Everybody knows, or should know, the
most important resource of any police
department is its police officers.  The
police officer is a department's largest
human resource, and your responsibilities
are vast and varied.  Police departments
have always been modeled on the military
structure, because that system of
organization is the most efficient, and
responsible, when herding a bunch of
people armed with guns.

The single most important element of a
successful military style structure is its
chain of command.  Police departments...
use to be... just as committed to their
adherence to the chain of command
philosophy as any efficient military
organization.  When I became a police
officer, the chain of command was
sacrosanct.  Aside from saluting and
exchanging greetings with higher ranking
officers, my sergeant was the only
supervisor with whom I had direct
conversational contact.
It took years before I realized the real
value of chain of command.  A retired
police chief once commented, "When
something goes through fifteen people,
before it gets to me, and then, I find
something wrong with it, everybody
thinks I'm a genius."  The translation is
this:  Nobody is perfect, but people in
command positions, and the
organization, will always benefit from a
perception of their perfection.  That
perception, rightly or wrongly, will keep
any system running efficiently.

The chain of command had another
benefit.  It was static and resistant to
change, or I should say it was resistant
to frequent and arbitrary change.  
However, resistant doesn't mean
immune.  To be blunt, your exposure to
chain of command may be limited to your
academy training. Once you're assigned
to patrol, you could find yourself a bit
confused as you try to follow direction
from any number of supervisors.  If
you're lucky, you'll have a sergeant who
knows he or she is a sergeant.

The sergeant is, literally, the lynch pin of
any police department.  The sergeant is
the most influential supervisor, because
the sergeant is the doorway between you
and management.  You'll know when you
have a strong and competent sergeant
when you're not subjected to conflicted
direction.  Just to be on the safe side,
you're going to have to strive for self
sufficiency.  You're going to have to learn
as much as you can in the shortest
amount of time.  A police chief once
stopped by to give a squad a pep talk.  
This squad was formed specifically for the
service of arrest warrants.  During the
banter, the Chief remarked, "If you see a
light on, kick the door in."  The
expression on the Sergeant's face
evoked a question from the Chief in a
sarcastic tone, "Do you have something
to say, Sergeant?"  The Sergeant replied,
"No, sir."  Following the Chief's
departure, the Sergeant explained to his
squad that the mere presence of a light
in a dwelling is not sufficient probable
cause to kick in the door.
It gets better.  Another Police Chief
inherited a police department with a
military style pyramid organizational
structure.  In the pyramid structure,
there's always someone to set, or
communicate, clear direction to those
lower in the structure.  This Chief's
organizational "Paradigm" rested on the
idea of cooperation.  He promptly
knocked over the pyramid and replaced it
with a flat organizational structure.  High
ranking commanders, of equal rank,
would sit down together and resolve
issues affecting their individual missions
such as assignment of human and
materiel resources.  In the end, they
would, theoretically, amicably agree on
which commander(s) would get screwed.  
Need I say more?

To me, the most important aspect to
chain of command is its inherent
stability.  Police work is serious business,
and a strong chain of command keeps
police officers in line.  Long ago,
governments realized the need to form
professional law enforcement entities to
replace vigilante justice.  In any modern
police department where a significant
number of police officers employ vigilante
style tactics, you'll find that department's
chain of command either supplanted or
simply non-existent.
"Police work is serious business, and
a strong chain of command keeps
police officers in line."
~ Barry M. Baker
Chain of
Copyright © 2015  Barry M. Baker  

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