Webinar presenter Dr. Jeff Fox answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Mastering Police Work. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: How do we help our officers find work-life balance in the day and age of off duty opportunities and mandatory overtime?
Dr. Jeff Fox: First of all, it’s interesting. My wife works at a local PD. They had a massive amount of overtime work, off-duty work. I would recommend, first of all always be done if there’s anything to do with police work whatsoever it has to be done always through the agency. Like if it is a lawn service or anything like that, that’s your own thing as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work. Anything that has to do with policing whatsoever, always to be done through the police agency, the contracts done through the police agency and you look at that. I look at some parameters in there and with that, you can control that. They really can’t do a whole lot with the other stuff. You can say any off-duty work has to be approved by us. That’s how we did it. Anything you do had to be approved. For one reason is potential conflict. In other words, as you couldn’t go drive a tow truck or something like that or you couldn’t work for another police agency. So, you can make it a policy, any off-duty work has to be approved first of all. Secondly, if it has anything to do with policing whatsoever it goes to the agency, it’d be monitored that way, and controlled that way. Also, as support for liability and also the fact that they are actually working. Even if they are off, they are not off. They’re being contracted out. They still have a duty to following our policies and procedures. As far as how many hours, what we’re seeing is, what I’m seeing is a lot of officers don’t want to do so much now. They’re having a hard time finding a people to cover all because there’s so much. If you do that then you kind of control all these different people and you just say you know what we don’t have, if you have a thousand hours a week that all these agencies want for off duty and your officers can only do right about 500 then you as an agency will probably need to say well, we are going to need to cut back here, we can only provide this many hours and we can’t take any more agencies. The other option would be is to allow other agencies to come in but that can create problems in itself. There’s no easy answer to that. I will say manage it that way. You can put down how many hours, in other words, if an officer has to work the next day, some states have driving laws. You can’t drive for more than 13 hours. You can say you have to have 8 hours of rest before you come back to work. I know some agencies will say you can work off duty for 8 hours and come to work and do your 8 hours. Now their work is 16 hours straight. You can manage that. You can put those parameters in there, but it takes some work and it isn’t actually easy to do. Have somebody who administers that as well. I hope I helped a little bit but that is a big question to tackle. I hope I helped a little bit.
Audience Question: How can agencies incorporate some of the thoughts that you have expressed here in your book or in other books that you have talked about. How would you recommend agencies deal with finding and keeping those good people?
Dr. Jeff Fox: That’s the million-dollar question. Working with your colleges, working with your community colleges, working with the military. I love the idea of having junior programs. I love having internships, auxiliaries, all sorts of things where you get somebody in before 21. That can be a volunteer thing. Sometimes officers will come in, they become dispatchers first and they work their way over. High school programs are great. If your high school has a program go on in. A lot of places now have law programs where you can go in there. If they don’t, get one in there. Make sure officers are going in on career days and then telling them these are the things, take whatever you want from this book because pretty much that’s in there you would need. You can find your own material and send it forward to somebody interested. These are the things that I would recommend you do to be successful. In other words, physical fitness. These are the things that you don’t do. This is an interesting dilemma that we are going to be facing. More and more we’re seeing the legalization of marijuana. Most agencies now have set for many years where if you smoke marijuana a year ago occasionally, that’s okay. Most places still want to say, if you smoked a joint before you came here, we are not going to hire you, you know. Now that they are legalizing it, so we are going to have hurdles to across there as we go along. Society is really pushing us in a different direction so the more that we can let those young people know that this is what it takes, this is what we are looking for, the more information we can get the more prepared they can be, the more we can get them attached to us, we’re getting ready to go. It does two things, they’re ready and willing and they are more prepped up and ready to go. There’s a lot of vehicles out there to get to them. I mentioned a lot of them. It takes the full-time effort of recruiters, somebody who is constantly doing that, and the honest answer is it is not going to be easy. I just think it’s going to get harder and harder. On our academy, we would start 50, 60, 70, 80 people. We would lose about 8-10 out of every academy. The executive staff will fret over that and worry about it. I would say we’re not mistreating them. They are getting the stress they need. We’re not a stress academy. They’re leaving and they need to leave because this isn’t for them. They don’t have the mental aptitude at this point. Maybe they will later. Or they don’t have the physical ability, or they don’t have the moral aptitude, whatever it is. This isn’t for them now. Sometimes we would let them go so they can come back later. You need to prepare yourself better. A prep book for the academy, a pre-academy thing, there are all sorts of things you can do to get them ready. Every state’s different on this. Some states go to an academy. In North Carolina, you can go to the regional academy, you can go to the state academy or you can go to the community college. When you come out of community college, you are certified. There are all sorts of variables there.
