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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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Don't Try to Be Supercop

There are times when it's best to delegate.

February 06, 2009  |  by - Also by this author

You've been off training for awhile now. You've made your own fair share of "obs" arrests, have been calling your former training officer by his first name for months now, and know how to handle just about anything that falls under your radar. So, unless you're a total screw-up—in which case you'll make rank in no time—your fellow officers probably expect you to know what you're doing. In short, you've nothing to prove.

Knowing this and knowing the vagaries of the job, it makes sense that there will be times when you may want to take a step back and hand off the ball to another officer. What follows are some instances wherein it's probably better to let someone else do the heavy lifting.

Physical Stuff

Being the nosey li'l bastards that they are, scientists have actually come up with a new test that can tell if a person is genetically predisposed to becoming a power lifter or a long distance runner. Personally, I think most of us have some idea of our strengths and liabilities even if we don't care to acknowledge them—which might account for why many cops try to rise to the challenge, whatever it may be. Unfortunately, that ascent can become problematic when one's employment is due largely to a department's lack of a height requirement. This results in Napoleonic efforts on the part of some of our more diminutive brethren to surmount seemingly unscalable obstacles such as fences and walls (which, once scaled, often result in a stifled scream, followed by a dull thud, followed by a muffled moan).

And just because it's your handle doesn't necessarily mean you need to be the one kicking the door, especially if you have an arthritic knee, flatulence, and gout. Having written my fair share of employee injury reports on senior badge bearers, I was amazed at how often I had younger, healthier—and apparently shrewder—cops as witnesses (whose compassionate takes on the matter were usually along the lines of, "You shoulda been there, Sarge! When his foot ended up stuck in the door it was the funniest damn thing!").

So the next time you're faced with a door that needs to have its ass kicked, ask yourself: Have you a martial arts student among your sister cars? Someone who was a placekicker in college? Or perhaps one who has some anger management issues that can sublimate some frustration on an otherwise inanimate object? Let that person kick the damned thing.

Or, maybe you don't have to kick the door. Maybe you have someone who knows how to pick a lock. At my old station, we had Doug Iketani, who saved the county quite a bit of money on multiple fronts in opening doors with his lock-picking skills (and who still owes me an article).


Female searches are probably one of the biggest catch-22s of the profession. Go "hands on," and you may face a sexual assault rap. Don't, and you might end up facing a gun. While the ol' "better to be tried by twelve…" comes to mind, it's probably better just to isolate the problem and let a female handle it. Or them. Whatever.

When it comes to searching vehicles, I've found that what younger cops lack in Secret Squirrel Stash familiarity they will often make up for in zeal. Tell them to find a gun and by God they'll find one, come hell or high water.

Certain Citizen Contacts

Overly zealous reporter. Local politico. Community activist. Pain-in-the-ass. Whatever the problem child, you'll be best served by getting a field supervisor to run a little interference on your behalf (especially if you actually are in the wrong. It's best to have a supervisor nip the situation in the bud before you get yourself in even more hot water).

I didn't like dealing with some of these situations, particularly when the x-factor proved to be an idiot. Still, I never begrudged a deputy for getting me on the radio and having me roll on such situations (especially as my inevitable involvement was assured anyway, should the moron formally pitch a bitch). A former subordinate of mine who eventually made patrol sergeant once said that he made a point to make sure that by the time he was done with a citizen complaint, the pissed-off citizen would come to view the offending deputy like an absolute angel when compared to him. He said he'd simply stolen a page from my play book. I really have no idea what he's talking about.

Coordinating Calls on the Radio

If you're working a new sector, ask someone who's been working the beat to help you set up approaches and containments. They're likely to be much more up on what's accessible, what's not, and how to maximize your area cars for optimal deployment. Maybe they'll even know escape routes exploited by locals.


Maybe you like to see yourself as a one-man crime task force. We had one at my old station. He was good at doing a little bit of just about everything, including crime scene print investigation. He usually came up with good prints, too; unfortunately, they were often his own. Leave such stuff for the pros (at least, for those paid to do the job. I don't want to get called on presuming a degree of competency to the compensated).

Changing Tires in the Rain

Why do you think God created the explorer ridealong?

Ugly Women Hitting on You

Wing man handle if I ever saw one.

Finally, when your fellow officers are escalating your call or contact, let the li'l alpha males. But leave no ambiguity about the fact that they have just bought the call. Let them know when they're content to operate in a supporting role on your calls, you'll revert to taking the lead, but you're not going to co-sign their BS in the meantime.

Related Articles:

Call for Civilian Backup

Rent-a-Cops, Wannabes, and Scabs—Oh, My!

Blowhards R Us

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

David Moore S-55 @ 2/6/2009 7:58 PM

A leadership lesson and Excellent Article! This problem has been around a long time and your article hits on very valid and key points. Never forget when you were coming up the ladder and were told you screwed up with little to no explanation or proper example to follow next time. And judging a book by its cover alone, without looking inside, we all have been burned here as a supervisor (Ask three people what happened and all three will tell a different story adding or deleting to suit personal needs, somewhere in-between lies the true answer. In the real world we must remember that leadership is not something we do, but the true difference is something we are…It’s a life full of easy and hard lessons. The biggest lesson in Law Enforcement versus other professions is many times you don’t have a second chance to learn from you mistakes. You should never be too busy for training of your troops (Team) as the results will speak volumes later, when they also become to busy, not motivated or indifferent, by your example shown to listen and learn!

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