Discipline vs. Supervision
Over the last few weeks, I have discussed some of the issues that I believe cause morale to suffer within our department. I think we can all agree that discipline and the way it is perceived has a negative influence on the attitudes of our officers. We have all heard about the guy who received days off and is getting “screwed” by the department. But to be honest, it is very few that I would classify as getting “screwed”. I understand that most officers do not like to admit when they make a mistake, but that is what most discipline is tied to. Just like shootings, officers do not leave the house every day saying, I think I am going to violate some policies today. They are mistakes for the most part, but the way in which we deal with them must change. I am not aware of any private sector jobs who impose fines on people for making mistakes. We must face the fact that a suspension without pay is like paying a fine, it is monetary and punitive in nature.
I believe that the department is working to improve the discipline problem, and again, props to Chief Finner for signing off on the discipline changes in the contract. Over 70 people have taken advantage of the new program in the contract where any discipline under five days can be settled with a written reprimand with acceptance of responsibility. This was a great benefit for our members, and it is working well. Over time the numbers show that most officers are NOT repeat offenders. We hope that before the next contract we will show that there was no recidivism for these offenses and that we can further improve this program.
This all being said, there is another issue that would greatly improve the morale and the discipline system. Let’s allow supervisors to be supervisors. I can easily say that at least half of the discipline cases that come through station IAD and a few through big IAD, could have been handled with a conversation. Once the conversation has taken place it can be documented on a monthly JPR and this would serve as a verbal counseling. Next step would be a Supervisory Intervention for all offenses listed in the contract and corrective action manual. If correcting the behavior is the true goal, then this is how it should work. We should not be waiting until we received a complaint to know exactly what we are doing wrong. A supervisor should be able to have that conversation and correct the behavior immediately.
On the flip side of this is our officers. We as officers need to be adults when it comes to supervision. I know that I was yelled at multiple times by supervisors over my career (Sergeant Yencha) but I will not name any of them. I never took it as personal; they were trying to make me a better officer. And I truly believe they did. We cannot run around claiming we are “being targeted” when a supervisor is getting onto them, marking down their JPR, or giving out hospital assignments. I know that targeted is the new buzz word, but we need to be adults and know that if no yellow paper is involved, they are just being good supervisors. Let’s allow our supervisors to supervise and get rid of some of our low-level discipline!