3 ways new line supervisors can gain and secure officers’ loyalty
Everyone in law enforcement loves driving in a super clean vehicle, so I set up a Deputy of the Month program where winners get their assigned take-home squad detailed
I always promised myself that when I became a supervisor, I would strive to be the kind of boss that I, as a deputy, would enjoy working for. During my time as a supervisor, I did a few things that I think got me there.
If you’re a new line-level supervisor, consider stealing these ideas as a means of ensuring your bond with your troops is strong. If you’re a seasoned supervisor, add your ideas on this topic in the comments area below.
1. Citations and Slices
I was a new sergeant now responsible for a large shift of deputies. I was also in a new patrol district — working with many deputies I had never served with — and I wanted to connect with the shift.
One midnight shift, a number of deputies were being assigned to traffic enforcement. I drove out to the location to pick a spot for our radar operation to set up, and formulated a plan for the detail. The deputies writing the citations would ride two to a vehicle. The radar operator would observe the speeding vehicle and inform a deputy team of the speed, direction, and vehicle information.
The first deputy team in the line would do the traffic stop, and the next team would prepare to take the next call over the radio from the radar operator.
The other deputies would be lined up to move forward to the next position to stop the next speeder. Once this started I left briefly and brought back pizzas. The deputy team returning from writing a citation would cycle to the last position in line; there they would grab a slice of pizza and a drink. The rotation continued for about two hours.
The assignment was a success, the deputies had dinner on me, and the gesture spread like wildfire. I had immediately established camaraderie with the shift.
2. A Detailed Ride
Nothing shows more support for the troops than actual support. I remember when I received Deputy of the Month, Unit of the Year, and other such acknowledgments, the joy and satisfaction I felt was immeasurable. I wanted to work harder and did. When I received Deputy of the Month, it was a certificate or letter presented during roll call and then it was right back to work.
Once I was comfortable with being a sergeant, I decided to do something a bit different. When I nominated one of the deputies on my shift for Deputy of the Month and they received the honor, that deputy had their take-home vehicle professionally cleaned and detailed in addition to the written certificate and ceremony. Everyone in law enforcement loves driving in a super clean vehicle. This was my way of thanking the deputy for an outstanding job. At first I covered the cost until the concept caught on and it became part of the award process. This was just another way of developing loyalty between the supervisor and the troops.
3. The UOF Chair
From 2002 to 2007, I was assigned to the busiest district in our department — a department of more than 6,000 LEOs. During that time I served as a detective sergeant, crime suppression team leader, and patrol sergeant. This was an extremely active inner city district and every night was full of arrests, chases, and all the problems associated with such activity.
We filled out a significant number of use-of-force reports. Anytime a deputy used pepper spray, TASER, baton (collapsible or regular size, PR-24, nunchaku), or certain defensive tactics techniques, a two sided Use of Force Report was required to be completed prior to end of shift. The front side was fill-in the blanks and boxes and the other side was for a deputy narrative and supervisor review with their own narrative.
Some nights there were many such reports that needed to be completed. This documentation went up the chain of command to the district chief and a copy went to IA and Training. Luckily there were enough sergeants on shift to handle both the large amount of calls for service and the piles of paperwork that was needed to document everything.
The concept I developed — the Use of Force Chair — arose from a need to keep on top of the daily stack of reports that needed a supervisor’s signature before the end of the shift. Because it was my responsibility to document if the force was within policy, I would call the deputy in after their reports were complete, and the deputy would sit in a chair next to my desk and we would review the report and discuss it.
To my advantage, I was the chief defensive tactics instructor for the department as well as an instructor at the police academy for a number of years, so I knew our policy thoroughly. If the action taken by the deputy was within policy, I noted that, completed my narrative, and forwarded a copy up the chain. If the action of the deputy was commendable, I would also complete a Letter of Commendation and forward that up the chain of command.
If the action taken was out of policy — which was rare— the deputy knew that he or she should prepare for further investigation into the incident. This was a clear example of a supervisor taking the time to make sure the troops had the opportunity to interact one on one. When I had to use force, I completed the same form and then met with the command staff. At that level, for me, there was not a use of force chair, but for the deputies if was just another way of being there for them. Letting them know we had their back.
These and other concepts worked in bringing the shift closer. The streets are a dangerous place, the courtroom is an adversarial place; even the chief’s office can be a scary place. The shift supervisor’s office should be a safe place; a haven where mistakes are corrected, praise given, and one can remove their ballistic vest.