they earned.

The little things that bored patrol officers get into. Now, not all officers get into trouble. They are self-motivated, directed towards the covering of their areas of responsibility, property protection, traffic enforcement and all of those other tasks that must be covered. However, every department has that one or two stories of cops who got bored and well it makes interesting stories to swap.

Red Beam Hurdling - trying to prove on a midnight shift that the security system in a commercial establishment’s lot can be stepped over. This usually leads to covering a false alarm or Olympic guard dog sprinting.

As a first line supervisor I have always instructed young sergeants that you cannot supervise exclusively with radio or cell phones, sometimes you need to be there. Not because of mistrust of the officer but to take in with all of your senses the gravity of the call at hand; not for you to take the call or manage the call but to be a resource person to the officers handling it. Your job is to make your staff successful in the overall mission. When they are successful, you are successful. Your being there can speak support, just as long as you are not the ogre. Big hint here: if a citizen recognizes that you have more stripes and may be in charge they will gravitate to you rather than the investigating officers. Remind them that you are their support in this call and they are ones tasked and destined to give you customer satisfaction. Never Bogart their calls; remind them they are the primary officer; it is their chance to shine.

It is easy for a supervisor to grab the glory when some actually comes your way. Make sure you give the accolades to those who rightfully deserve them. This will give you great respect points. All of us have had a supervisor that has wrongfully grabbed the commendation when in fact it belonged to a slick sleeved officer. If the squad does an outstanding performance on a call, they did well. If the call goes sour, you (the supervisor) did badly. Job performance is the group goal for proper squad management.

Midnight Sporting events - putting greens and driving ranges that are closed to the general public at night are also closed to the midnight shift officers that are to protect it from trespassers.

Your role as a young sergeant is to keep the flag moving towards the objective. One great weakness I find is that there is no second in command or back-up in place (formally or informally). If you even think you are the most important person in the squad, you are so wrong. The most important member is the next one to offer service to a citizen/business owner. Your squad's reputation is on the line with each call, this next one can be the one to make it or break it. In the Army we had assorted ranks in the platoon; each had a pecking order but it was by design. Something happens to LT, it is platoon Sgt, then first Squad Sgt, then assistant squad Sgt... it was designed to keep the mission moving. Advance the flag or pick it up and win the objective.

Now why did I put some vignettes in here of bad cop behavior? If you instill in your squad that each have a vital role in the overall mission they will function and drive on, even in the boring times. If you try to run the show, when you are not there they will play and you will have to explain why. Young supervisors, do yourselves a favor and instill pride and work ethic in the squad and they will be successful and you will be proud.