Squad Morale and Development

Greg Stinnett

How is the morale on your squad? Hopefully, the answer is positive. I often ask this question when I visit officers from various area commands and bureaus. The answers vary, as they do with the career development questions.

Full disclosure: The last patrol squad I was on was in 2016 at SEAC. There, it was not uncommon to shag over 15 to 20 calls per shift. You logged on with calls pending and ended the shift the same way. Occasionally, you got caught up, but it was the exception and not the rule. The bottom line is, we got our asses kicked almost every shift. From what I hear, it has not changed much with the exception that more is expected from us now.

The best squads I worked on always made it a point to integrate some downtime to bond on training days. To take a few hours to decompress from the beating you took during the seven previous shifts. We made it a point to go to dinner/breakfast as a squad. We took time to cut up and laugh, talk shit about each other, catch up on kids’ birthdays, vacation plans, family issues, the crazy calls we had throughout the previous week and whatever else came to mind. It was not unusual for us to fire up the grill on the back patio of the station and have our own squad barbecue with each squad mate bringing food to share.

Those few hours of bonding every couple of weeks made the job bearable and gave us something to look forward to. If your squad does not do this, give it a try. It’s an “old school” mentality, but sometimes old school works just fine. I have spent the majority of my career in patrol, and never once did our lieutenant or captain push back on our sergeant and say no. In most cases, when we barbecued at the station, they would come out and visit for a bit.

Many of the senior sergeants I worked for understood that it was their squad to manage and that maintaining positive morale made coming to work fun. And there was an unintentional byproduct — those squads were typically the most productive and easiest to manage. Many of the newer sergeants had a hard time with this concept as they were still trying to understand their new role and how to operate within it. And that’s OK. The adjustment from an officer to a sergeant can be overwhelming for sure.

To the officers, I say this, it is OK to remind them, to teach them that your squad is a tight unit and that you guys expect some time to actually train on training days. And that it is OK to have dinner as a family. To be able to sit down for a couple of hours to bond. Your sergeant should want that quality time as much as you.

Career development is something our supervisors should be interested in. Has your sergeant ever sat down with you and asked you where you wanted to be in five years? What assignment did you want to work your way into? If not, they should be. Obviously, your career path is your own, and as such, it is your responsibility to work toward that goal. Having said that, your sergeant should take a vested interest in providing you with the tools to do so.

In the “old days,” sergeants would sit down with you and ask you where you wanted to work in the future. It was not uncommon for a sergeant to facilitate a ride-along with a specific unit or team to allow an officer to see if it was something they wanted to do. They would offer advice on how to make you a viable candidate for that job and help you create a plan to get to the top of the list.

Squad morale is critical to our mission; it is critical to our well-being, and it is critical to our overall wellness. The best thing is, it’s free. It costs us nothing.

If you work for a sergeant who already does these things, tell them thank you. If you work for one who does not, print this article out and put it on their desk.

To those out there pushing a sled, I say this: Thank you and be safe. I appreciate each and every one of you.

Hello, if you just picked this up off your desk and are reading this right now, then please realize you are part of the problem. Stop being part of the problem and be part of the solution. Recognize your troop’s hard work. Show them you give a shit. If you don’t, fake it. You asked for this job. Sit down with them and break bread. Lighten up and laugh with them. Talk to them and figure out where they want to be in five years. Mentor them. Be a role model for them. Do those few things, and your crew will bust their asses for you. I’m pretty sure throughout your testing process to promote you leaned on someone else for guidance. Pay it forward.

Stay safe.