The following internal affairs or complaint reducing steps are a good start to lower an agencies complaint or disciplinary problems. This short list is introductory and topical. Readers should look into each one of these areas and compare the information to how they do business and then make improvements where needed. Seek this information out. Self-study it and become knowledgeable and skilled at these steps. This may minimally reduce complaints, poor officer and agency image, internal investigations, discipline, litigation, and civil liability.
#1) Random Review of In-Car/Body-Cam Videos
Supervisors have a tremendous tool, that if used properly, can identify little problems before they become big problems. Randomly reviewing the in-car recorded video or body cam video allows you to be everywhere at once and to provide improvement, direction, training, and some risk management.
#2) Confronting the Small Things
Nip it in the bud. Don’t shrug your shoulders and be afraid to act to confront and correct the small things, because they will grow bigger. Stop the F-bombs, stop the trash talk about other people or the department, stop laziness, lateness, or poor attitudes. Remember, you teach what you tolerate.
#3) Understand that Everything is Risk Management
Police Officers don’t realize it, but they are experts in risk management (RM) and RM is all around them. All they need to do is take their blinders off to see it. Background investigations (RM), the treads in your tires (RM), the body armor your wear (RM), the rail bolted to the wall near the stairs (RM), your sunglasses (RM), telling your kids not to run in the street (RM), hollow-point bullets (RM), a home fire alarm (RM), the airbag in your steering wheel (RM), policy (RM), using toothpaste (RM), the F.T.O. program (RM), a pedestrian check standing gun-side away (RM), the freeway bumps that wake you up when you fall asleep (RM)…get it?
#4) Passing Off Angry People to the Supervisor
If you have argued with someone and you know no matter what you say or how you say it, the angry, confrontational, crazy, emotional, swearing person is not going to get it and is just going to keep confronting you and threatening to have your job or sue you, consider passing them off to the supervisor while you go about your car storage, investigation, interviews, or evidence collection in peace. That, in part, are what sergeants are for. Many feel a sense of satisfaction that they got to speak top the boss, all the while, as you do your work and avoid fighting or arresting them.
#5) Decision Dynamics
Find a system…your system for making good decisions. Study this subject. Learn the art of great decision making. A bad decision at the wrong time in the wrong place could end your career, cause incarceration, split up your family, or get you or someone else killed. Have a personal strategy, use your time and don’t rush in, avoid decisions while emotions are high, and use every resource you have.
#6) Tonality is a Huge Part of Your Communication Effectiveness
Use your tone or tonality like a scalpel. The tone of your voice can be considered the bass, treble, and equalizer for the human voice and it accounts for about 38% of your communication effectiveness. We are experts at pissing off others not by what we say, but rather…how we say it. Control your tone and you control your message.
#7) Audits and Inspections
Management by walking around. Inspect your staff and inspect your facility and equipment. Don’t look for everything wrong, look for all that is right and the bad stuff will jump out at you. Conduct audits on performance, statistics, and an officer’s committed vs. non-committed hours…are they working? If not, why not and why aren’t you correcting the problem? Get out from behind your desk and look around.
#8) Take Your Time
Fools rush in. Emergencies are rare; take your time. Consult your staff (360 degree feedback), as all of us are smarter than one of us; take your time. Phone a friend; take your time. Check policy, case law, or call your boss; take your time. Think about it, contemplate it, weigh the pros and cons and consider the consequences; take your time. Doing things in a rush or haphazardly is a recipe for things to go sideways.
#9) Keep Your Boss in the Loop
A sergeant and a lieutenant are a Command Team [emphasis added]. Keep your boss appraised of what is going on. As a sergeant, you serve as the lieutenants right arm and the lieutenant does the same for the captain. Know what his or her expectations are and communicate constantly. Few things will ruin your day more than keeping things from your boss and then having them find out about it through someone else. This eliminates a very important thing called TRUST.
#10) Don’t be Afraid of Discipline
Never ever shy away from discipline. We have vilified discipline, despite it being one of our best tools in promoting professionalism. Discipline is not bad, it’s good and has saved many careers. If you are supervising a group of officers and and through your actions, you feel like you are being the uncool Mom or Dad, you’re probably on the right path. Always fall on the side of policy, standards, ethics, and professional conduct and if an officer gets written up or a few days off, consider him or her as lucky to have learned a valuable lesson that might save their career in the near future. Discipline is a form of protection over your staff. If you love your officers, be firm with them. Make them better, safer, and smarter today then they were yesterday.