Keys to successful police leadership

Every organization has a mission and the only way to accomplish it is through people

Editor's Note: We’re proud to celebrate the official release of Arresting Communication, by Lt. Jim Glennon, which is now available for purchase from PoliceOne Books with a 20 percent discount for P1 members who enter code P1AC.

By Lt. Jim Glennon, Lombard, IL (ret.)

I’m the son of a Chicago Cop. My Dad was the son of a Chicago Cop. My dad was only on the job for about seven years while my Granddad served for more than 30. I was a cop for eleven years when I made sergeant in 1991. After I got my brand new shiny gold badge I drove over to my parent’s house to show it off.

A few minutes after my arrival, Dad told me to follow him into his bedroom. This order caused a stir in my psyche as I had a flashback to when I was around 13 years of age. In that instance, Dad was charged by my mother to give me a talk about the birds and the bees. As I sat on the bed I noticed my Dad seemed confused and even nervous. He paced, he paused, and paced some more all while rubbing his head and hands. Finally he turned, pointed his finger at my face and said, “You’d better never get anybody pregnant! Any questions?” I remember thinking, “Yeah, about a million of ‘em, but I don’t think you’re the one to ask.” So I just shook my head and said, “Nope.” Relieved, Dad the sexologist then said to me, “OK, go tell your mother we talked.”

But this time, my Dad was direct and serious. He asked me as I sat down, “Do you know why I quit the police department?”

“Yeah, you were having kids like rabbits (I’m the oldest of nine) and you were making more money two days a week covering pipe than five days a week driving a patrol car.”

He said to me, “Yeah that’s partly right — and what I’ve told you for years — but that’s only part of the reason. The bigger reason is because I couldn’t trust my sergeants. They were all captains’ kids and only cared about their own careers. Several of us quit because they wouldn’t back us up.”

I saw a different side of my father as I heard a different side to his reason for giving up a job he obviously loved. To keep this short I’ll summarize what he very purposely impressed upon me that night. And while the words and terminology aren’t exactly his, the meanings and point most definitely are.

“The only reason sergeants exist is to take care of the patrol officers.”

He added that making any organization successful is pretty simple as long as you focus on two things: Mission and People. Every organization has a mission and the only way to accomplish it is through people. So you have to develop a relationship with those in your charge and communicate both what you expect and who you are. Above all, they have to trust you.

So when I made lieutenant I thought the best way to create this relationship was through communication and to make it official I put it to paper and passed out my one page “Mission and Purpose” statement three times a year. I offer it here unedited. And while I took some grief from a few supervisors about putting such things in writing, I found this to be perhaps the smartest thing I ever did in my 13 years as a Commander (though that smart list is pretty short).

Shift Mission Statement

Enforce laws, arrest those who need arresting
Treat the majority of people with dignity and respect
Provide service and assist others
Have fun and enjoy your work!
Be the best shift on the department

General Management Philosophy - Create an Atmosphere of Trust!

1. Line level officers/personnel are the most important elements of the entire organization.
2. The supervisor’s main responsibility is to be of service to line personnel.
3. The officer’s main responsibility is to enforce laws and be of service to the citizens.
4. We need your ideas, input, concerns, observations, etc.
5. If we (supervisors) are doing something that is counterproductive, ineffective and/or just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense you have to let us know.
6. Make decisions and act on them. We trust you enough to give you a gun and make life and death decisions, therefore, we trust you enough to make common sense ones. Assisting people, giving them rides home, etc. do not need permission from supervisors. Just advise over the radio of your status and intentions.

General Guidelines for Officers

1. Safety

• Try to have back-up when making arrests (if applicable)
• Listen to your radio and pay attention to your MDTs
• Use good tactics (verbal and D.T.)
• Be reasonable for Code 3 responses, think about what you are going on

2. Remain professional. Remember people are emotional beings. Take nothing personally.

3. Be on time and ready to respond in full uniform. Bring AED, phone, etc. to squad

4. Use unallocated time proactively. Stop cars, interact with people, be a visible deterrent.

5. Reports

• Thorough and complete and include times and places (e.g. Miranda)
• Include all PC and elements of offenses & narrative or bullet is acceptable
• Prepare yourself to have them “kicked back” for revisions
• Get permission to leave an incomplete and finish them upon return to duty

6. Breaks — be aware of public perception / clean up the break room / limit time in station

7. Assist each other in maintaining professionalism (i.e. tempers, attitude towards the public)

8. Shift files

• open to inspection & will be used for both positive and negative
• destroyed after evaluation year + 1
• let us know when someone does well (including outside agencies and people)

9. Check your email, voicemail, and mailboxes everyday

10. Overtime — you must advise your shift supervisor if you will be staying over to complete work

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