Policing in a large metropolis can very quickly turn into a career scamper to either promotion or specialization. My own realization of this fact was after completing five years working on general patrol duties. I decided to try my hand at Traffic work in the big city. My transfer was accomplished blindingly fast... which could be a reflection on how bad one branch wanted to get rid of me or how badly the new branch wanted me.
My introduction to traffic determined that there was a pecking order of Traffic duties. Junior officers started on motorcycle patrol then moved into radar speed enforcement. The next step was Accident Investigation then Breathalyzer and finally on to Traffic Investigation. This was usually Hit and Run or Auto Theft squad.
Since I was not a junior officer I was assigned to the Radar enforcement section. I was initially troubled to hear that officers could stay in this section for their entire career and many had. I later found that many were indeed attracted to this squad because of the shifts. Officers had every weekend off and only worked day and afternoon shifts.
When I got to know my work mates I found they were all interested in handling other calls but they had been lulled into simply issuing their 20 to 30 tickets a day and then simply ease off for the rest of the day. Supervisors were indeed happy with the workload produced by the squad and never had any higher expectations of them.
One day, after writing my expected threshold of tickets, I heard a call at a nearby bank for a report of an NSF cheque. I advised the dispatcher that it sounded like a busy day and that I would take that call. The dispatcher sounded both startled, surprised and grateful to have a Radar car take the call. Another Radar car in the vicinity heard me take the call and showed up at the bank before me. The officer was older than me and had been on radar work a long time. He said he wanted to come with me to see how the call is to be handled. I explained it was a sort or routine call for Divisional officers and I offered to let him handle the occurrence and I would be happy to assist him.
What happened next was a joy to behold. The officer was enjoying the chat with the bank manager and as I interjected a few things regarding the occurrence report you could see how delighted he was doing something different. My intent was simply to give him an opportunity to change up the routine a bit. Something that would help to take the drudgery out of the sameness that he had been doing for ten or more years.
Upon reflection I can assume this displayed good leadership on my behalf but it was not my intent at all. In fact I had by that point established that I would not make a good supervisor or disciplinarian so my goal was simply to make my work a bit more fun and mixing it up a bit accomplished this goal. It just so happened that it gave others a lead to do the same. Hence leading by example was what I accomplished without actually making it my goal.
It is a reality in the policing field that people who show good leadership skills are moved up the ladder into the management role. Although these are probably the best people to keep in mind for those top jobs it should be done with a little discernment. The move must be in the best interests of the individual at that time. The balancing act is ensuring these leaders continue to enjoy the work they are doing and when ready for management they are adequately groomed to fulfil this mandate. It is a well know fact that many a good leader has regretted their move into the management role.
One method of ensuring appropriate recognition of those leaders in your organization is to nominate them for the “Police Leadership Award.” Blue Line Magazine has sponsored this prestigious award since its inception in 1999. We have been proud to do this because it comes closest to the rudiments of police work. Leadership is not just the activity of giving a good example to your agency but more importantly to your peers. Those guys and gals you work with each day.
Every police officer needs strong leadership skills and it is Blue Line’s hope that the best examples of it are given as much exposure and recognition as possible. These are individuals who show others, by their actions, a way to improve their every-day work so much that they look forward to coming to work each day.