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Who are the Leaders?

Written by Kyle Lamb

Who is your leader? Is your most experienced officer leading you? Experience is highly regarded in the military system. Time in service, experience and physical fitness are all important areas of a soldier’s record for promotion. Evaluation reports are reviewed to determine if the soldier in fact has the experience and has been proven in previous positions.

In law enforcement, I have trained numerous SWAT teams with poor leaders in the most powerful positions. Why are these officers in leadership positions? Why would a chief or sheriff not want to have the most experienced officers leading the SWAT team in the right direction?

Could it be that some senior managers want a subordinate leader who can be easily manipulated? That they don’t want someone who makes waves—a squeaky wheel? I see some seniors who are unbelievably inexperienced in “the art of war,” the most fully encompassing term to use to get the point across. So where does their experience lie? It lies in “the art of politics.”

Like any warrior culture in the past thousand years, law enforcement is heavily driven by politics. We must answer to the political heads of our country, our state, our city and our jurisdiction. This would not be a problem if politicians understood the mission of law enforcement—to bring criminals to justice and, in doing so, to protect the citizens of our community.

Politicians, elected or appointed, have for a long time interfered with leaders in policing. This type of leadership sometimes creates severe issues in conducting the mission of law enforcement. Today many communities are run by political leaders that work so hard toward preserving the rights of criminals, that it seems they are anti-police. Political leaders often exercise a heavy hand on police department leaders, having them answer to certain political whims and wishes rather than the needs of the community.

This leads me to the topic of the mandatory Use of Force Continuum training for police officers. Are we trying to make a fight fair? Or are we trying to win? I teach students to win, not just survive, in these foggy situations.

Why has certain training become mandatory, while other training has not? For instance, sexual harassment training is mandatory in most organizations, yet firearms proficiency is not. Leaders in law enforcement are failing their officers by not making firearms proficiency mandatory. Officer safety should always be the primary concern of supervisors. If you are you sending your officers into harm’s way without the proper training—that’s a problem. Train your people as they should be trained, not as the politicians dictate.

Leaders in law enforcement need to make sure we take care of the right people. More often than not, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Normally, the squeaky wheels are not the performers. Maybe seniority is not always the best way to select the leaders. What matters is who is performing. You obviously need to take care of those who are subordinate to you; however, look at who is getting most of your attention. If it isn’t the true performers, you need to reevaluate your system.

City managers and law enforcement personnel must always remember who they work for. Good citizens like cops, listen to them and respect them. The good citizens of the United States want their officers to be armed with the tools and training they need to protect their families from the dangers making their way into our streets.

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2010

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