The author: Jeff Garrison has over twenty-five years experience in law enforcement. He works for a police department in a Detroit area suburb. Jeff has had many roles and worked in multiple special bureaus and assignments. He is an experienced instructor, as well.
The year was 1990; that’s when I first pinned on the Badge. From the outset, being the busiest cop on the team was important to me. The first seventeen years were spent as a patrolman followed by three years as a detective.
Special bureaus and assignments were a blast. There was the SWAT team and the bomb team. There were a few years indoctrinating rookies as an FTO.
I tend to drive people nuts over details so they made me an Evidence Technician for a while, and then a Firearms instructor.
I preferred to be busy rather than being bored when working the road and in the DB. I kept complaints to myself (no one listened, anyway).
A NEW WORLD
Then it happened: in 2012, I was promoted to sergeant.
Getting a promotion was a real thrill – until I learned that my new assignment would be to the midnight shift sergeant. Luckily, I got to work with an excellent shift Lieutenant along an outstanding counterpart sergeant to work with and learn from. I would have been lost without them to show me the way.
The natural thing for me was to return to what I had always done on the road: busting my ass. I quickly discovered that all of my new responsibilities took a ton of time and didn’t leave a lot of room for police work.
The paperwork to go along with arrest reports became overwhelming. There were performance evaluations, letters to the upper admin about damaged vehicles or injured officers, monthly statistics, and the list goes on.
Maybe the promotion was a mistake. Going back to just being a corporal in the patrol division didn’t sound so bad.
Fortunately, my counterpart, who had about six years on as a boss, grabbed me and said that he knew I was struggling. He knew that I wanted to stay busy. That was OK. But once the troops show up at a scene which I had made first, it is time for me to back off. I must become the supervisor again.
That made a world of difference. The guys on my team loved it because I was in the mix and when they arrived, the crew could handle it because I trusted them.
Happily, the day shift is now my home. Better: they made me the administrative sergeant for the group. According to the General Order, the admin sergeant is the right-hand man of the shift lieutenant.
The position has changed, but my work habits have not. I still bust my ass.
There were the messy old file drawers which had not been opened in years. Clean now. The payroll report for 55 guys is now mine (chasing some of them for an overtime slip is a real pain in the ass). There are a bunch other duties that are tedious and would make most cops nuts.
LET THE FUN BEGIN
There are times when some clown wants to fight everyone after he’s been brought into booking. It’s just a few feet from my desk. Never one to back away from a fight, I’ve rolled around the booking room floor with drunks and other idiots on a somewhat regular basis.
THE CHANCE TO REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE
There is an area that I want to touch on. I feel pretty strongly about it.
The administrative spot became mine when six new sergeants were promoted. Two of them were assigned to our group. Reflecting on what I learned following my promotion, I tried to mentor the new guys. There were more new arrivals each of the following two years.
Thinking back on my early days as a sergeant, I think of a lesson which has profoundly affected my performance in this role. That is to trust your people. Once a scene is stable, step back and start supervising again.
As a “‘lead from the front guy,” I would never ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. Even if it comes to cleaning piss off of the floor so we can continue our business, I have no issue grabbing the mop bucket and going at it.
Many newer bosses struggle with this “trust your guys” theory. I keep hammering it into them.
One of the newer sergeants on nights is a big guy who likes to mix it up. Almost every day, he tells me of some guy that he had to go and “handle” in the booking area. I ask where his three desk officers were and why weren’t they handling the idiot. He doesn’t have an answer.
Look, I get it… We all want to get in the mix. The problem is that when you accept the stripes, you also accept the responsibility for everyone in the room.
You can’t really see what they are doing when you’re in the middle of the fight. I’ve told the nights guy, make your officers get into the mix.
He doesn’t trust them at all. He says it all the time. He also regularly opens and modifies officer’s reports. I keep telling him not to do this as it will get him in a wringer later. He’s not listening… Yet.
The bottom line is when you become a supervisor, there is a steep learning curve. It is tough to get around and you must work at it.
As a sergeant, you can still do police work, but your main job is to be a leader. Lead from the front and show the way, but when it’s time to supervise, be that guy, too.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this message and allowing me to share my story with you. I can be contacted with questions or input: EMAIL ME or call me at my home office (386) 763-3000.