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Performance Evaluations

Employee reviews may seem the bane of your existence, but there are ways to make the process more palatable if you must deal with it.

April 22, 2012  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author

If you answer that question honestly, you'll understand what kind of supervisor you are. Numbers tend to make politicians happy; making a difference by reducing crime trends makes citizens happy.

Writing Better Evaluations

If you are made to write evaluations then write a decent one. It's my opinion that an evaluation is more about the person writing it than the one receiving it.

Administrators look at the bottom line; they peek at the score and check to see if the officer is up to standard or not. Then they use that information to evaluate the supervisor: If the officer is not up to standard, what did you do about it? Why am I hearing about this now and not six months ago? Where is your documentation, including case numbers, dates, and times? Why isn’t it clearly stated in the evaluation?

It also works in the opposite way. When a supervisor writes such a good evaluation that it appears the officer walks on water, but there is no documentation to support it, administrators will immediately want answers. In other words, where’s the beef?

If it's a yearly PE, then why can't you come up with at least one detailed example for each listed competency rating? Things like "comes to work on time, looks professional in uniform, and knows her radio codes," are not examples of exceptional performance; they state minimum standards and point to a lazy supervisor if used to prove an exceptional rating. If you're the supervisor and you can't come up with examples to explain your position, the real question then becomes, what have you done for a year?

Documentation

You hear this all the time and yet we don't do much about it. Documentation is the key to a fair and valid PE. You have to document the good and the bad. No one incident (unless extreme) makes or breaks an evaluation. It's the patterns that are created by an officer's conduct and performance that do.

Documentation works for the officer as well. All officers should keep notes on themselves so they can compare what they feel they accomplished with what their supervisors write. I always ask my sergeants to send me a list of their accomplishments and major incidents before I write their evaluations. I am not embarrassed to tell you that I'm glad I do, because on occasion I have missed a few things and was able to incorporate them into the final product.

So how do you keep notes? There are many options, and you should choose one that works for you. I have an easy system I learned from one of my former lieutenants that works for me.

Take a daily planner/calendar and in the month page, right a brief description of the incident and time in the square for the date it happened. Then, go to the back of the planner where each day has its own set of blank lines. Once there, add the necessary details to help you remember later on. If you want more room, you can augment this approach by adding a running log on your computer. Write as much as you want and then edit later when you write the PE.

Those Hard-to-Write Bullet Points

It seems that a significant number of supervisors find writing the necessary bullet points for the listed evaluation competencies a difficult task. Books like "Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals" by James E. Neal Jr. are very helpful when writing performance bullets. The author lists bullets in just about every category possible that you can use verbatim or modify to suit your individual needs.

There are many Internet sources that you can use as well. Typing in "employee evaluation phrases" in any search engine will help find you what you need.

For example, at www.uthscsa.edu/hr/pdfs2/phrases.pdf, you'll find a very useful four-page reference. But eventually you won’t need to refer back to these types of cheat sheets, as you will get in your own groove and be able to spit them out at will. One of my sergeants currently keeps his best written evaluation and uses it as a template for others.

Final Words

The biggest reason I dislike performance evaluations is that they are not a substitute for leadership. If a supervisor is doing his or her job consistently, then an evaluation becomes superfluous. Leadership is performed day to day, not once a year.

If you have to work with performance evaluations, then do it right by documenting all year round. Write performance bullets that include detailed examples. If your agency's evaluation form includes a narrative section, don't just cut and paste text from the bullets you've already written; write something else. A 12-month period should give you mountains of material to work from.

Don't write a bad evaluation because you're lazy. And don't accept a bad evaluation if you have the documentation to prove otherwise. Evaluations have a nasty way of working themselves into your life when it's convenient for someone else. Don't make it so convenient. 

Amaury Murgado is a special operations lieutenant with the Osceola County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office. He is a retired master sergeant from the Army Reserve, has 24 years of law enforcement experience, and has been a lifelong student of martial arts.

