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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
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De-Ass Yourself!

When giving advice or constructive criticism, make sure that you are being constructive.

October 12, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

The containment had been set up quickly enough. Having taken up a position just east of the targeted location, the deputy put the odds at fifty-fifty that the suspect had broken containment.

In any event, things looked pretty well locked down now. The deputy was one of several who'd set up about the location, each with the singular aim of making sure that whatever was triangulated between them remained there. Held over beyond the end of his shift, the deputy’s fatigue found him leaning against the side of his patrol car where he maintained his vigil under the hot sun.

Just then, a supervisor pulled up, exited his patrol car, and made a beeline for the deputy.

"Just what the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Maintaining part of the containment," the deputy explained, more than a little mystified that any explanation was necessary.

The supervisor got in the deputy’s face. "Don't you know there's a possibly armed suspect inside that house right there? He could cap your ass while you're standing there in the open!"
Hooking an agitated thumb in a direction away from the patrol car, the supervisor finished his thought. "De-ass yourself from that vehicle!"

Sufficiently chastised, the veteran deputy did just that. Part of him wondered how likely it was that the situation would have evolved into a possible barricade, but he took the supervisor's order as a reasonable one and acted on it. The man was acting with the best interests of his troops, after all.

But two minutes later, the de-assed deputy spotted the handling deputy walking from the rear of the contained location to the front yard, leisurely pressing his nose against one window glass and then the next, staring inside through cupped hands, before lackadaisically making his way in the direction of the supervisor who hailed him with, "Hey, what's up?"

"Not much, dude."

The conversation that followed started with a quick sizing up of the situation. "Looks like our guy's in the wind. Didn't see him inside." It was followed by a longer discussion of a planned river trip, and then followed by a still longer digression of misadventures recently shared away from the workplaceall within earshot of the house where a "possibly armed suspect" was perhaps still in seclusion pending confirmation of the chosen one's suspicions.

The de-assed deputy wondered at what point the chit-chat would stop and the supervisor would start chewing ass for the handling deputy's haphazard approach to the situation; or more aptly, his departure. But none was forthcoming. The conversation ended as amicably as it'd begun.

The de-assed deputy was dumbfounded. For while he didnt take any initial exception to the supervisor’s orders, he sure as hell did in retrospect, given the disparity with which he was treated.

The de-assed deputy acknowledges that the supervisor’s advice was good advice, but he also knew that it could have been communicated better, especially given the amnesty the supervisor had extended the greater transgression. But then, the sneaking suspicion that the deputy had at the time and which grew stronger with subsequent conversations in which he learned of others' experiences with the supervisorwas that the order to “de-ass” himself wasn't about officer safety in the first place. It was about establishing and reinforcing a pecking order, using officer safety as a pretext.

For there will always be those whose personal missions are not to provide support but domination and personal aggrandizement. They are easily recognized, and their true stripes become the subject of many a windshield conference and informal briefing. They may believe their self-authored press releases, but few others do.

And the sad thing is that there is no shortage of such people around. They can be found among FTOs, managers, administrative types, and yes, supervisors. But you don't have to become party to it or put up with it, either.

I used this particular anecdote, mostly because it's fresh in my memory. But it's emblematic of far too many similar incidents that I've witnessed through the years. More than once it was manifested in my direction, but only once by any given jerk-off. (There's more than one reason
I spent over half my career as a sergeant, and this was a prime one. I had a complete inability to kowtow to some numbnuts who thought that because he'd attained a certain rank he became imbued with an omniscience that he categorically did not possess.)

Such behavior is one reason I try not to be too pious on any front, for I recognize that I am as capable of being full of crap at any given moment as the next guy. Nobody’s perfect, and nowhere is that better illustrated than when someone is making himself out to be.

So if you are ever tempted to tell someone to "de-ass" himself, make sure you're not making one of yourself in the process.

Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

tomreilly @ 10/13/2007 5:54 AM

I was a supervisor for over 20 of my 30 years, I always was a hands on proactive supervisor, who did not micro manage. If a situation needed negative correction, it was always done later in private, good jobs were credited at the scene and in the next roll call.
Lead with a positive example, always listen to your troops and provide positive correction.

adrian stroud @ 10/15/2007 9:57 AM

Supervisors (good supervisors) lead from the FRONT. They never order an officer to do something they themselves would not be willing to do. Unfortunately, in this day and age, supervisors are beaten up by liability. This causes them (and I HATE this term) to have a CYA mentality, which compromises their judgement.

PDONOVAN @ 10/15/2007 11:31 AM

The supervisor did his job, though poorly, by making the point that the deputy had a severe lapse in judgement regarding his personal safety. However, the supervisor most likely lost any shred of respect that deputy might have had for him based on the delivery of that important message. Respect goes a long way in mentoring subordinates and had the supervisor acted professionally the safety message may have been better accepted. Treating people in the manner you want to be treated is very important for a supervisor. What worked thirty years ago isn't cutting it today. Lead by example or get out of the supervisor role. My best memories of my supervisors in my early years are of those individuals who demonstrated professional behavior, patience, and treated us with respect. I'll always remember them and conduct myself accordingly.

David Moore S-55 @ 10/15/2007 11:06 PM

Another needed one! Never forget where you came from or how you came up the ranks, including how you felt when this happed to you (I remember this-Golden Rule)! Leaders should be remembered for high standards in a world of changing “Values and Loyalties." And your skills/mentorship should go beyond the management level, as leadership is a higher calling and a more prized position. Praise in Public and Criticize in Private...unless there is a life or death safety issue, then going home to family and protection of team takes precedence!! Always explain why later you took this course of action…

jfriday240 @ 11/11/2007 1:18 PM

Having been a supervisor, I recognize the fact that your subordinates have the ability to make you look really good or really bad as a supervisor. I always made it a point to lead by example and treat my people right. In return they were happy and motivated and did their jobs to the best of their ability, never complaining when I asked them to do anything, because they knew I would do or had done the same job before. When the uniforms come off we are all just people...let's treat others the way we want to be treated.

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