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Stop Thefts of Time!

Written by Steve Albrecht

Ed. Note: I don’t have to tell you this example is true, which it is. You all know someone like this.

Meet detective Rod Mod. That is a nickname for Retired on duty—Missing on duty. He is a burglary/crimes against property investigator. Detective Mod comes into the office early, does the crossword puzzle, and yaks with his partners about some capers from the good old days when they were all on patrol. Back at his tidy desk, he moves some reports from his in-box to his out-box, scans his e-mail and then leaves for the day. It is only 8:45 a.m. and he is conducting one of his many “follow-ups” on one of his cases. He will not return to the office until tomorrow.

Detective Rod Mod manages his case load better than the other detectives in his unit. While they are out making arrests or warrants, he uses snappy and well-used answers for victims or supervisors to keep his desk paper-free, such as: “It’s a civil matter and there’s nothing the police department can do.” “If you are not going cooperate with me, I won’t help you.” “There is no evidence to process.” “I will put a note in for patrol in the lineup briefing book.”

When Detective Rod Mod actually does go out into the field to speak to victims, he makes sure to go to their houses, not their workplaces. Of course, it is always during business hours, so it is more likely they are not home. As a nice touch of professionalism, he leaves his business card where it might or might not be found.

If his case can’t easily be solved in one day, then out it goes. His “efficient” methods guarantee that good cases don’t get worked, victims don’t get helped, property doesn’t get recovered and crooks go free. Detective Rod Mod needs a wakeup call in the form of a primitive but effective management tool known as a time log.

His supervisor tells him something like, “Rod, it appears to me that you are out of the office more than anyone else, rarely reachable via radio or cell phone, and not making much headway in solving your cases with arrests. You may have a time management issue. As such, I’m going to give you some help. Take these log forms and account for your time, in 30-minute increments, for your entire shift.”

“For example, when you leave your desk today at 11:30 a.m. to go to lunch and you return at 12:30 p.m., you will simply note one hour in your log. This time sheet should be accompanied by proof of your efforts, so if you spent two hours working on the Smith burglary by typing up Mrs. Smith’s statement, you will include a typed copy of her statement along with your log, where you noted which two hours you spent working on it. Give this to me personally, every day at 4:30 p.m, and I’ll go over it with you.”

At first glance, this tool may seem childish, even punitive, but it does make the employee account accurately for his time in 30-minute chunks, all shift long. Big law firms ask their most seasoned attorneys to do this every day, so they can bill at their usual astronomical hourly rates. No need to call the PBA or the police union for permission—it is not discipline. You are using it as a coaching tool—a management tool.

Employees who gripe about having to fill out these accountability sheets can quickly free themselves from this activity by demonstrating that they are truly hard at work on their cases, and they don’t disappear for hours into the field without a valid reason. Two weeks is a reasonable time for you to measure the employee’s outputs and for the employee to be able to show what he does to earn his pay…before the next step.

Steve Albrecht worked for the San Diego Police Department from 1984 to 1999. His books include "Contact & Cover," "Streetwork," "Surviving Street Patrol," and "Tactical Perfection for Street Cops." He can be reached at steve@contactandcover.com.

Published in Law and Order, Jun 2011

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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