By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
This is the last of my suggestions on being a good supervisor, I promise!
Another thing I learned as a supervisor is you can’t take your reputation as a street cop with you. I felt I was a good street cop in Hollywood and made some pretty good arrests. I made Sergeant and I was transferred to Southeast (Watts) Division. Only a few officers there knew me and I had to establish my reputation all over again. Your reputation, good or bad is earned and that takes time. Be patient.
I got this advice in sergeant’s school and I used it the rest of my career. Don’t ask your officers to doing anything you won’t do. Get your hands dirty too. Don’t tell your officers to stand out in the rain or cold while you sit in your warm dry car. Once, I was working the Hollywood Christmas Parade and it was bitter cold and the wind increased the chill factor. The parade was over and the citizens scurried home. Our captain made us stand out in the cold for hours as he drove around in his car with the windows rolled up. A large number of us got sick. I was often the Watch Commander and on weekends we didn’t have a custodian. I could have asked a probationer to empty the trash cans but I remembered the lesson I learned in sergeant’s school. I emptied the trash myself.
Write the officers commendations when warranted. Everyone needs to be appreciated. I know it’s extra work but if an officer did a good job, don’t ever tell them, “That’s just your job.” Commendations are in your personnel package forever. If a commendation is not warranted at least verbally commend the officers, in roll call if possible, in front of their peers is even better. Never ever chew out an officer in public or in front of other officers. I hated Hawaii Five-0 and Kojak because the boss belittled his people in front of others.
Roll call—the start of a new day. What mood do you want the officers in when they leave roll call? I attended nineteen roll calls a month for eleven months a year for thirty-five years. That’s over 7,000 roll calls so I consider myself an expert on roll calls. If you’re the supervisor in charge of roll call it’s your responsibility to keep them happy. A while back we had a Chief of Police who publicly stated that officers’ morale was not his job. He was not well liked! Don’t send them out in the streets in a bad mood. The paperwork they will create for you is not worth the aggravation. If you have negative issues, say them early and then leave them on a happy note. We use to call that the sandwich method. Good, bad, good!
Last but not least, this was not required but I found it was a morale booster. I would bring in homemade cookies and See’s Candy at Christmas, a cooked turkey at Thanksgiving, and tubs of red licorice just because. It was much easier to get the officers to meet the goals of the department when they’re happy. I once decided to bring in a big basket of fresh fruit from Costco. I filled the basket with apples, oranges, bananas and pears. I thought it might be healthier than chocolate first thing in the morning. After roll call the remaining fruit was taken to the Watch Commander’s officer to share with the rest of the division. My captain walked in and asked who brought in the fruit. I said “I did, I have to take care of my officers.”
He thought they were his officers. Ha ha, I let him think that.
It’s not easy switching hats from being one of the boys to being a supervisor. You show up at a coffee spot with three patrol cars and they all get busy and leave you there alone. I had one officer that I knew quite well. We fished together and talked all the time. I made sergeant and he refused to call me Hal. It was now ‘sergeant’. Get used to it.
Being a supervisor can be a hard job and lonely at times but it can also be rewarding. I remember one officer talking about a supervisor who held his retirement party in a phone booth—he wasn’t liked.
These are my suggestions and might work for some newly promoted supervisor or help an older supervisor.