Worth every minute: Books, tactics and training for police leaders

Help your teams excel by doing your part to stay educated and engaged


I’ve written a few pieces recently on items cops can purchase that are worth every penny for patrol officers and SWAT folks. There isn’t much wiggle room in the discretionary spending of a cop’s salary. There is, however, another finite resource that is even more valuable: time.

This is especially true for law enforcement leaders. A police supervisor’s job is reactive and therefore must come with necessary downtime. Otherwise, responding to calls for service would be nearly impossible.

Basic human nature during periods of low activity tends to make us want to shut down. After all, the internet is right behind the screen we are supposed to be working on. Still, that isn’t what’s best for either the leader or the folks who work under that individual. Perhaps, we should invest that downtime a little more wisely. Here are a few things I believe are worth every minute of our time.

The author is a big believer in self-education through books.
The author is a big believer in self-education through books. (Photo/Warren Wilson)

BOOKS

My appreciation for books will surprise no one who reads my articles. Books in either physical or audio format are relatively cheap, and the knowledge they provide is invaluable.

Rather than trying to convince you that knowledge is priceless, I’ve listed some recommendations for books that I believe are staples in the leadership learning library:

You’ll notice that not all of these suggestions are specific to law enforcement or even leadership. All of them, however, will make you a better leader and help you to help your troops become better cops. There are dozens of other great books besides those listed above. Email us your favorites.

TRAINING

You can learn a lot from books but there’s no substitute for in-person training. Actively seek out leadership training through your department. If or when you are turned down, document that fact and go anyway. Use vacation time and find a way to pay the tuition. I know that’s a big ask, but that knowledge may be the difference between a good day and a bad one. In our business, bad days may entail the worst possible consequences.

A less expensive way to seek out your own training may be the myriad online training options available today. Echelon Front is one such program. It costs $35 to $50 monthly to take this online program. The company provides testing and certificates for graduates, and that training is generally accepted as continuing education by most states. The classes are extremely well constructed and chock full of great real-world examples and re-enactments of actual situations.

If even that amount of money is prohibitive, there are always podcasts. Many experts in leadership and all things law enforcement have podcasts that are free to listen to with commercials. Take notes and learn as much as you can. Check out these suggestions from the Police1 team.

CATCH THEM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT

A police leader should go to calls even if their presence isn’t requested. Keep in mind that your mission is to guide not micromanage. You want to assist your officers and help them grow their knowledge and maturity. Most of all, try to catch them doing something right.

At one department I worked for, a fellow officer and I broke down a door and saved a woman’s life using CPR and an AED. No one noticed our efforts, yet an administrator received a commendation for helping someone change a tire. A year or so later, that same officer and I tracked down and caught a murderer during the chaotic aftermath of the killing. Again, no one noticed.

I was a little disheartened, but the lack of positive reinforcement had a strong negative effect on my much younger partner. Our supervisors failed us on those occasions. I swore I’d never make an error of omission like that with my people.

The first chance I got to cement that personal principle as a new field supervisor was during a search for a fugitive who had evaded us for several weeks. Two of our particularly talented officers asked me for some time during the shift overlap to chase down some leads they believed would end in the apprehension of the felon.

My trust in those officers paid off. I went with them, and we spotted the subject at the location the officers were certain he’d be, at the time they believed he’d be there. We were able to take him into custody without incident.

Afterward, I took the extra step of calling the newspaper and updating them on the capture since they’d been running with the story for a few weeks at that point. I was careful to leave my name out of the story about the capture. I enjoy the loyalty and trust of those street cops to this very day.

BE HERE NOW

There’s a common leadership principle called “be here now.” It means when a subordinate comes to you and asks for your time, drop what you are doing and be there for them. Incompletely answering a question can result in a bad report or a bad case that results in a bad court outcome. When one of your cops asks if you've got a minute, close out the internet browser, look them in the eye and actively listen to what they are asking you.

Be here now. Never miss an opportunity to be a mentor and grow a great cop and possibly even a future leader. You never know when those minutes you invested will pay off in decades of quality service to your community.  

NEXT: Why increasing officer morale should be a priority for every police leader

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