Day 507 of DECOMPRESSION.
It's funny how the job never leaves you no matter how much time goes by. The stress and the decompression waves come and go in phases.
The first phase you are still amped up, listening to every bump in the night, watching around every corner, gun at side.
The second phase happened along the time my second marriage also failed, so much of that can be attributed alongside the divorce. Weight gain, weight loss. Mind racing. Emotional roller coasters. I don't like myself in this phase.
The third phase is getting your big girl panties on and dealing with it. The career is over. Regular schedule. New job. Regular parenting duties.
Find something to do. Focus. Next goal. Next step. Future plans. New career. Focus.
Writing, running, gardening, trap shooting, entering grad school. Emotional roller coaster. Lost of identity. Lost and lonely. Leveling of the spirit. Very sad and confused stage, no direction.
The fourth phase is trying to find your Zen. I don't know if I am in this phase or about to enter this phase, but I think I am close to one of those. Yep, it makes sense in my mind. With that...I don't know if any of this post will make sense, but it is coming out right now.
One thing is for certain, my mindset is still in cop mode, although I am well aware I am not one. I am OK with that now. I can't stop noticing traffic infractions, watching license plates, looking around corners like a paranoid zombie gamer.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have found myself stirring up the locals by commenting in the hometown newspaper (the other homeland) and being outspoken on The Boogie Man Is My Friend Facebook page:
You can see additional comments and other newspaper articles reference the hub bub on the Facebook page, but this details my comment as "Fargo". My comment was even mildly spoken as you know how I have a tendency to give out in the open, sometimes without diplomacy or tact. If uproar happens over this, I can only imagine what would happen if someone would make a constructive suggestion to THE MAN. Nuclear fallout happened on my Facebook page from the city manager, the former mayor, her husband- a former lieutenant, to several others who defriended me like I had the cyberspace plague.
So with the above background, I am going to lay out some problems I have found over the years with various leaders-which does not discount their effectiveness-just problems I saw festered over a time frame into disgruntled workers, burn out, and loss of morale. Yes, these are MY opinions. You might not agree. It also is a short list so you don't leave me-so don't hate the messenger for not including everything.
1. The numbers game. We all know there are numbers and standards and the old forbidden words of "quotas". Disguise it as fluffy as you like, it all comes down to the numbers game. I refused to play. Sometimes I was substandard in one category or another. Now keep in mind, our standards were very high because an average of all those blue flaming rookies jacked it up there. I just always argued there was more to a cop than traffic tickets. Put a little spotlight on the officer as a whole, anyone can write a ticket. What did not count in your numbers: training recruits, negotiating barricaded subjects, processing crime scenes, interview and interrogation skills, street survival skills, knowledge, experience, communication skills, any specialties, or core concepts. We smarties and wonder brains can read between the lines and know the numbers game is for padding stats. Why? So the chief can justify more officers, more equipment, more staff. Duh. It's about money.
2. Rewards. Awards. No toaster ovens. They don't happen. We joke about it. Over the years cops have said they are not appreciated and have little to no recordings of their "above and beyond." Now "above and beyond" or as we say in law enforcement-commendation letters-are subjective to whoever nominates a person. We had committees, we had supervisors only, we tried everything to be fair and it never was, but it was better than nothing. Enter-officer of year based on numbers only, enter training officer of the year-voted on by training officer peers, enter detective of the year-selected by the detective sergeant and lieutenant. Then these awards bled onto support staff, community members, dispatch, and victim services. It was all done with good intentions, but then it had backlash. I don't think you can make any one department happy and certainly not every officer. There has got to be a better way, I keep thinking to myself by being able to be fair and award the troops, without it being all about the stat monger. Sometimes just a good word from your supervisor or a citizen was a big boost. It didn't always have to be on paper, but that was nice, too. I just wanted my paper awards to be extraordinary and well-deserved. If I ever got one for the most traffic tickets, I might have gritted my teeth and then never done that again. I shouldn't be so harsh. We need all kinds to run the department! I just don't want it to be the only basis for being a good cop.
3. The good ol' boy network. You know what is funny about this term? It happens under EVERY chief, EVERY administration. It isn't always the "old ones". In fact, in the last two administrations, veterans were the castaways. I've come to know the term "good 'ol boy network" refers to the administration favorites-they could be young and they could be veterans. It used to have a different meaning. It has a derogatory connotation like someone is on their knees a lot of their duty time or does nothing to get somewhere. This could be true. You know what? Who gives a fuck. Do your damn job, and who care who likes who and who sucks who's dick. There are times when it is frustrating that a person gets promoted because they are a friend of the chief and maybe weren't the best selection. Sometimes down the road the department reaps what they sow with those types. However, there were minimum standards and testing that got them on the list. Suck it up.
4. Lack of career development. This is the worst of all. If you lack career development and good training paths, you suck as a department. You stagnate. You have inexperience overriding common sense and knowledge. Often times this bleeds onto veterans because the department doesn't want to invest in anyone over the age of 15. TRUE STORY. Such short sighted thinking. I tried to drill home the importance of all this but it fell on deaf ears. This above all else pissed me off to flying off the handle. I did that at home, well sort of, kind of. OK. Sometimes, I let my supervisor know that was a crock of shit.
