I often receive questions regarding my definition of a good supervisor. What are all of those wonderful traits that law enforcement desires of this breed of officer? Now, we all have our boilerplate answers. To me, there may be no universal answer, for each department or agency has its own particular needs, henceforth the definitions change with each one.
The more I think about it, seems that I learned an immense amount from my military experiences. One thing that the Non-commissioned officer training drove into me was that there are measures we want of our leaders and future leaders. I recall discussing HITRAP as a constant measure. Now what does this acronym stand for? This acronym translated to Honesty, Integrity, Trust, Responsibility, Accountability, and Service to People. These sound as if they are defining traits of what I desire in an officer and a supervisor. Let’s explore them from my eyes as the gnarly old chief not with some dictionary definition.
Honesty- You are going to be a police supervisor; you have got to be honest. You are supervising the officers that are entrusted not only with the lives of the public but safeguarding their property. You too are the one that is the guardian at the gate for overall honesty. You ensure that the arrests and treatment of all is beyond reproach. You do not permit any street justice, no padding evidence and no un-truths on the reports; all adding to fair and legal commitment of how we do business. You say what you mean and mean what you say.
Integrity- Without going into flowery definitions here is what integrity means to me. You never accept ‘good enough for government work’, you give it your all. You never comprise the mission or your staff for a lesser motivation. Your word is rock solid, you don’t quiver when it hits the fan, and you are upright and facing the flack; the others come to you for their measure of what to do.
Trust- Face it, if you are a police supervisor you are the most trusting supervisor in the world. Do not believe me? Go to any other job, there is a line boss or a direct supervisor standing over you. Do this, do it this way or so forth. A police sergeant stands in front of group. Gives them assignments and sets them loose for the night. That sergeant has trust that you are on your beat, riding your calls, and doing what you are suppose to do. That is trust. Never thought of it that way did you. Also too, the employee and employer must know that you can be trusted. Whether it is operational security or employee issues, you maintain the required confidentially. You are the dependable one that others want on their team.
Responsibility- One thing that is a measure of a great supervisor is how they view the mission. If the goal is complete, then the employees did a great job. If the mission was not complete, then that supervisor stands there for the accountability. You don’t throw your squad under the preverbal bus. I can not stand excuse makers. I want performance and not excuses. If you have responsibility to the mission and staff, you will be there first and the last to leave. You take the job serious! You ensure that a quality work product is produced. If not you seek the remedies to keeps the mission moving towards the objective. It takes big shoulders to wear those stripes and you are ready to carry the weight that they bring.
Accountability- One thing in today’s society is the “L” word or liability. If you are a police supervisor you are held to a higher accountability more so than any other employee. Yes I know you have to watch the squad so you don’t get sued motif. However, you are also protecting the employer as well. You posse liability awareness above others, but in doing all of this you exemplify accountability to others. You hold others and yourself answerable for actions.
Service to People- Face it, in police work we do not produce a product. All we have to ‘sell or offer’ is service. How you view your internal customers (employees, other cops, and other members of the criminal justice community) and external customers (citizens, business owners, tourists) is how I measure your service. What are you doing to promote good service delivery to all, not a select few of your choosing? Now, some may say this is what you do off-duty. You volunteer as coach, help out a group on a civic project or donate time and talents to an organization. Yes, these are true but my measure is how you treat everyone, internal and external. This is my service delivery model.
I do not know how you will use this acronym, you may wish to add your own definitions and apply your core values and mission statement to it. Nothing says you can not and they are yours for the using. My ramblings are my observations from this station in life and not the departmental guidebook definitions. When you seek to become a supervisor, there are always different definitions that your department will measure you by. If you come before me on a promotional dais, you got my ideas here.
About The Author:
William L. "Bill" Harvey is a native Virginian. He served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC). Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (GA) Police Department. He served in field operations, investigations and support services, and completed his career there as the director of training. He has published several articles in professional periodicals and has lectured nationwide. He is serving as a chief of police in central Pennsylvania area; a duty he’s performed for the past nine years. He is on the advisory board of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association and other professional associations.