Bryan Yant

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who works as a captain for a major agency in South Florida. We were discussing several force analysis cases and talking about recent use-of-force trends that we have seen — mainly focusing on the internal analysis and review, as well as how supervisors, from the first-line supervision to the executive staff, view and react to use-of-force events. Throughout the discussion, it became clear that, on opposite sides of the country and doing the same job on opposite levels, we focused on a very glaring fact. After the force analysis and case review, which I can say was the easiest part, was the lack of good leadership. From the informal leader on a squad to the sergeant and on up the entire chain, you could pinpoint leadership flaws and errors. At the end of our lengthy debate, he left me with a golden nugget: “When you promote the wrong people, you begin to lose your best people.”

To me, that is a very deep statement. I can honestly say that, with over 23 years’ service with LVMPD and four years’ service in the United States Marine Corps and an infantry unit, it rings very loud and clear. Leadership is the foundation of any organization and is structure-based. Leadership positions may be earned through proven work and experience, tested for in a promotional process and even handed down through the good ol’ boy system. Coming from the Marine Corps, you respect the position and authority of the person in the leadership position; however, you may not respect and agree with their position. That can be said and held true to here at LVMPD as well. Rank and structure are an important piece of how we work within the community as well as within LVMPD policies, procedures and laws.

Anyone can assume a leadership position. You do not have to take a test to be a leader. There are hundreds of leaders on this organization who have never promoted and have displayed leadership on a daily basis, in and out of work. Leadership is embodied within them and displayed by their work ethic, drive, sacrifice for squadmates, being a sounding board, availability to help with whatever is needed, and so many more qualities. No matter how long you have been on the agency, these people are there and around every station and bureau. Seek them out if you don’t already know them. 

Conversely, just because you are smart, can take a test, can memorize paragraphs on end, are good with math and money, are quick-witted or have so many other attributes, that does not mean you are a leader. It means you have been promoted and are in a leadership position. Being a leader is up to you and the qualities you possess. You must earn the respect of those you lead. You do not need to be best friends with those you lead; however, you must lead them with empathy. Remember, you too were once in their positions. Never forget where you came from. 

As an agency, we are lucky enough to be diverse in our talents and personalities. In all our ranks, we have both good and bad officers and leadership. It takes us all to blend into that big melting pot that is LVMPD. Everyone has a role and purpose here and a task to fill. I remember back to my five years on graveyard patrol and equate the role, task and purpose to those years, and I’m sure it is still no different on any squad now. There were officers who loved taking reports and would jump any report call for you. We had officers who loved doing traffic enforcement and would offer to take any wanted person to jail for you for even a $200 warrant. There were officers who would be clear for as long as they could, and let me tell you, sometimes it was almost all night if it wasn’t for lunch and gas. Then of course you have the workers, the ones out actively doing the “work” day in and day out. It took all of us to work together to accomplish a mission. 

Leadership plays an important role in the application of force and dynamic events. LVMPD policy encourages supervisors to be present on dynamic calls and help slow the momentum, gather resources and coordinate plans to prevent an application of force. This is very important for supervisors to act as leaders and to give clear direction and guidance. Those “wrong” leaders struggle in these situations and can adversely impact the outcome of the event. Those “wrong” leaders can impact a use-of-force investigation by their external influence and bias based on what they have seen from body-worn camera footage from the scene. The rush to judgment and “I don’t like the way this looks” should be kept aside and held until the involved officer’s testimony is heard from unbiased investigators. The application of force is done in microseconds. The involved officer may or may not see, feel, hear and perceive the same things you as a leader do in your role and in the review. Just because they are an officer and you are in some leadership position does not mean you or they are right or wrong. 

Far too often, in reviewing cases from here and across the country, I have seen the wrong people in leadership positions making bias-based decisions and impacting an investigation. This tends to lead to losing the best people who are making a decision in microseconds. From termination to discipline to feeling disrespected and not understood or heard, officers are being harmed by leadership. We often talk about the trauma, the mental and emotional pressures of an event on officers. What we don’t talk about is the re-victimization of the officers through the investigative process. Hopefully now, under new leadership and the Wellness Bureau, we can make some positive steps in these areas.

We could discuss this topic for hours, but in closing, be the leader that you would want to follow and work for. Be that person and set an example by your performance and drive. Being a leader is not always easy and it can be stressful; however, the reward is knowing there are many behind you depending on you every day. If you want to promote, do it, but do it for the right reasons. Don’t lose sight of where you started and how it was coming up. A lot of officers promote for selfish reasons, and that shows in their performance and leadership qualities. “When you promote the wrong people, you begin to lose your best people.” 

Thank you for your membership, and be safe.