March 16, 2022 | View as webpage | Too many emails? Update Subscription Preferences

The findings of Police1's second annual State of the Industry survey make for worrisome reading. While many of the 2,300+ LEOs we surveyed still find job satisfaction in serving the community and fighting crime, the profession continues to be plagued by low morale. Few cops responding to the survey would encourage others to join the profession. And a majority had substantial concerns about agency leadership, with respect to both external relations and internal management practices.

In today's newsletter, Lexipol Editorial Director Greg Friese summarizes key quotes from a recent webinar where our panel of experts discussed the survey results and Police1 Columnist Chief Joel Shults identifies what police executives can do to bridge the communication chasm between officers and their leaders.

Stay safe,

— Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, Police1
9 memorable quotes on leading LEOs from the ‘What cops want’ webinar
By Greg Friese, MS, NRP 

The thousands of police officers who responded to Police1’s annual State of the Industry survey were nearly unanimous in their request for leaders who knew, cared and supported them.

Three law enforcement experts – Janay Gasparini, Bob Harrison and Barry Reynolds – explored the impact of the survey’s findings for first-line supervisors, chiefs and sheriffs during a recent webinar.

The discussion, which included answering attendee questions, focused on the importance of high-quality leadership, training and mentoring of patrol officers and field personnel by their direct supervisors.

Be real, check in and educate the public

Janay Gasparini, Ph.D., is a proud former police officer who served as a police instructor, FTO and crime scene technician. Gasparini has taught collegiate criminal justice courses since 2009. During the “What Cops Want in 2022” webinar Gasparini gave police leaders specific ways to improve buy-in from their patrol officers. Here are four actionable quotes from her discussion:

  • “Be transparent, be honest, open, approachable, be real and admit mistakes. These are things that officers feel make a strong leader – someone who they can look up to, someone with whom they want to work with and who they want to do well for.”
  • “Something very specific you can implement immediately is a check in, either biweekly or monthly, with an officer’s direct supervisor, for the purpose of gaining feedback and constructive guidance. Officers are specifically asking for this kind of leadership and communication, and this aligns with what we know about younger generations and how they best function in a work environment.” 
  • “Seize all opportunities to educate the public about the realities of police work, managing expectations and providing facts and statistics. It means something to police officers to have their leadership out there going to bat for them and explaining the work in a measured, professional way.”

Engage, support and love your officers

Bob Harrison is a retired police chief who is an adjunct researcher with the non-profit, non-partisan RAND Corporation. He is also a course manager for the CA POST Command College. Bob consults with police agencies in California and beyond on strategy, leadership and innovation. Harrison’s comments about leadership during the webinar were based on his comprehensive review of the survey findings and decades of experience in the profession. Here are three quotes from Harrison about how leaders can engage, support and love their officers:

  • “There is nothing more important than generating trust and creating or sustaining the engagement of staff to set a foundation for successful policing. So that means not just relying on your recruiters, but that every officer and deputy, every member of the professional staff recruits for the organization, that if people had a choice, they would choose us.”
  • "The reputation of a policing agency is built one contact at a time. Inside the organization, trust and leadership are built one officer at a time. It's about knowing patrol officers as individuals, loving them and being interested in them.”
  • “Good leaders tell great stories. They tell stories about your department’s future and give people an understanding of the future, both inside the organization and in the community.”

Leadership is everyone’s responsibility

Barry Reynolds is the director of The Center for Excellence in Public Safety Leadership and an associate professor of criminal justice at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. Reynolds has over 35 years of professional experience, including 31 years as a law enforcement officer and supervisor. Reynolds dug into the challenges of integrating leadership development into organizational culture. Here are three memorable quotes from Reynolds about the responsibility of leadership and why most officers put on the uniform  to make a difference:

  • “Are we developing managers within our organizations or are we developing leaders? A manager's role is to manage and minimize potential negative impacts of things, whether it's a critical incident or managing an investigative services bureau. A leader's role is to build people, to develop people, to enhance the organization, to build from within the organization, to empower other people and to encourage them to become leaders of themselves.”
  • “I like to say that we work in a profession of heroes. I'd like to see us work in a profession where we have as many leaders as we have heroes. That's a concept of fierce leadership – the idea that leadership does not attach to a rank or a position or a supervisory level, it's everyone's responsibility within an organization. We all hold that same responsibility, some hold it in a different area or a different level, but that doesn't mean that we're not all responsible.”
  • "Take a minute and remind ourselves that the reason we put the uniform on every day, the reason that we got into this profession to begin with, is to serve that noble cause, to be something greater than ourselves, to be a part of something more significant. Each day we have an opportunity to help somebody.”

Watch the webinar

Every law enforcement leader who wants to give their officers the support they need to perform at their peak and take immediate steps to improve officer morale should view the on-demand recording of this discussion. Click here to view the webinar. 

