Having been both a new chief (twice) and also worked on transition staffs for other agencies, I have seen a few mistakes made. I always want to learn from others’ mistakes and the lessons learned. Whenever there is a new chief or sheriff in town, it is sometimes reminiscent of a kid in a candy store. The stark reality is to determine what are true needs versus wants. Every new chief or sheriff enters their new office with an agenda. They may have a mandate from the voters; their board or mayor has given them orders to address issues. Of course, some of these may be new reforms and initiatives of their own dreams of becoming the leader. So, now they become that new broom that is sweeping clean the old remnants of the past regimes.
Branding—New chief or sheriff initiatives. I think every new chief or sheriff has come in with a vision of putting their thumbprint on the new agency. We all have made uniform changes whether they were for the good or the bad. We have always wanted to improve the patch, the image maybe even the markings on the cars. It has got to be yours, although superficial, it must be yours you think. Again, this is ‘needs’ versus ‘wants,’ so direct yourself to make the right decision. I know when I changed uniforms, we (staff) decided to go to a wash and wear which was far cooler, more durable and more well liked than the other older style uniforms that require dry cleaning. It was a budget saver! Another thing, and it is just me: I took command staff out of white shirts. This was more reason, it was personal. After a full day, I tried to drink coffee, eat, and go to several meetings and tried to remain immaculate - never happened. White was not a functional color for me, nor for working staff. Therefore, I made the decision to put all the staff in the same color as uniform shirts, making us the same for uniformity.
Accreditation—One of the first major incentives that I had tried to chase was that of accreditation. Whether it be the state or the international level, it is more than a paper chase. This is going to require training for your staff. Oftentimes, it’s going to require new or updated equipment and even some structural changes. I can recall where both agencies that I worked at as a chief had very inadequate and antiquated evidence rooms and tracking systems for evidence and property. Matters not which accreditation you are considering; evidence and property handling and its security are major problem areas. This, in most cases, will require some brick-and-mortar work; not just mere paperwork. The other problem with accreditation is you have got to totally educate your staff on policies and procedures. This is going impact your personnel hours, specifically training hours. New accreditation standards training is not the most riveting training topic. My recommendation is to sprinkle these sessions about with a consistent pace. Roll call training, team training (SWAT or forensics may have specific standards) are often great venues for standards training without budget impact. I will say that you will have to create a new accreditation manager and give them both office support and your hand to move forward. This cannot be accomplished as a collateral duty.
Review Boards—I have also seen some chiefs that have the formation of review boards as a goal or condition of their employment. Now before you even accept the creation of a citizen review board or citizens advisory panels, depending on which state you are in, make sure you legally can do this. Before you accept any offer, make sure you can accomplish this goal. Should this agency have a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which may have specifics regarding such outside interference or already defined disciplinary and review policies, you may be wasting your time and money.
You may be accepting a challenge that is impossible and maybe illegal. It is important to remember that these boards require support, vetting and these are going to be more than couple of meetings. Note to self: Nothing is free, and these boards can get expensive. Make sure you have a budget increase to cover this board and their (and maybe your) legal fees to support and sustain them.
Volunteer programs came around especially after the community policing initiatives. All too often you see of more volunteer programs to help support the police and their programs.
Once again, these require vetting, equipping and training for them. You will also need a volunteer coordinator; in other words someone to wrangle them and keep them within their due bounds. This is all fun at first, like busy work for social butterflies, but police volunteers can go feral. I recommend that you review your CBA or any other agreements with your police officers. If volunteers interfere with paid police work or interfere with the employment of your sworn staff, there could be a fight. If your volunteers take away one paid job being sworn or administrative, expect to go to court, so this can be a balancing act the entire time. I have sometimes seen that volunteers have been a godsend to an agency, more especially say that of chaplains. But sometimes these also attract social butterflies to the police light, which their motives may be different than what they profess to be. If you have volunteers, keep them at arm’s length and watch them closely. Again, they can be an immense benefit but they can also create a lot of heartache.
Task Forces—I always recall when someone would come up with the idea of creating a “task force” - a lot of times we just refer to it as the “TF flavor of the month”. These are usually budget raiders because they were not budgeted/ funded to begin with. Next, you have got to pillage your staffing and someone’s budget to create these task forces. Anytime I hear the words ‘task force’ I always associated it to the word ‘program’ - because with every program there is a start date and an end date. Granted some task forces do morph into a permanent squad, group, or division. More often, as their work fades away, they will be returning to their prior assignments. And what does the task force require other than personnel and vehicles? There will always be new equipment—everybody has got to get new nicky-neat, specialized raid jackets, vests and baseball hats with the TF acronym on it. So, here we are again, Request information at Officer.com/10219227 let’s pillage someone else’s budget. I always ask some starter questions for discussion. One, what is the start date and what is going to be the end date? Are there any state or federal partners and if so - what assistance they can provide to you? What is the mission, statement, and training requirements? How will you measure success or failure? Because nothing comes free in police work and you must always use the “B word” … budget. In closing, all new initiatives must stand the final questions. Will it be fair or balanced to all - ethical? Is this legal? How can I explain this to the staff and taxpayers that this is money well spent?