Audience Question: How can we help train for emotional intelligence or the psychomotor skills as you call them?
Dr. Jeff Fox: I think we need to do a better job embedding that into everything we train for. I don’t think we are doing that enough. That’s kind of just a hard thing to do. One thing that we did years ago, and I don’t know how that was done but one of our higher-ups suggested this and I agree a hundred percent. We need to involve ethics into everything we teach. When we teach officer survival, we need to have just a moment in there about their ethics. They may not even realize that. That’s something that you ingrain into every part of your curriculum. That’s something that you need to teach, and you do that by teaching your instructors to teach that and holding their feet to the fire and they can actually make that part of class that they may be part of everything. Even how you evaluate. Normally on written tests, I can give a person a test and they can score a hundred on every test. That tells me they have the ability to memorize. That doesn’t tell me that they have common sense, that doesn’t tell me if they have a good work ethic or anything else. All it tells me is they know how to do good on a test. When they go out there and they are doing their practice, it tells me they can get through this. If you get out there in the real world and that’s where it’s going to tell me and that’s where the rubber hits the road. That involves leadership. Then at the academy, it also continues with our leaders in the field doing that. I got to tell you; I don’t think a lot of our sergeants are sitting around the table talking about that sort of thing. That’s where we are dropping the ball. We need to be talking about that. We need to be instilling that. If you do that, you are kind of looked at as an oddball. It’s a cultural thing that we need to change. We also need to put that in the academic curriculum as well. It’s really a cultural change in involving everything and making that purposeful, constantly making it a purposeful. That’s kind of my short answer to that.
Audience Question: How does an officer deal with a supervisor that is micromanaging tasks and is potentially preventing other work from being completed? Jeff, what is your advice for dealing with a micromanager, I think we have all been there but what’s your advice?
Dr. Jeff Fox: Let me go back to one more thing. I want to add, your FTOs usually play a role on that too. That needs to be made part of your FTO curriculum for their training and also for training other people. Make sure that it is in your FTO program and it is embedded throughout. A micro-managing supervisor. I think the micromanaging supervisor can be almost as bad as a laissez-faire supervisor. That’s where I go back to the Aristotle thing where I stay in the middle, not excess or defect. That person has a supervisor. Everybody has a supervisor. The first thing is I would hope that the supervisor of the supervisor isn’t telling him to micromanage. Now, there are three types of leadership I believe in, transformational, situational and servant leadership. Situational leadership is very applicable here. If you are a brand-new employee, you would probably need a lot more attention than a seasoned veteran does. I’m probably going to give a trainee a lot more attention to make sure that they are doing what they should be doing it. I’d also want to give them that latitude to do their job. It goes back to some of the things we are talking about. One place you fix that is in your supervisor school. A lot of times we make people supervisors that we never send to the supervisor school or we send them to the supervisor school 6 months or a year after they have been a supervisor and they make all sorts of mistakes. One thing we need to be teaching that people, what kind of leader do we want them to be. I would say transformational, servant and situational. If it is situational, it depends on the person. Some people need a lot more attention. Some people don’t need a lot of attention. I would say look around your office and the person you don’t want to be around with the most is the person you need to be with the most. Micromanagement has variables. If I use another way of viewing it, if I had a supervisor and I didn’t agree with something, I wouldn’t go in and say well this is stupid. What are you thinking? I have a lot of respect for my supervisors and back and forth, they give me a tremendous latitude, I have a lot of experience and we got along great. I love the guys and they love me. There were times where I was almost like that didn’t make any sense. I didn’t go in there and confront them with it and I went in there and asked them a question, “Hey Sarge, I see you say this here.” I almost played a dumb country boy thing with them. “Hey sarge, this is what you say here but I was thinking what about this?” That does two things. It doesn’t swipe them in the face and that allows them to save face. They go, oh yeah that’s a good idea. Maybe that’s an approach to take too. I don’t know the situation you are dealing with but in some way, you can go to them and say, “Hey I really appreciate all the time we are working together and all that but how about trusting me a little bit more? How about giving me a little bit more latitude?” Again, you got to ask yourself, is there some reason you are doing that? If there’s no reason that you are doing that and they are just micromanaging the heck out of you, maybe just go to them and say have I done something to make you micromanage me like this? Am I doing something wrong? If you can put it in a way that is not confrontational. I’m not a big fan of jumping ranks. I like taking the problem to the person. I’m probably going to take it to them. If it is a micromanaging thing and it’s just unbearable and is unnecessary then you take it to the next level and then that person has to deal with it. I like to give that person a chance to fix it and maybe I had to look at myself and say, “Am I being rational here?” It’s not an easy question. Hopefully, some of the things will help with that.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Mastering Police Work.