Are leaders willing to hear from the cops on the beat?
By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D. 

In the management section of bookstores, there are volumes about leadership. Most of those authors urge that leaders communicate with their teams.

Collaboration is key. Listening is key. Feedback is key.

In practice, leaders who share their thoughts and genuinely exercise humility and trust in their teams are a rare breed. The ideal process of collaborating is time-consuming and takes work. But are leaders willing to hear from the cops on the beat?

Police1 recently explored this question as part of the second annual State of the Industry survey that asked, “What do cops want from their leadership?" The short answer: agency, defined by Webster in this context as “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.” 

The value of feeling valued

Police officers need to feel valued by their supervisors and leaders. Police1's survey showed that most officers believed that their needs play second fiddle to mollifying the public when their leaders speak to the media, only roughly half believe they are supported when leaders speak to the press.

When asked if their agency asks officers for input on policy updates, less than 5% of respondents strongly agreed and only 18% agreed. Some quick rounding math tells us that policies affecting the work of police officers are developed and imposed without the input of 75% of officers. Half of respondents stated that they have never been asked for feedback on policy, training, or personnel issues.

Is it any wonder that so many law enforcement officers feel distant from their leadership and cynical about police executives’ decisions?

The importance of feedback

While two-thirds of officers would want to meet with supervisors at least monthly or more frequently and about two-thirds have had one-to-one meetings in the month prior to taking the survey, supervisors could improve in the areas of providing regular constructive feedback on officers’ performance according to 45% of respondents.

Approximating responses to the survey leads to an average of slightly more than 50% positive answers to questions like whether officers receive recognition from supervisors, helping learn from mistakes, sharing important information and valuing input.

Supervisors get generally high marks when officers take the initiative to offer suggestions and conveying problems, weighing in at 75%-80%. What this reveals is that of the three communication paths of telling, listening and asking, the major deficit is leadership’s willingness to take the initiative to seek out input from officers. They want and need to be asked for feedback on the issues.

Only half of the respondents could state that they knew how their performance was measured by their agency, and only 39% felt that their department supports officers with mental health issues.

Communicating about critical issues

When it comes to police reform an abysmal 16% of survey respondents said that leadership regularly communicates with them about this issue. The significance of this absence of dialog should not be underestimated.

Other survey questions indicate that 65% of officers report that verbal abuse from bystanders has increased, 50% say that their community does not know what they do, fewer than half say their leadership effectively educates their community, and only 54% say that their leadership actively advocates for more resources for officer safety. Officers’ identity and future are at stake, especially since only 10% say they would encourage someone to become a police officer, and 80% do not see a bright future for the profession.

Commanders must be collaborative 

Police officers are not collaborative in most of their daily work. They order, they gather only the most essential facts and they rely on coercion when resisted. They make unilateral decisions that carry the force of law. They may work in teams but with a designated leader who is to be obeyed. As they move up the ranks, those command skills tend to remain as the template for decision-making.

The collaborative process, in contrast, involves selecting persons who will be affected by the matter being considered with the predetermined intention of valuing their input. An accurate question must be framed, ideally developed through its own collaborative process, to focus the discussion. This involves more than telling and more than listening, it must include asking and respecting the responses.

Tell, listen, ask

What can supervisors, leaders and executives do in response to these perceptions? All three skills – telling, listening and asking – have room for improvement. Leaders may get their feelings hurt by hearing that officers don’t feel valued, but remember that surveys about feelings and opinions are all about perception. If the chief, sergeant, or lieutenant is doing their darndest to advocate for and defend their officers but that isn’t appreciated, it is a sign that the communication triad of tell, listen, ask has some gaps. Based on the survey, the major gap is failing to take the initiative to ask and engage. An open-door policy is good, but walking out of that door is better.

NEXT: Download more survey findings here.


spacer.gif BE ADVISED

3. How the 30x30 initiative aims to advance women in policing: In this episode of Policing Matters, host Jim Dudley chats with the co-founders of the 30x30 Initiative about how the initiative aims to assist departments in recruiting more female officers.

2. Women in rural law enforcement: From chief to CHP officer to game warden, female cops patrol some of the most rural spots in the nation.

1. Women leaders in law enforcement: What does “leadership at all levels” mean is the question the California Highway Patrol asked six women working in law enforcement at various agencies, positions and ranks.

Police1 does not send unsolicited messages. You are receiving this email because you are a Police1 member and subscribed to this newsletter.
If you do not want to receive this newsletter, you can opt-out here.
If you no longer wish to receive any email messages from Police1, click here to unsubscribe from all mailings. 
Copyright © 2022 Lexipol. 2611 Internet Blvd., Ste. 100, Frisco, TX 75034.