Copyright © 2015  Barry M. Baker
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
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