FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I work in a small department—one chief and myself—in a town of 2,000. My question: How much authority should the mayor have? He appointed himself over the police department and does everything, right down to scheduling. The chief can’t make a decision without asking the mayor, and if it’s not the mayor’s idea, forget it. The mayor took charge of grant money from the feds and ordered equipment on his own. The chief has quit trying. He just patrols, without much enthusiasm and initiative. He’s become a chief in name only. —Concerned Cop
Are you telling me a politician is being a pain in the ass? I have a hard time believing that.
That speaks volumes toward the idea of universal truths. The universal truth here is that no matter the location or size of the area, politicians will busily mess with something or someone and probably screw it up one way or another.
Back to your mayor. Just like every politician, I’m sure your mayor is positive his poop does not stink. Politicians run for office because they believe in their own rose-scented rear ends, not because they want to help anyone or make things better—that’s what cops do. This seems to have manifested as a mayor who always wanted to be a cop but couldn’t get hired. It’s much easier to get elected mayor in a one-horse town than to get hired as a cop anywhere; he took the easy way. To make up for not knowing anything, he throws around his rank and moves forward. I can’t believe he ordered equipment—even most know-it-all politicians won’t go that far. I hope he ordered something close to what you guys actually need.
I don’t even have a point of reference for your sort of police work. Where I work, at least three cops show up to more than half the calls. I live in a subdivision with more than 2,000 people, never mind the size of the city where I work. So, I’ll use some universal cop truths to translate my brain to your situation.
Truth 1: Cops don’t like change. I don’t care if we’re talking about a tiny department like yours or the biggest you can find, cops like it to stay the way it is. Your mayor came in and started spinning things his way, and now your chief is moping around.
In a tiny little town, I figure a large part of his job, even as a chief, is police work. He certainly did patrolling and admin things like ordering gear and making the complicated two-person schedule—I’m on and you’re off, then you’re on and I’m off. I get that losing control might tick a guy off. However, his pay hasn’t changed, he’s still a cop and he has time for the good parts of the job instead of all that admin junk.
If he’s done with patrolling, he should use the time for something else. Maybe he can put together training for you or set up joint training with the next closest metropolis. Putting his tail between his legs will just make him—and you—look like chumps in front of the entire town. That won’t take long because I know news travels fast in small towns. We don’t know the extent of the mayor’s intentions; if he intends to get rid of the chief, looking like a chump plays into his hand.
Truth 2: All bosses are idiots at one point or another. Since I started this job I’ve had plenty of idiot bosses, from FTOs right up to chiefs. I’m sure I’ve been an idiot to plenty of others. You have a new boss doing things you don’t like. This is the basic and the advanced criteria for defining an idiot boss. However, the pivotal word in the term is boss, not idiot. You might not like it, but if he’s within legal bounds, get over yourself, tell the chief to get over himself and move on with your lives and your duty.
There it is: 1) politicians suck; 2) cops like the status quo; and 3) anyone I’ve ever worked for who saw things different from me was an idiot, but I worked for them so it didn’t matter. You and the chief need to get your heads back. Quit acting like chumps and do what you signed up for. Existing in the world means having idiot bosses. So what?
Because I don’t like politicians and I do like a brawl, I would fight back. Check the city charter. It should lay out the powers of the mayor. He will still be the chief’s boss, but the chief should have discretion to run his own department. The charter will explain how that works.
Start politicking. Work with the mayor because he’s the current boss, and start looking for his replacement. By the next election, your guy should be half elected.
The only other thing your chief can do is quit, and cops don’t quit.
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