One of the reasons that I became a police officer was the need for challenges. I guess I would not be successful as a skilled technician or craftsman doing the same job repeatedly. No way could I work on an assembly line! I like the idea that every day, every hour and nearly every call will be different. What does worry me now is with the new generation of supervisors and leaders who want an acceptable plan of action for every situation. Sorry, this line of work is not geared this way. So what do you do? There is no need to redesign the wheel...use and adapt existing plans to fit. Now the prior generation(s) of police supervisors did not have all of the answers either, we learned and experience is a heck of an instructor. It is whether or not you learn and then do you pass it on to the next generation. Learn from prior mistakes, listen and adapt is all I am saying.
Recall what your Field Training Officers (FTO) told you? He or she could not give you a pat answer for every call that you will ever ride. Think of how many frequent flyer calls that you have. Yes, it is the same players but there is a different twist with each and every single call. Like your FTO taught you then, that you apply the investigative quotient (who, what, when, where and why) for a base foundation. Then you add in the different nuances and work on it from there. Worked then and still does. There is no such thing as the standard ‘red car hit blue car’ traffic crash, something is always different. So we agree on this, now that you are a supervisor why change this fact of policeland? It goes back to adapt and overcome. General George S. Patton said “a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week”.
There are three major things that we need to plan and have emergency contingencies for:
- Manmade criminal events (terrorism, major criminal events, arsons, etc).
- Manmade emergencies or accidents (chemical plant leaks, nuclear plant leaks, grid over stressed blackouts).
- Natural occurring emergency events (tornados, hurricanes, floods, etc).
Of course there are planned public events, which with proper planning their incident action plan (IAP) will serve as the emergency operations plan (EOP) should something go array, such as one of the three above. The biggest mistake of a young supervisor is to take the IAP and roll it up and put in under the sun visor just in case it is needed. Have they familiarized themselves with it? Nope, probably hasn’t even read the darned thing yet. But, they have it just in case.
Most all of your life as a supervisor will have some of these unpleasant moments sprinkled in and around it. So your preparation begins with knowing your protocols and procedures. These serve as a base line and foundation. I know most of you are thinking, I am in a precinct and there are several at headquarters who have far more horsepower than me and they are going to handle this, so why bother. Well, these little pains in life never show up on 8-5, Monday through Friday....they always happen on a holiday weekend in the middle of the night. Then if the great gods of policeland are really having a great time with you, the head go-to guy is on a cruise to some island that has coconut drinks. So, your preplanning now prevents you from pulling out your hair later.
A few basic tips from this old commander are to start off simple. Sometimes, it is so simple we all forget. When was the last time you updated your cell phone and/or reviewed the emergency contact list? You know the guy at public works that was great for bringing out barricades? Maybe he retired or has been sick; you got a back up plan? Better yet, when was the last time you spoke to your support and ‘go to’ folks not during an emergency? Drop over and pay a visit, make sure all of the names, contact numbers and their missions has not changed since last time you had a bad day. For all you know they could have a new highly reflective traffic management gizmo that you are not familiar with.
Have you dusted off and cracked open your department action plans? Do you know the emergency plans for natural events? If this has not been up updated recently, project time! Things change and no plan sitting too long is ever correct. If your agency has a representative to the city or county emergency operations center (EOC) check with their plans as well.
Big suggestion here is staff training. Instead of having boring training, you and your command should have a training session reviewing the action plans. Everyone needs to know their expectations. They read a lot easier in the calm of training rather than by candle light during a power outage. Oh, do you have a hard copy handy? I know we are in a paperless society right? Nope, the workstation is on emergency power but the printer is not, so have your hard copy ready now.
Now that I have mentioned the great gods of policeland, here is another of their famous tricks. I do not know your city or county, matters not for what comes up is often so far from your radar it will often be unimaginable. So, when the high school chemistry class decides to mix all of the chemicals to see what happens, you will be working. There will never be a prewritten (and preapproved) plan for everything that will get thrown at you. So, the basic response plans and sometimes using sections of preexisting plans for other events are the answer or the baseline. Don’t panic, step back and think out what are the similarities and differences. The similarities are the easy ones, so you can plan immediately. The differences require the finesse and thought; this is what you get paid the big bucks for now.
When life throws you a major incident, you will do fine. You have had the training and you now have a few tips to fine tune your response.