Preparing future leaders
There is one budget concept that I have performed my entire tenure as a chief. This is not a demeaning or trivial term but I ‘push down the budget’. In other words, those operational commanders have input and vast control over their budgets. They have a responsibility to their sections or units. The more you can do this the higher learning curve for the future leaders; real budget experience under real conditions. If you have an officer overseeing forensics for instance, his or her budget input is critical for they know what the needs are. It goes back to the old maximum of those closest to the problem will know the answers. Again, the chief is the chief executive officer of the department (CEO) so the final responsibilities fall upon you. Here you are ‘growing people’ and creating those future leaders.
Often what occurs is the young commanders take ownership for their division and its productivity. They should be abreast of the technological and state of the art applications for the overall productivity. Additionally, they should know if these devices have applicability in their state. How they present the urgency and needs is often more important. Just running into the office saying that if we don’t get this now somebody is gonna’ get killed is overused and never works. Trying to couch this as a liability preventive is more sellable to the powers that be. If you can show that this new item will be a productivity producer you also have a key selling point. How it can assist you in working smarter and safer are elements you want to inject. Make sure you fully explain each of these points, just because it is new & improved or this is what the other departments have does not sell it to council. Keeping up with the neighbors is not a priority, they could have different circumstances. Avoid the “I want because”, remember you are selling them the concept of them taking to the voters that this decision was theirs to ensure public safety and having a more efficient police agency.
Now, where to get the money since funding streams are drying up. If it is not in this year’s operational budget, where is money coming from? First of all, most will say get a grant, they too are drying up and the days of money from Washington are fleeting memories. I have had good fortune with the philanthropy of community and foundations. The warning here is be ready to show all of the usual needs, how it will make positive impact to service delivery and how it will be a positive public relations for them to embrace it. Many departments are establishing police foundations (501c3) with the ability to solicit monies for use, this is worth investigating.
Manager or Leader
The original question was are you a manager or a leader by saying no to a funding request. Often times it is easy to say no and end it there. That is not leadership. The good police leader does the following: They listen to the presentation, and then offer direction in perfecting the project. Then the leader is assisting or directing in research to ensure that this is the correct answer for the perceived problem. Now, they seek out the traditional funding streams such as adding this to next year’s budget or working it in as a capital improvement project. If that does not work, they use their networking skills to seek out public and/or private funding streams. But, the most important thing of all is to ‘grow people’. A chief cannot be viewed as the rich uncle who used to show up once a year to give you gifts that your family cannot normally afford. You are to create more leaders and help them grow in their current positions; they are the future’s chiefs. Share the budget, push it down and offer them a chance to grow. Better yet, if you are one of the young upcoming stars, ask to have more operational control of your section’s budget. Chiefs, when your staff members approach you for a new product it is time to turn this moment into a learning experience. Often times they will find that some projects do not need to be done and others seem more important and they direct the project to success. In the long run, you may get your want viewed as a need just don’t ever give up and never throw in the towel.