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
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
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.
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