Creativity and Police Departments Don’t Mix

As a businessman and police officer, I have a unique perspective on the problems that plague our nation’s police forces.

Politics are a constant problem.  More often than not, when I speak with SWAT guys they tell me they love the job but hate the politics.  The second problem I see regularly is the lack of accountability placed on officers.  Finally, there is a systemic lack of creativity and modernization that leads to police departments being wasteful, dangerous and often just flat-out crappy places to work.

But politics are the symptom of a much larger and more harmful problem – unprofessional management.

A successful corporation is successful because inter-office politics don’t play a role in who gets promoted, who gets trained or who gets the latest and greatest gadget.  Instead, these things are earned.  Yet police departments refuse to fall in line with corporate standards.  This refusal to modernize leads to lawsuits, an unmotivated work force and often results in the perpetuation of an unprofessional work environment.

Accountability is lacking in many departments.  Often there is no rhyme or reason why someone is rewarded or punished.  Even worse than that is the lack of communication that stops officers from learning from their mistakes.

For example…

A few years ago, an officer was working his normal patrol shift.  He hears his fellow officers chasing a suspect on a motorcycle in a residential area.  The officers know this is very dangerous to residents so they look to end the chase as quickly as possible by blocking the suspect in.  As this officer comes toward the suspect, he realizes the suspect isn’t stopping.  Knowing a head-on collision with a motorcycle would be almost certain death for the suspect, the officer veers his squad car onto the front lawn of a house.  As the squad car slams to a stop, the officer sees the motorcycle coming straight for his car.  The motorcyclist hits the front driver’s side quarter panel and goes flying head first into the neighbor’s front yard.  The suspect was surprisingly healthy with only a few scratches.

The investigation later found the suspect simply lost control of the motorcycle and no legal blame was put on the officer.  The department, however, chose to severely punish the officer for getting into an accident during a chase.  Later, the officer told me he was never told why he was punished – he thought it was just his bad luck.  I’m sure the administration’s point of view was vastly different, but that view was not communicated to the officer.  As a result, that officer and all the officers at that department never know if their department will back them up if something happens.  

Police departments are very different than corporations, to be sure.  But some basic principles, such as communication, transfer and should be utilized.   If officers were better trained, better motivated and enjoyed where they worked, we would see some big changes.

Think about the millions of dollars a department could save if they weren’t paying as many medical bills, property damage bills and losing thousands to lawsuits that could have been avoided.  On top of that, the money saved could go to increasing officers’ pay, increasing the training budget and getting officers better gear.

With police departments under a microscope these days, modernization would go a long way toward avoiding issues and saving money.  It’s time departments started communicating effectively, avoiding inter-office politics, promoting and punishing for the right reasons and inspiring their officers to be creative in bettering their work environment.

Power

We have been raised in the greatest democracy on the planet.  Our nation’s most powerful force is its citizens (as a whole) uniting to fight for a cause they believe in.

In a very similar way, a SWAT team is a democracy.  When a team comes together to right a wrong they cannot be stopped.  Tecumseh has been famously quoted as saying, “One twig is weak but a bundle of twigs is strong!”  It is imperative that all members of a SWAT team understand that the command staff is there to support the operators, not the other way around.  The command staff is tasked with directing the operators’ energy into positive avenues of development and training, reduce risk to their operators and handle the paperwork so the operators can focus on the task at hand.

SWAT and tactical teams already have a very dangerous job.  When command staff then makes it more dangerous by not allowing the operators to use tactics that are known as industry-standard, it creates a very dangerous work environment.  In fact, it puts you – the operator – at a higher risk of injury or death and is known as deliberate indifference!  Some industry-standards all teams should be using are flash bangs, explosive breaching, shotgun breaching, covert clearing, sniper placement prior to warrants, less lethal options and armored vehicles…just to name a few.

Budgets are tight.  Departments are running lean these days, and this has to be taken into consideration.  Armored vehicles are extremely expensive but grants, donations, fundraising and federal assistance are all options to enable your team to have this capability.

Budgets are not a factor, however, when it comes to the simpler options that could save lives, such as porting a window, wall or conducting multiple breaches.  These options are some of the most obvious and yet many teams have been restricted from using them because the command staff is more concerned with property damage than the safety of their officers.

