What Kind of Leader Do You Want to Be?

John Abel
Director of Governmental Affairs

I have been an LVMPD police officer for 17 years this month. I am at that point in my career where when I retire, I want to ensure that good leaders are left behind to help move the LVPPA and LVMPD forward in a positive direction. One of those future leaders is Detective Joel Blasko. In the time I have known him, he has shown himself to be a good man and an excellent cop and detective who cares about the future of our union and police agency. He asked me if he could write an article for our union magazine, so I told him he could use my article space. His article is insightful and should cause future leaders of this agency to critically think about what kind of leader they want to be, should they choose to promote. Policing has come under heavy attack since 2020, and while we wait for the pendulum to swing back in our direction, we need good future leaders to make an impact so that pendulum stays swinging in our direction.

“Burdened by Our Leadership” by Detective Joel Blasko 

Here we are again, another new year. Another year, but same old song and dance. One thing that seemingly won’t ever change is leadership on this Department. After almost 10 years, I can count on one hand the sergeants, lieutenants and captains who are worth the time. We live in a time where as soon as you promote, you become a politician — one who is always jockeying for that next position and treating their cops like crap in the meantime. Once those stripes are stitched and bars are collared, these people lose their minds.

I’m not going to sit here and go on and on about what it takes to be a leader. To me, it’s very simple. You either have it in you, or you don’t. The good ones will sit you down and give it to you straight. They’ll have the difficult conversations, which might lead to getting chewed out, but that’s no worse for wear. The good ones understand that part of being a supervisor means mentoring and counseling. If you don’t like calling it counseling, then call it giving a damn. They’ll give you the “why” behind a decision. You may not like what they say, but at least you know where you stand. They’ll even give you the 30,000-foot view so that you understand what the supervisor has to look at. When things get dynamic, they are there, leading from the front. Stripes, bars and stars don’t change the good ones.

Our promotional testing process is exhaustive. It’s amazing how we aren’t able to get more qualified candidates who are worthy. After thinking about it, it actually isn’t hard to believe. All this place wants are the “yes” people with no backbone. The people who would just rather pass out contact reports over having a tough conversation. It’s like kids these days. They can’t have a face-to-face conversation, but they’ll burn the keyboard out on a cellphone. All this place wants are people who will call Labor Relations for guidance. You know, the people who have never done our job. The people who want to hammer cops because they created a discipline matrix. These newly anointed politicians are supposed to be decision-makers, but let’s be honest, we’ve all heard that awkward silence on the radio from some 300 call sign. It’s all about passing the buck.

The Department will exhaust investigative resources to bury a cop. The Executive Board of the LVPPA exhausts themselves day after day for the membership. Everything is a fight. In past issues of the magazine, the Executive Board has written about the Department’s ineptness on having window-to-window conversations. Conversations where people can clear the air constructively and move on with their lives. Those window-to-window conversations could be officer to officer, sergeant to officer, etc. We never have harsh and constructive debriefs at the end of shifts. Nowadays, even the best supervisors tread lightly on well-intentioned conversations because the potential for landing in IAB. Executive Board members constantly speak about leadership. Leadership has very little to do with rank. “When you promote the wrong people, you begin to lose your best people.”

When officers are involved in a critical incident such as an officer-involved shooting, the LVPPA Executive Board rolls out to the scene to represent our members. The entirety of the OIS process is long and stressful, having gone through it myself. In most instances, this is the most stressful time in someone’s career. Like most things at Metro, we hurry up to wait. Officers are kept on an OIS scene for hours on hours. Instead, supervisors are deliberately impeding progress. They would rather pursue their own narrative and spread fake news about the PPA on an OIS scene. He won’t say it to our faces but has no problem continuously spreading misinformation in a briefing room. Telling cops to review policy and report back if any wrongdoing has taken place. Again, it isn’t all that surprising because that supervisor has never done anything, ever. I’m sure he can tell us all about Jocko’s time in the military and how Jocko told him how to be a leader. It’s probably just the LVPPA being sensitive. This is why we have no faith.

It’s always our fault. Your area command just had a double homicide where two savages got killed, but it’s the cop’s fault. The first question asked is, why wasn’t there a cop there? Because, remember, this is Minority Report. This overshadows the good police work done every day. The mantra of Metro might as well be: If it was documented, it didn’t happen. We are human, which means human error is in play. Sometimes we forget things. Between the calls for service you’ve shagged or the 30 cases in your queue, they only care about what makes them look good. These politicians don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. They only care about how you make them look right now. How they look just might come down to a case note in P1. If you impede their star, they will bury you.

Just like anything, the good will always be overshadowed by the bad. We do have supervisors at all levels who are tremendous. We actually do have decision-makers who make decisions. Thank you to all of the great ones out there. The ones who continue to be dues-paying members of the LVPPA. The ones who will sacrifice their own career to make sure their officers are taken care of. Recently, we’ve had really good people make it off the sergeant’s list. People who will mentor officers. This keeps me hopeful that someday we can turn this around. We are professionals, and no matter how bad the leadership is, we will always show up to answer the call.

Thank you to the Executive Board for giving me the space to speak to our membership. I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. Please stay safe out there.