When I hired on the Department in 1998, we had a document called a “commendable.” This piece of paper with Department letterhead meant a lot to a lot of people. It said, “Job well done!” and “Thanks for going above and beyond!” While no one on this agency took the position for praise and a pat on the back, it doesn’t mean that we don’t still appreciate it when a supervisor does it. Deep down in all of us, we enjoy hearing that our hard work has been noticed and appreciated. The current form of documentation is the contact report. The Department says that it can be used for positive and negative conversations about incidents that have taken place. I ask all of our members this question: How many of you have received a positive contact report? I am going to go out on a limb and say that the percentage of positive contact reports is equal to the percentage of officers who think that I look like Brad Pitt.
I am not sure what is taught to new supervisors on our Department, but I hope that they are being taught how a positive working environment with positive recognition fosters a hardworking and productive work force. Something as simple as dropping a contact report in someone’s file that outlines the good that officer did goes a long way. It also shows the officer that a supervisor has identified their hard work and commended them for it. Sadly, all I ever hear about contact reports from our officers is the negative ones that they get. Officers don’t contact us at the PPA and talk about the good things their bosses have said about them; rather, they explain to us the negative contact report and ask for assistance in a rebuttal statement. Since I have been at the union, I have heard time and again that “a contact isn’t discipline” and “a contact is just a documentation of a conversation.” If that were the case, you would not have so many people pissed off over getting them. The perception from our members is that these negative contact reports will lead to progressive and future discipline, which it does. Good supervisors should be combating these negative contact reports with plenty of positive ones. If you want your officers to buy into your being a good boss who doesn’t just come down on them for the negative stuff, start utilizing positive contact reports.
At the time of writing this article, we are going through a sergeant testing process. I am speaking to you officers who are going to promote. Please remember the type of boss you absolutely hated to come work for. Remember all of the times that supervisor made you feel like crap or that all you did wasn’t enough. Take all of that and mold yourself into being the boss you wished that person would have been. Care about your troops and praise them for their hard work. Acknowledge them in both the public and private setting, and let people know you have their back. Be the sergeant who has their squad fill up first at the bump, because no matter how crappy your shift or RDOs are, troops will follow a good boss. To quote one of my favorite movies, Braveheart, when William Wallace is talking to the leader of Scotland: “The people of this country know you. Noble and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they would follow you. And so would I.” Never has a more accurate statement been made. Build yourself a good reputation and the men and women of LVMPD will follow you, and so would I!