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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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Dealing with Politicians

When interacting with elected officials, proceed with your wits and caution.

August 01, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

 

Photo: juicyrai
Photo: juicyrai

When I was in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, we had a non-traditional special military police order — perform your duty in a military manner and take no s**t from no kinda commander.

Well, it was cool when we had young commanders outside of our chain of command who wanted to tell us what to do. OK, you're a young cop, and here comes a newly elected alderman, council person, district supervisor or whatever other title they received from their municipality. What should you do?

One thing that a good Field Training Officer (FTO) should cover is the chain of command, and its political life-support system. Nowadays with Web sites for every political subdivision, this is a snap. Recruits should familiarize themselves with the names and photos of political elements he or she will deal with. You may find yourself at an event, when one of the elected ones will introduce themselves to you, and start asking awkward questions. If you don't know who you're speaking with, you may afflict yourself with rookie foot-in-mouth disease.

Most of the politicians want to know you and get the name-and-face thing down pat in case they can use you. Yes, I said use you. Be professional and courteous, and don't speak outside of the department's policy and procedures. I don't care if the precinct lieutenant has just canceled your day off, this is not the time to be the name dropper or malcontent. If they have burning questions on political policy or reforms, say nothing about it and thank them for chatting with you.

Anytime you have contact with a political type, notify your chain of command. Tell the sergeant, just in case. Expect them at community events; it's good to know they're in the mix. Other times they show up unannounced and it can be a blindside attack. I've seen the city council person come up and demand that you arrest a person who contested them or ruffled their feathers. Call for backup, and notify the supervisor. Violating someone's self-importance is not punishable by law. Don't let a pompous council person get you into a lawsuit.

Do we do this everywhere? It depends. There are some readers who are in small and comfortable environs where the local politicians are known, friendly and work with law enforcement. Heck, it could be your cousin for all we know.

There are those of us who've worked in contemptible work environments where law enforcement is held with disdain. Often, law enforcement is just a pawn in their political game. Knowing all the players can be difficult in larger metro areas where council persons have staffers running about. Just treat the political hacks with arms-length respect, and don't endear yourself to them. Notify the supervisor who's prowling around your scene or event.

Police and politics can be a dangerous combination. Add a young officer who doesn't know what to say or has been led astray by someone with political aspirations. Don't let them get you down. Act professionally, and you'll be fine.

Tags: Professional Image, Event Management, Sergeants


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