The command staff must have confidence in the abilities of their operators to conduct explosive breaching, for example, before they will allow it.  If a commander shows up once a year to training, how is he going to be able to evaluate the capability of the team?  Command staff should be taking part in training, watching everything – constantly evaluating his operators and their capabilities.  If you aren’t seeing your command staff at training, bring the training to them!  Film what you’re doing.  Show them you are capable because, after all, the tactic you’re fighting to use may very well save your life!

The power to change is in your hands.  You, the team, can bring about positive change.  It takes strength, guts and moral fortitude, but as a team you can stand up to anyone.  It is your job to ensure you have the safest possible work environment!

Alone you are deadly.  Together you are unstoppable!

A New Concept For the Administration of Police Departments

Police departments all over are experiencing financial struggles due to the current economic situation.  Training, equipment and manpower are all feeling the impact.

The Problem

Departments are often run with the belief that income must originate from the municipality they serve.  This outdated theory works well in good times, but as funds dry up this theory is far too inefficient.  And what happens as a result of this inefficiency?  The safety of officers and citizens suffers.

Another problem that presents itself is that many administrators become stuck in the past.  Always looking back to “how we’ve done it for years” for solutions instead of coming up with new and more effective means of policing.  Often, when officers suggest a new concept in policing they are shutdown by the “old timers.”  It becomes understood that coming up with ideas isn’t something that is good for their careers.  And this leads to hostility between the rank & file officers (attempting to better their work environments) and the administration.  This hostility leads to a breakdown in communication that will, undoubtedly, lead to further problems.

The Solution

Every department has officers that are workers.  These are the guys that go out everyday looking to better their towns by locking up the bad guys, seizing funds used in criminal activity, writing tickets, seizing guns, drugs and stolen property.  These workers can be the salvation of a struggling department.  A well-trained, hard-working K9, narcotics, patrol or TAC unit can bring in more money than they cost if utilized properly.

The first step in a solution to the financial pinch is to take egos out of the equation.  Allow officers to do their jobs to the best of their abilities by reducing the overburden put on them by their department.

The second step is to make sure these units have the training, equipment and full support of the department.  Once these two things have been provided, a truly hard-working unit can bring in more money through seizures and tickets than they cost the department.

The next step is to provide each unit with its own bank account.  For every seizure that unit makes, the money would then go directly into their fund.  When equipment, training or overtime needs to be paid, it can come out of those accounts.  This leaves the department with the simple responsibility of paying salaries, insurance and standard maintenance as they would with any other officer.  This way, each unit is responsible for its own funding and, as such, can easily be proven effective or ineffective.  At the end of the year, each account is brought down to a level that will allow the unit to function for a few months.  The rest flows into the general fund of the police department therefore relieving the financial burden put on the department by non-productive officers.

This solution can be put into practice no matter the size of the department, the demographic of the municipality or the funding of the department.  When combined with an accurate count of guns, drugs and other cases made, it will quickly show which units are most effective.  The officer that makes 70 felony arrests a year may not bring in a huge amount of money, but a felony arrest is given the same value as a seizure allowing all hard-working, upstanding officers to be recognized.

The last step in this solution is to promote those effective officers into leadership roles in order to allow them to positively influence the newer officers to be productive members of their police departments.

Dealing with crime is a costly endeavor.

As a unit becomes more effective it can have a dramatic and positive impact on crime rates.  This, in turn, saves the department money.  Lower crime rates equate to nicer houses being built and more taxes being paid to that municipality.   Thus providing a long-term solution to the underfunding of police departments.

K9 Teams and Other Officers

065

By Greg Perovich, Instructor, Fulcrum Tactical

No matter where you work, you will have specialty units that function within your department.  These units all serve a purpose for the department, and no one unit is more important than the other.  These specialty units should complement one another to achieve departmental goals. Unfortunately, time and time again, this does not happen.  And there are many reasons behind why this happens.

Most of the time, a specialty unit is improperly used or not used at all due to circumstances set forth way above the pay grade of the men and women with “boots on the ground.” There are times, however, when a unit is improperly used due to a lack of understanding as to HOW the unit operates.

Prime example of this: K9 teams that patrol our streets daily.

History has proven that a well-trained K9 team with good support is an invaluable asset to any police department.   To achieve this success, the K9 handler is not only responsible for care and proper maintenance of the animal, equipment and vehicle, but also for the education and training of the officers they work with.  A K9 team can only succeed when it has positive support and assistance from all others within the department.

