Brian Mochrie, from the Law Officer Facebook page, asked me to comment on the issue of quotas (or hidden quotas) and their impact in the communities we serve. This is a nasty issue because in almost every place where leadership and management are studied, the “smart” people doing the research look at ways supervisors and managers can pry more production out of the workers.
For public safety, this can be problematic. I’m not a firefighter or a lifeguard, but I’m pretty sure they don’t get performance ratings based on number of homes that did or didn’t burn or the number of people who did or didn’t drown. So when it comes to cops, is it fair to look at the number of arrests or tickets for performance evaluations?
Before you get all crazy and start yelling about how ‘Ol Bullethead has lost his way, I understand that there are state laws out there that make it illegal to establish a strict quota. That’s not my issue. Instead, how do we rate cops? How do we measure production? How do we apply these standards across the board to officers, detectives and through the ranks?
I received an email last week from my boss about an upcoming evaluation asking how many memos I had written. We write memos for several reasons. If, on the one hand, I do a good job, but I do so without writing memos, it’ll mean I’ll have a lower evaluation. If, on the other hand, I was a hands-off supervisor who thinks cops should go sit behind a building and do nothing, I would end up with do-nothing cops on my squad and also wouldn’t be writing any memos. These are just two opposite ways to end up at the same level of production and get a similar evaluation. So I ignored the email about memos and wrote my own evaluation covering the things I think supervisors should be rated on. The lesson: Never be afraid to take advantage of other people’s laziness.
This issue gets more complicated when we start comparing cops. How do I rate a hard-charging cop who goes out looking for hornets’ nests to dive into vs. a sweet-talking cop who takes investigations as far as they can go and does a great job pressing palms to make the community feel loved? The first cop will have high arrest stats but probably doesn’t attend many community meetings and the second will have lower stats. Bring in a lazy, donut-eating cop who does nothing and it gets even harder to rate cops. Donut Eater will look at their evaluation and compare it to Sweet Talker. Using stats as a measure of production, they’ll have a good argument. Sweet Talker will look at Hornet Nest and say, “I can train a monkey to get a dope hook in this town,” even though they haven’t had one in two years. Hornet Nest will say, “I was going to do some follow up but I made one stop and … ”
The problem is some cops are lazy. They hide behind no-quota laws. Some supervisors and managers are lazy, so they hide behind stats as a way to measure production. We should be placing our people where they’re the most productive and encouraging them to expand their knowledge and become productive in other areas.
A good supervisor will listen to the calls Hornet Nest gets sent to and pick the right one to meet the officer on and tell them how to do the required follow up. This turns report taking into investigating. The following week, that same supervisor should jump into a car with Sweet Talker and show them how to find something worth diving into. The supervisor needs to continue to nudge these two out of their comfort zones until they are both comfortable doing both kinds of police work.
Donut Eater needs direct assignments with continual follow-up by the supervisor. Complaint out of city hall—handle this, neighbor problem with no end in sight—fix this, party house that won’t turn down the music—go get ‘em. If Donut Eater screws it up, that becomes their evaluation or their IA problem.
Community meetings should be a duty for every officer and detective. Once a month, we should all adjust our shifts and attend one. This is the only way for line-level officers and detectives to actually get to know their community.
The only good thing about quotas is they represent laziness from all sides and acknowledging that will help us overcome them.