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Tags: Best Practices, Performance Evaluations, Command Staff


Comments (12)

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12

Glen @ 4/23/2012 8:55 PM

What an accurate and nail-on-the-head article. My agency is stuck in the stone age, complete with favoritism and the Peter Principle in full force. Evals are exactly the problem(s) you write about here. There has to be a way to eliminate them while merit increases are provided for somehow. I recently receoved a down-themiddle

Glen @ 4/23/2012 8:57 PM

evaluation, which is all kinds of backward and lazy. I went to the big boss about it, but was asked what I suggest he do about it...

Jim @ 4/23/2012 10:34 PM

If you are a guy that does the work of two, but are not in the good graces of the boss, then you are sh&* on his shoe and you will never get a good evaluation. Just like when you are disciplined for what your co-workers - or even what your boss does. It is all up to the whim of the boss. There is no objectivity about it.

Thor @ 4/24/2012 12:09 AM

Once a year? Try every 6 months. Good comunication between Sgt and patrol. I was sent out to run radar on 30 mph street with no residential intersections. 30 mph out of place--I never did 30 mph on patrol--usually 45. Message got through when only verbal warnings were given. Made detective. Think for yourself--do the ethical thing.

Debby @ 4/24/2012 12:42 AM

I'm one of the supervisors who do the evals. It is hard when you are rating what you believe is fair (myself and my two Sgts.) and then supervisors from other shifts rate some of their people higher (undeserved) because their shift does no wrong. It does make for dissention among the rank and file. I know about being on the bottom of the shoe also. I happen to be a supervisor who is not afraid to tell you their opinion and for that I am not like. My shift does show the numbers and we have more felony arrests than the other two but we are the hated shift. What do you do?

DaveSAM25G @ 4/24/2012 1:10 AM

Well Done (Lt)...The word Lazy stood out and never forget your path up – and what is put into is what you get out of it like everything in life effort-action!! Good documentation on performance reports. – These should be based on and spelled out by a solid policy – continuous feedback – using a performance worksheet…

During my military days (Ret Now) I gave these official feedbacks quarterly or as needed some more than others (above and beyond yes but no surprises to those I rated …communication should be daily or as needed …gives them time and chance to improve also before annual report…All must be backed up just like a criminal case with the evidence of either good performance or bad…This is just an example only what was used in USAF-many military methods are easily adapted to police work and vice-versa why re-invent the wheel!

Definitions of performance assessment ratings to be used on the forms now Enlisted-EPRs two types of reports E-1-E-7, E-7-E-9 and Performance Worksheets =PFWs which match the reports now with rating used to be scale Must be able to support these rating through chain of command documentation ACTION!
a. Does Not Meet: Performs below established standards, requires improvement.
Disciplinary action is not required however, report will be referral.
b. Meets: Meets established standards.
c. Above Average: Performs beyond established standards and expectations.
d. Clearly Exceeds: Performs at a higher level than most of their peers, far exceeds standards and expectations, unique performer.

Advice for the Corporal or Sgt even acting ones: During supervision and leadership - I become a leader by what I do. I take the initiative and seek responsibilities, and I face situations with boldness and confidence. I estimate the situation and make my own decision as to the best course of action. No matter what the requirements, I stay with the job until the job is done; no matter what the results, “I

DaveSAM25G @ 4/24/2012 1:12 AM

OOPS missing last part-The word Lazy stood out – and what is put into is what you get out of it like everything in life effort-action!! Good documentation on performance reports. – These should be based on and spelled out by a solid policy – continuous feedback – using a performance worksheet…During my military days I gave these official feedbacks quarterly or as needed some more than others (above and beyond yes but no surprises to those I rated …communication should be daily or as needed …gives them time and chance to improve also before annual report…All must be backed up just like a criminal case with the evidence of either good performance or bad…This is just an example only what was used in USAF-many military methods are easily adapted to police work and vice-versa why re-invent the wheel!Definitions of performance assessment ratings to be used on the forms now Enlisted-EPRs two types of reports E-1-E-7, E-7-E-9 and Performance Worksheets =PFWs which match the reports now with rating used to be scale Must be able to support these rating through chain of command documentation ACTION!
a. Does Not Meet: Performs below established standards, requires improvement.
Disciplinary action is not required however, report will be referral.
b. Meets: Meets established standards.
c. Above Average: Performs beyond established standards and expectations.
d. Clearly Exceeds: Performs at a higher level than most of their peers, far exceeds standards and expectations, unique performer.

