We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
Again, these are my suggestions on what makes a good supervisor and they certainly don’t reflect the opinions of the LAPD.
I use to think that the LAPD needed a promotion tree with two forks. One tree fork was for the building boys who promote, they can stay inside and read and write policy books. That’s fine, if that’s your wish. The second tree fork was for street cops who had experience in patrol and knew what worked regardless of what the psychologists said. I once expressed my two forked tree theory and found myself peeing in a cup and taking a Rorschach exam. After that I kept my opinions to myself, my first step in being a good supervisor.
“I’d like to intervene, but I haven’t completed the appropriate paperwork.”
A good supervisor also needs to have a good working knowledge of the department rules. The LAPD manual has so many rules and regulations that you never can know them all but know the ones that apply to field situations. Only a building boy will care how many copies of a LAPD form 15.7 are needed. That’s because they ask those kind of questions on the promotional exams. This will save you and your officers from complaints or worse yet, termination and jail!
One of my pet peeves was sergeants who were never in the field. I remember one sergeant who was always downtown at headquarters looking for a job to get out of patrol. The officers knew where the sergeants were and what they were doing, most of the time. If the cops have mischief in mind, they don’t worry about being caught. If the sergeant is in the field, they might have second thoughts about bending the rules. Sergeants should show up at the routine calls once in a while. The cops won’t expect you. If they ask why, I would tell them I was bored. You’re also available for help if they want it. But just let them do their job and only step in if they ask or are doing something illegal.
Be fair to everyone! That’s means even if you don’t like them. I once watched the watch commander tell the roll call that there were a few days that we were over deployed and officers could take a day off with their accrued overtime. Right after roll call, an officer walked up to the watch commander (WC) and asked for a day off. The WC (without even looking at the time book) denied the request. He didn’t like the officer. That WC was not a favorite of the officers or mine either. I hated sergeants that played favorites.
Ok, here’s a tricky one. One of my training officers use to keep a log of a sergeant’s misdeeds. You know—date, time, location and the violation of department rules. He called it insurance in case he didn’t want this particular sergeant to write him up for his own violations. If you bend the rules in front of an officer, you are theirs. Trust me, they’ll bring it up when the department is trying to fire them. Drowning rats have no friends. Be on time. I remember one sergeant wanted to write up an officer for being late to roll call. The officer reminded the sergeant that he was late more than he was.
I was a new sergeant in Watts and working graveyard. We had long quiet nights and I couldn’t find any of our officers in the division. Having been an occasional member of hitting the hole (sleeping) in Hollywood, I knew what they were doing, I just didn’t know where. One night I was driving down Figueroa in the industrial section of the division. A hot shot call came out and before I could turn around I was almost run over by half the watch. They came from behind a big building. Now here is the dilemma: If I confront the officers and do nothing, I’m an accessory and they have me. If I write them all up, I’ll have no back up. It’s not a major violation and the other seasoned supervisors probably already know about it. I kept my mouth shut and took the information with me when I transferred a few months later. They might have asked me to join them.