You Have My Back. Right, Sarge?

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

I want to take this month’s article to talk about the level of support from a first-line supervisor, and how I have witnessed a downward trend of outward support from sergeants when it matters the most.

I am going to make up a fictional scenario, but potentially one that many of you may have experienced.

Officer A goes on a call for service. Upon arrival, the officer is confronted with a scenario that requires the officer to use some form of force. Maybe it is just hand-to-hand striking or, in the most extreme of cases, the use of deadly force. Whatever the case, the officer notifies their first-line supervisor. The sergeant acknowledges the use of force and responds to the scene. Upon arrival at the scene, the sergeant gets a full debrief of what took place during the use of force. The sergeant tells Officer A that everything looks good and within policy. The sergeant tells the officer to do their blue team and submit it to them.

I have witnessed a downward trend of outward support from sergeants when it matters the most.

Officer A goes back to the station and writes up their blue team. After a few revisions from the sergeant to the officer, a final version of the use of force is completed and approved by the sergeant. The sergeant tells you “Great job out there on this call” and leaves you to have no questions about the incident.

A few days go by and the sergeant tells you that the lieutenant was asking some questions about the use of force. The sergeant tells you that they went to bat for you on the case because they knew everything that happened. Eventually, someone along the line has a problem with the use of force and opens an SOC on you for excessive use of force. You ask your sergeant how this could be and they tell you, “Do not worry about this. I reviewed the entire case, to include BWC, and you were absolutely within policy, and I will tell anyone how I feel that you did nothing wrong.”

Through the investigative process — which often is outcome driven as opposed to fact finding — you get sustained and receive a suspension for your actions. Your sergeant tells you that this is BS and that you should fight it. You agree and get with the PPA, and we launch a grievance. The PPA investigator talks with your sergeant and gets an extremely supportive statement from them about how your conduct was within policy and that they had no issues with your use of force.

A date is then set for arbitration. A few days prior, David Roger meets with your sergeant, as they are our witness, and speaks with them about the case. In this meeting, the sergeant, unbeknownst to you, starts to change their tune a little about the use of force and how maybe you could have done something different, but generally, the use of force was within policy.

The day of the arbitration comes and the sergeant is now on the stand ready to testify. Now, the sergeant’s story changes quite a bit and appears to the arbitrator that they feel your use of force was not within policy and you should have done something different. The case now becomes an absolute loss, and you, the officer, are stuck with a three-year reminder in your file that the sergeant who said they had your back turned out to have no backbone and refused to do what was right under threat or perceived fear of retaliation against them, leaving you standing alone with the minor suspension.

Now this is not the case for every supervisor. There are some who have no issue standing up for what is right when they need to. But for the ones who have the great aspirations of rising through the ranks of LVMPD, they will bend to the Department’s wishes, or, as we have had before, call us a day or two before an arbitration and ask to bow out of testifying.

I hope that this, like many things, changes back to the way it used to be where supervisors cared more about what is right as opposed to doing what is best for them and their career. Time will tell.