Advice for the Corporal or Sgt even acting ones: During supervision and leadership - I become a leader by what I do. I take the initiative and seek responsibilities, and I face situations with boldness and confidence. I estimate the situation and make my own decision as to the best course of action. No matter what the requirements, I stay with the job until the job is done; no matter what the results, “I assume full responsibility.”

Amaury Murgado @ 4/24/2012 4:19 AM

@ Debby: You do your job and do the right thing is the answer. Yes you become a target and unpopular, but its either that or become the very thing you hate. If you do an evaluation that is fair, covers the entire eval period, highlight the positive as much as possible, and note all letters, awards, courses/schools taken, what else is there. If the person you are evaluating is a slug, then they get a slug eval. You can never really side step politics, friendship bubbles, or laziness among other supervisors and command staff. All you can do is your best and let the chips fall where they may. Its a tough road, but in the end, you can hold your head up high knowing you're not the problem but a possible solution. Author.

Ima Leprechaun @ 5/11/2012 6:07 AM

No matter how much the Administration denies it every performance evaulation is personal and subjective. I am proud of this eval I got from my Sergeant "This officer fails to understand the benefit to blindly obey orders". The order in question was an illegal order but I still got dinged for it on the eval. So its easy to see why most officers dont trust evals. It's all about personality and popularity and nothing more. Evals don't work, ever unless you work for Jesus Christ then maybe you'd get a fair eval. I just can't picture Christ as a modern traffic cop.

Ima Leprechaun @ 5/11/2012 6:16 AM

Our contract negotiators suggested we evaluate our Sergeants as part of a comprehensive evaluation process. The Administration cried foul saying we could not be trusted to fairly evaluate our supervisors, can you say double standard. I read something above about leading by example, that had to be in the military because police supervisors rarely lead by example. When they get promoted and they will eat their young. They become everything they hated in THEIR supervisor. We used to call it the Sergeant's breaking in period. Some came back around in about two to three years but some never looked back.

Ima Leprechaun @ 5/11/2012 6:38 AM

Glen@ you poor guy. My agency was on the merit system. We had no civil service (we never had any civil service due to the charter the city had) and when I started they were using the merit system. The merit system is also known as the buddy system. While I wrote more tickets than all the other officers combined (we had five btw) but it was not the violations that the administration wanted specifically enforced. For that I was paid less by working more. Really doesn't seem like it worked to me. Officers that hid all day and did absolutely nothing, not even to write a single ticket got more money than I did because they were in favor with the Chief. They didnt make waves and as far as anyone knew they weren't even on the force they did so little. So the merit system is nothing more than a complete waste of time. If it's not performance based then what good is it? And the flip side to that is exactly what criteria do you base the merit rise on? Arrests, tickets, walk throughs, escorts, warrant arrests, neighborhood drive throughs. I was taught to be a good all around cop. Do a little bit of everything including the neighborhood drive throughs which don't count as part of a merit system since they produce nothing but goodwill. How can you measure goodwill? I think its pretty important and so does the public but in a merit system it does nothing for you. We finally went to court and forced the city to negotiate with us and we threw the merit system out. My agency is now the highest paid and most professional Police Department in my State. I like contracts a whole lot better and they work.

Ima Leprechaun @ 5/11/2012 6:44 AM

I just noticed something all my posts are posted using the West Coast time zone times. I kept thinking it was earlier than it really was. I am in CST so I'm only two hours off on my post times. Up all night you get punchy...sorry.

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