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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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How to Get Along In a Department

It's not the ranking officers, but the people who run the place that you need to know.

August 17, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

This is agency survival, so pay attention. One thing that's paramount in your success with any agency is learning who the special folks are who make it run.

If you ever visit any department, there will be an executive assistant to the chief or command staff. When I introduce my executive assistant, I tell you to meet Karen, or the lady who runs the place. Some see the levity, but most command staffers know the real truth—it is the countless assistants, secretaries, dispatchers, and other civilian staff who make your life easier.

It is a common rookie mistake to think just because you're now a copper with the uniform and shield, you're special. Don't ever fool yourself; the department's staff is what keeps you rolling.

My mother was a secretary, and I learned one thing from her. Don't forget Professional Assistant's Day (formerly known as Secretary's Day) on the third Wednesday of April. A card for the unit or precinct secretary will put you in their good graces. Always offer a smile and speak the pleasantries of the day to them. They are not paid as much as you and deserve a lot more credit than they receive. There will come a day that you'll need a form or a report and, if you did not forget your manners, you will get the form. Those who forgot are still waiting.

There's always one guy on patrol who never catches the multiple vehicle crash at the end of the shift; why is that? This is the same guy who drops off a dozen hot, fresh donuts or a sack of sliders to the radio room on midnights. It is easier to get along than to swim upstream. Work with those who are your lifeline because, as many dispatchers have told me, "I control your life for the shift." They can and often do.

What other staffers do you have around you? Do not forget your community service officer who does a lot of the yeomen's duties so you don't have to. Property room managers can make your evidence disappear in the catacombs while you are now late for court. Never forget the Human Resources staff; they control your paycheck and personnel packet. Be kind and courteous with them, as well.

Have a departmental motor pool or mechanic? If you drive an issued police vehicle, buy this guy a coffee! For those who have issued vehicles know how wonderful it is to go in on your day off or midnights for a regular service and oil change. You will discover some get their cars done when it is on duty or best suited to them. Coffee is cheap and sleep is cherished.

Now, time to sound like a chief. If you read your department's mission statement and its core values, they should taut 'teamwork', 'respect' and other synonyms for being kind and getting along with your team. It's not all coppers that make a department; it is a variety of people working together. I've said that a police/sheriff department is much akin to a family. And the sooner you learn how to treat them properly, the better your life will be.

Tags: Career Advancement, How-To Guides, Command Staff


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

mtarte @ 8/17/2010 10:22 PM

Excellent points. I always brought flowers or food in for our dispatchers, not to curry favor, but because they were an integral part of the team and were stuck in dispatch all shift. Get to know the janitor and the other maintenance crew as well; they have an important job that lets you do yours. Always say hello to everyone and always know that you're just a cog in a BIG wheel.

SAM551974D @ 8/18/2010 10:24 PM

Very well done and you should never be too busy to show this vital action to peers or co-workers. We have become more tech-savvy but it prevents the face-to-face encounters where you miss out so much in wisdom and lessons...Some have forgotten where they have come from and allowed EGO to take over and we all breathe the same air and all have to walk the path to get to where they are now...as; "Success isn't what you have, it's what you've given away." Ben Nighthorse Campbell. And from my teen years- Two stories come to mind about this as told by and old Indian fellow I was sitting with, along a creek, under a tree, by Isleta Pueblo. There were young children playing and crossing the rocks of the creek many fell in and just a few made it across. He asked me what do you see I stated the obvious...He said no, notice those that fall and those that make it...Those that made it had taken their time, not rushed, knew how to get to other side by following the rocks laid out before them, avoiding the wet or moss covered one with slime, and through helping each other to the other side.

The other lesson was on integrity, trust, honesty. He told me these human traits are like an arroyo once washed away they never regain their original strength, or structure, and the trip back is long and many times cannot be made. He also said only can give up these items from within by your actions or inaction. I carry his gift of compassion within and share it as I go!

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