The officers that request or assist K9 teams need to have a general understanding of the K9 needs.  This is why it is an absolute necessity that K9 handlers take the time and explain to other officers what is needed to have success during a K9 operation. Often the officer calling for K9 team assistance can make or break the success of the K9 team before they arrive!

This lesson can be applied to all other specialty units as well.

Remember, training is an essential part of building success.  Chiefs to rank-and-file officers should be trained regularly on all specialty units, their functionality, their limitations and, most importantly, their requirements.

 

Greg Perovich has been a police officer in the south suburbs of Chicago for the last 17 years.  During those 17 years, he has spent the last 15 in SWAT along with 11 years in K9.  Greg’s current K9 partner is a five-year-old Belgium Malanois named “Fram.” 

Hope is Not a Strategy. Luck is Not a Skill.

By Steve Claggett  |  Director of Training  |  Fulcrum Tactical

In police work, as in life, we strive to place ourselves in positions advantageous to achieving our goals.  Attending night classes to make ourselves more marketable for promotion, or parking two houses down from a domestic disturbance call, or smashing a window as a distraction prior to entering a room where a father holds his three children hostage.

These scenarios, though vastly different, have one thing in common—a conscious decision to place ourselves in a “tactically superior position” to maximize our chances of success.

Success and failure in tactical operations begin with our mindset.  Too often we become spectators relying on “hope” and “luck” versus strategy and skill. Traditionally “hope” is more of a boss phenomenon and “luck” more of a troop characteristic.

Bosses are influenced by liability, budgets and manpower. Each of these, although a very realistic concern, may succeed in creating a level playing field in tactical operations.  And a level playing field generally means we planned or prepared poorly.

To look at it realistically, tactical teams are like insurance policies:  you hate paying the premiums, but when disaster strikes you want the best policy money can buy.  A well-equipped, well-trained tactical team capable of resolving ever-evolving criminal challenges is what our communities expect and deserve.

On the troop level, we must actively combat the mentality of “it will never happen here” or “my skills are good enough.”  If you are a victim of this mindset, my advice is this…transfer to dispatch where three pull-ups and 85 shooting scores are marveled by 911 operators, and the biggest risk you take is battling over the last bear claw in the break room.  The job must become a lifestyle where we actively pursue the next level of fitness, shooting skills and tactical proficiency.

The problem with human nature is that we don’t realize our deficiencies until fate points them out.  Physical conditioning deficiencies become painfully obvious after losing the foot chase and sneaking off to the fire station to clean your vomit off your shoes.  The need for a better fighting system becomes evident when you can’t peel the 110-pound crack head off your face because he doesn’t want to go to jail.  And it’s called a clue that we need more quality range time when three trees, four cars and two houses are killed, but the gangster with the gun gives up out of boredom rather than wounds.

Our tactical prowess and operational readiness are more elusive to measure.  They cannot be as easily quantified as shooting skills or physical fitness.  We must look at them like a tactical chess match, proactively thinking three moves ahead.  They require situational awareness on an individual and team level.  Contingency plans must be in place for a multitude of circumstances.  Our mental triggers must be set in advance for “shoot and no shoot” scenarios in order to minimize lag time and make decisions in microseconds that will be critiqued for months and years to come.

The obvious answer to achieving the next level of tactical awareness and operational readiness lies in realistic, comprehensive and objectives-driven training.  Training designed to maintain and/or improve operational capabilities as well as identify areas of deficiency.   And “hope” and “luck” play no part in that.

A simple adage to remember…

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations.  We fall to the level of our training.”

-Author unknown

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August 8, 2013 - Creativity and Police Departments Don’t Mix As a businessman and police officer ... +++ May 30, 2013 - Power We have been raised in the greatest ... +++ February 18, 2013 - A New Concept For the Administration of Police Departments Police departments all over are exp ... +++ February 5, 2013 - K9 Teams and Other Officers By Greg Perovich, Instructor, Fulcr ... +++ December 12, 2012 - Hope is Not a Strategy. Luck is Not a Skill. By Steve Claggett  |  Director of ... +++ May 9, 2012 - There Is No “Magic Tactic” By Steve Claggett   |   Director ... +++
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