5. Dismissing the average police officers. You are only as good as your dumbest officer. Make these people rise up. Help them move up in training, strengths, career development, skill sets, or make them move out. How hard is that. Don't brush them under the rug. Don't keep putting them in the corner either. Make them tow the rope or walk the plank.
6. Not taking care of personnel issues. OK. So your cop gets in a bar fight-what do you do? So your training officer sleeps with their rookie-what happens? You have a cop get a DUI-what now? You have a cop constantly having domestic issues and family fights-what do you do? You have a cop who is unprofessional on a call or in a public setting and a complaint arises-what is the method of dealing with such complaints? You have a cop get accused of immoral behavior on and off duty-what next? You have a cop whosteals, does drugs-what does the department do as an action plan? What happens when you have a cop get drunk at the county park or lake and fires off his or her weapon in a drunken rage into the air as a joke-what happens?Now some of these cases you terminate the person. I bet you would be surprised how each are handled and why it is subjective and not policy. Also, several policies are created because of these occurrences and often because of police rules and regulations you can't terminate. More today than yesterday, these acts may be the result of someone getting terminated, but I can tell you, I know cops whose careers have survived through these things. Some even got promoted. Fuck up, you move up. You know you've heard those terms. It is a result of someone surviving if they are part of the good 'ol boy network or not. Here's what I think. You have a set of standards. You fall off the set standards and rules, you are gone, you are disciplined, or you abide by the consequences set. NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE. I never did understand why some got away with things and some didn't even if it was the same issue. I did understand it came from poor management decisions and some things fall under counsel versus discipline or both. Some of this would fall under Internal Affairs. If this part of your department is cutthroat or weak, you have a problem. You have to find middle ground, fairness, and face the fact that the department's liability comes before your best friend's job and feelings. If they screwed up, they have to pay the piper.
"I'm a leader, not a follower. Unless it's a dark place and then you're going first." Have you heard that before? Although funny, it does ring true with "those types". I know you know some.
7. Keeping the officer down. This is the theory that a department supervisor or administration does not want anyone to excel and they need to stay average. What, you say? Yes, it happens. They don't want you to reach for the stars, excel at what you do, or market a set of skills or training to outside agencies, but just keep it all in-house. It doesn't make sense. It is really narrow minded and stifles a law enforcement career, plus blows the revenue generating possibilities. There is another side. What if you have a supervisor who doesn't want you to be better than him or her? Yikes. Ego problems. I know this sounds crazy, but it has happened more than once in my career under different administrations and/or supervisors and I have seen it with other level employees-i.e. dispatchers, support staff, officers as well. I dont' get it. Make your people better than you are. Rise them up. It benefits the organization. I have seen departments who are light years above others because of the career development and investment they put into their people.
8. NOT listening and close mindedness. Things fall on deaf ears if the ears don't want the idea generation. A chief cannot simply be right or an effective leader all of the time without input from the bottom up. Closed ears have closed minds. Along these same lines are supervisors who forgot how to get their hands dirty. Once in a while it was nice to see the lieutenant get out on the street on a call and be your backup, or even take over the call. Funniest thing was when one of the chiefs I worked under asked for assistance on a traffic stop. He was pissed off and said, "Davison, I need a fucking traffic ticket. This mother-fucker is dangerous and I have had it. I was on my way home, but I had to pull him over." I handed the chief the ticket and watched him struggle to fill it out and ask me questions. (((EVIL GRIN))) I also had respect for him that he did that. When the boss is down in the trenches with you, they can see better with their vision. I'm not talking about their eyes.
9. Using sub par equipment, letting vests go outdated. My department did remedy this issue, but I have seen many departments float by on crap equipment. Some officers take it upon themselves to buy the equipment they need to do the job, but the department should supply them with duty specific needs. Our department really stepped up its game with equipment in the 2000s. There is always room for improvement, but I felt properly equipped. If there was a gap, I bought what I needed. It's pretty bad when nearby departments look at each other and one wants to hand over their used gear to the brother because his is so worn and not functioning it's pitiful. Duct tape is a clue.
10. Peyton Place. Public Affairs. Rumors. Immoral behavior abounding. We are all IMperfect and many fall from grace during our life for one thing or another. However, when the personal mistake has festered and becomes a problem within an organization and it affects the job, it needs to be squashed. How do you keep people's pants on? Rule Number 1 I told my rookies: "Don't dip the pen in the company ink."
I suffered from frustration and burn out at times. It will catch up to everyone that stays in the job long enough. It is up to a strong person to make that a temporary issue and not a permanent fixture. I always spoke my mind, then moved on if it didn't do any good. I did not become overcome with all the eternal bitterness that eats up some. OH, yes, there were days and weeks I was a cannonball at work or inside my mind at the ding bat shit that goes on in a department. It saddens me to see someone get so bitter, especially if it is a good cop that they just can't put aside the internal garbage that gets thrown around the department. A conclusion can be drawn from this in a positive sense, those that get frustrated or burned out are cops that are invested in the job and care about their career and the department. Some supervisors are too dense to see that part of the negativity.
What would you add to this list? How does a department counteract negative press?
"Leadership is about creating, day by day, a domain in which we and those around us continually deepen our understanding of reality and are able to participate in shaping the future. This, then, is the deeper territory of leadership--collectively 'listening to what is wanting to emerge in the world, and then having the courage to do what is required.'"