Maybe it's me, for I can be a cranky old chief at times but sometimes maybe I don't get it. The other day the phone rang, it was another chief with a question. He had a dilemma; seems that chief had recently pulled a detective out of narcotics. Now the former detective does not want to adjust back to uniform. What should I tell this chief? After choking on my coffee, I had to ask some more information from the bewildered caller.
Job Descriptions and life
I did not care why this detective was rotated back to uniformland - maybe it was time. However, there seems to be some phenomena that occur from young patrol officer to special assignment then back again. Once you are promoted from the Land of Patrol, it becomes a disgrace to your ancestors if you have to return. Maybe I forgot but every one of us took the job to be a patrol officer, not detective, forensics, traffic or whatever. You were ecstatic to have gotten the job and now you despise it. I am confused.
First and foremost, I always ask people if they ever fully read their job description. Then I ask, well did you read it in a language that you understand. It was not written in some ancient tongue; you must have agreed to it at some point. You understood it and accepted it as grounds for employment, then what happened? You become entitled or you gained instant intelligence?
Let's look at this realistically. In the real world of employment you are hired and paid to produce widgets. So, today you do not want to produce widgets any more. Then why are you here? Let's face this problem head-on. You have developed what I call selective employment syndrome. You have selected what employment you want to do; not what your boss wants you to do. This malady affects many at one time or the other. We have all had ups and downs but manage to pull ourselves out of it or had visionary bosses that directed us. What is important here is that if you do not pull yourself out, it is necessary for somebody else to do it for you.
Diagnosis and cures
If a supervisor does not recognize the danger signs of selective employment syndrome, the cure for it will be painful. The employee must have goals, mentoring and motivation to move forward or to accept new challenges/assignments. The "no news is good news" analogy is bad for the employee's organizational health. Informed employees make better decisions and move toward the unit's goal, not their goal. Their goal could be to not make widgets for a few days and production plummets. Employee mentoring with performance evaluations will keep the employee informed and on course. Conversely, an employee without direction is one that has no purpose and will seek their own goal (no widgets still!).
How does this equate to policework? Simple; supervisors must communicate to their officers their missions, unit goal and assist them in being productive. You can not have cops out there running on osmosis - it takes real supervision. A movie quote from Cool Hand Luke is to 'get your mind right'. Most employees want appreciation for their work and contributions. This can be a thankless job. Praise and directions are the plans for successful young officers. If you are shoving officers out of the door after roll call without guidance, you are setting them, yourself and the agency up for disaster. By the way - back to the original phone call - how do you get a high speed guy back to patrol thinking? Put the officer back on a traffic detail, either directing traffic or working parking violations. It is an accepted duty; everyone will see he or she back in uniform; there is not time to interact and tell their story of how they were wronged. Working in uniform doing basic police job description duties will get their mind right and set them back to the basics. They do not need to be retrained but reintroduced to the basics of the business. After all, this alone was a job they wanted then and should be again. Welcome this guy back but with good supervision.