As many of you know I finally pulled the full time pin just before Christmas. After two months of flurry I am settling down somewhat into a life without going to work every day. Life is boring now. You start looking back and remember the good times and the bad.
I had a great career of thirty seven years and most were rewarding. I have had the honor of being led by some great folks. Sheriff Earl D. Lee I have to say was the greatest. The Sheriff (I still can’t call him Earl) was a legend in his own time. You will find few folks that worked with him that will not go along with that statement. Even those he had to tell to leave.
We used to kid him that he could walk on water; he would laugh with us on that one but he knew the real man who did walk on water not him. He believed in the higher power that had been instilled into his Bible belt education.
The Sheriff had the charisma to do the job a being a lawman and an administrator. He had to because he had no one else to answer to but the voters. He kept them happy with a safe community. If we had a serious crime, in particular a murder, he would work until he couldn’t walk and then take two steps more.
He was one of the finest investigators that I ever met. He would run 72 hours and look behind him to see who was hanging in there. He would fall on the couch in his office take a few and off we went again. The man loved the chase and when it was over he would find a new one. Several times there were strings of crimes in neighboring counties and we knew he prayed for one to step over the line. “Stay out of Douglas County” meant something then.
When it came to dealing with his officers it was plain – you do what I told you to or someone will be leaving, temporarily or permanently. It wasn’t going to be him. Those were the days when there was no merit system or much case law for employees.
The thing about the Sheriff was that he was fair. He never took a step without thinking it out completely. He worried about the families and what effect a hard sanction would be on them. He knew it was up to him in those matters. When it came down to it, he handled it; never laid blame on anyone but him. We went through a hard recession (more like a depression) in those days. The county could not pay its employees. The sheriff took it upon himself to come up with funding to take care of everyone.
I took my fair amount of scoldings from him. I wish he were back to take a few pounds off my rear today. When it was all over he would pat me on the back and tell me, “Do better next time son.”
Today there are Chiefs and Sheriffs all the way to the lowest ranked supervisor FTO who will not man up to their responsibilities. When it comes to un-popular decision the FTO blames the sergeant and lieutenant, they blame the command staff, and the command staff blames city hall.
These are usually situations in bad economic times. Staff positions are not filled, benefits reduced, days off, and furlough days. At no time will they take the bull by the horns and admit they were involved in the decision. They won’t admit that they agreed to the change and implemented it. Common sense would be to admit their participation and explain why. These are business matters. We had to live with them.
The chief wants to be the good guy. No one wants to be the bad guy. We do have some chiefs out there that take this approach. The same could be said of unfair discipline or disparate treatment. In these cases the chief will surround himself with his Deputy Chief and command staff. Then instead of taking a hit on the decision they will tell the officer that City Hall told him to layoff, discipline, or fire the officer. He never takes responsibility although he was involved in the decision.
It is time for these chiefs to man up. They seem to be great leaders when times are good and money is flowing. Face it folks: a boss should not blame unpopular decisions on someone else. It is bad for morale and causes dissention. Sooner or later it goes viral and the whole city knows there is a problem in the police department. They don’t like problems there as we are protecting them the best we can.
Another problem is they drag the jurisdiction into lawsuits when they are named by the CEO. Do you all know what a Monell claim is?
So, don’t be the wimp, for goodness sakes be a Chief!
About The Author:
Randy Rider began his career with the Douglas County Sheriff office, Georgia in 1974. He received several promotions eventually to investigations. His areas of expertise are extensive having worked crimes from petty theft to murder. In 1983 he became employed with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice as an investigator, promoted to Principal Investigator. He eventually moved into the Internal Affairs Unit as an investigator and as a supervisor.
Rider was elected President of the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association in 2005 and stepped down in 2010 having served five years. He is currently the Chaplain of the organization.
He is employed with the Public Agency Training Council one of the largest police training organizations in the country. Rider travels the country teaching officers on internal investigations of corrections facilities and first line supervisors on investigations of citizen’s complaints. He has experience is police audits.
Over the course of his career he has conducted hundreds of investigations concerning abuse, neglect, and use of force by law enforcement officers. Additionally, he has years of experience in custodial investigations, including numerous investigations involving the highly prevalent but seldom reported cases of inmate on inmate abuse. He has conducted investigations of police personnel for acts of misconduct.
A member of the IACP he worked with the organization on the document “Building Trust between the Police and the Citizens They Serve.” Currently he is an advisor on the Leading by Legacy program. He is an advisor to the International Chiefs of Police and the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services.
Randy is a columnist for Officer.com as the internal affairs author. He published the weekly NIAIA newsletter for five years. He currently publishes the riderreport a police newsletter.