4 tips for improving officer morale
Improving the quality of your cops’ lives doesn’t have to be expensive
I usually write about technology in police work, but with the annual IACP Conference ongoing this week, there was a call to ask what changes individuals would like to see if they were chief. This list is one created from the experience of fifteen years as a cop and a lot of time since teaching and writing about it.
In every community I’ve lived in, news reports of significant police involvement in an incident tend to be anonymous. “Officers of the Anytown Police Department arrested Ishmael D. Maladroit, age 42...”
The only time an individual officer is named is if he is killed or charged with a crime. Everyone in a police agency contributes to its success, but arrests are generally made by a single officer or maybe a few of them. Why not give them a minute in the sun? When your cops take a bad guy off the street in a newsworthy way, get that cop’s name and picture on the news. There will be times when this is inappropriate, of course, and some cops may ask specifically to be left out of that program. Honor those wishes, but if the individual doesn’t opt out, he probably won’t mind everyone knowing that he did well that day.
Blow Your Own Horn
That sends the wrong message.
On any given shift, officers respond to calls for service, write tickets, take crime reports, arrest drunk drivers, investigate accidents, and perform all of the other functions that consume a cop’s day. If there’s nothing else to report, report that. Say how many calls there were, how many arrests made, how many tickets written. Pick the most interesting report out of the stack and summarize it for the reporter. Do something to send the message that every day is a busy day, and your troops haven’t been sitting around drinking coffee all shift.
Find Things to Celebrate
Congratulate them when they complete a college degree, have another kid, get married, or get an exceptional performance review. You shouldn’t have to look hard to find at least as many events to celebrate as to condemn.
Create a Clear Career Path
Why not put together a list of these for each of the coveted assignments in your agency, and publish them to the troops?
Make it known that vacancies in these jobs don’t occur often, but when they do, the candidates who have accomplished the most of the items on the list will get top consideration. Don’t be afraid to make some of the qualifications tasks that can take years to complete — this is intended for people who know what they want and are willing to work for it. Just make sure that all of the items are accessible to everyone. It won’t do to have “attend and complete the FBI National Academy” on the list when you have to be someone’s special friend to get an invitation to go.
Doing all of those things won’t guarantee they’ll get the golden ring, but it can improve their chances considerably.
Get Back to the Tools
Don’t stick to just the day shift — rotate around to all the shifts and all the geographical areas and see what people are dealing with. If you’ve been off the street for a long time, ride with a field training officer who can keep you out of trouble, but take calls and otherwise behave like a street grunt, not as an executive on a VIP tour. You’ll greatly improve your image with the troops, and maybe understand some problem areas that were otherwise invisible to you.
You can be a manager or a leader. You can manage things, like cars, reports, or stocks of uniforms, but you have to lead people.
|Back to previous page|