The Human Problem?

It’s always been better, in my opinion, to work for a Chief who isn’t eager to hang his troops out to dry. Not that he’d “cover” for them, but he’d understand mistakes can happen.


An on scene investigation shows that the “suspect” has plenty of money in his pockets and isn’t homeless at all (he just had poor hygiene).  His path of travel inside the store was taking him past the front door to the refrigerators where the bottled drinks were – where he was going to get a drink to go with his snack.  The cashier, having made a bad assumption, essentially assaulted the man and then wanted the man arrested because the man had exited the premises without paying for the snack.  The CUSTOMER is more than understanding of the cashier’s mistake and states that he is used to such treatment because of his appearance.  He is offering to pay for the snack and the cashier is still demanding that he be arrested.

Obviously the officer didn’t arrest the customer and had to talk the cashier down from his anger and frustration.  The cashier finally calmed down but later filed a complaint against the officer for not having arrested the customer for theft.  (Thankfully the agency did the right thing and dismissed the complaint as unsubstantiated.)

In both those examples you can see that while an arrest may have been legally justifiable, a little human understanding… a little compassion… makes all the difference in the world.  I submit to you that such humanity is required both in good officers and in good leaders.

I’ve worked for supervisors and leaders of both “stripes” if you will. We all make mistakes and as much as it pains me to admit it, that statement applies to me too.  I’m not perfect.  It’s always been better, in my opinion, to work for a Chief who isn’t eager to hang his troops out to dry.  Not that he’d “cover” for them, but he’d understand mistakes can happen.

For instance, one Chief I worked for simply said, “Just don’t lie to me.”  He was the kind of guy who had worked investigations in vice, internal affairs and homicide.  There was little he hadn’t seen.  His door was always open and it was easy to go in and say, “Look Chief, I got this call; I arrived on scene; I saw this; I heard this; I thought this; I did this. This was my mistake.  What now?”  As long as it was an honest mistake and you had done as best you could, given your perceptions and the circumstances, he’d be as lenient as he could.  I also know another Chief who, if you did that, would thank you for the confession of the mistake, advise you of your trial board rights and immediately start the most strict disciplinary actions he could.

What was the difference between the two? Aside from their radically different ages and backgrounds, HUMANITY was what made them different in my mind.

So my question for you is this:  What kind of officer are you?  What kind of supervisor are you? What kind of Chief are you?  Take a look in the mirror and think about it…

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