Leadership 101: Rank Without Respect is Hollow

Whether you are a baseball fan or not, there’s a good chance you heard whisperings about the epic meltdown that New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone unleashed last week. In defense of what Aaron deemed a wide strike zone resulting in some bad calls against HIS guys, he let loose an expletive filled tirade famously referring to his players as “savages in that box” (referring to the batters box). Again, we caution you, instruct the children, ‘Ear Muffs’:

Seeing a manager stick up for his guys in that way, exuding obvious and flagrant belief in the work being done by his players, got me thinking: When was the last time a law enforcement leader stuck up for our profession in this manner?

One of the first names that comes to mind is former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke. Sheriff Clarke has been a vocal proponent of the notion that no one cares for their community like the American police officer. More importantly, he’s not afraid to declare it while standing in front of our most vicious critics. He is unapologetic pride and support personified.


Now, try to make it more personal. Think about your own department and your own command staff. When was the last time this kind of clear and aggressive support came from YOUR superiors?

It’s hard to debate that this generation of police officer is the most heavily analyzed, scrutinized and most readily abandoned generation by those they serve and those who employ them. As a resident of anywhere USA, you can walk into your local police department and lodge a complaint at virtually any hour of the day. More importantly, for fear of unreasonable and unchallenged backlash, rarely is ANY complaint turned away, no matter how far fetched.

Now, those who favor anarchy and/or a life of crime have ALWAYS hated the police. This is nothing new. In fact, they are SUPPOSED to hate us. That’s how this thing works. Thinking back to the late 70’s and early 80’s in New York City, those police officers had to feel like they were working in a war zone.

However, while earlier generations of police officers had to deal with the same (often worse) level of vitriol from the perps of society, they rarely had to worry about that same hatred and resentment coming from the rest of the community; and even less frequently from their command staff. In fact, almost everyone over the age of 40 will tell you that as a child, if a police officer had to chastise you or, worse yet, make your parents aware that you were acting the fool, you were likely to catch it worse from your parents once the police officer was done with you. Nowadays? Really?

Full disclosure: I’ve never had any desire to be a boss. Promotion just isn’t my thing. I have a hard enough time being responsible for myself, let alone multiple me’s. So, not being in that position admittedly offers me a few luxuries that bosses surrender once they start chasing rank. I have the ability to think in singularity, where a boss has considerations above the individual. I get it.

That being said, leaving no doubt that ‘these are MY guys’ and ‘if you fight my guys, you’re fighting ME first’ seem to be lost arts. How good must the Yankee players have felt to know that their leader feels that way about them and isn’t afraid to confront anyone who thinks otherwise?

In a day and age where everyone has a camera and rarely is there an inch of earth that isn’t recorded by some camera somewhere, if you have a legitimate gripe against law enforcement, there’s a good chance that evidence is readily available; and any good cop worth his salt HATES a bad cop. Whisper the name Michael Dowd around some NYPD guys and see how THAT is received. Present company included, there are many that still believe the NYPD, and law enforcement around the country for that matter, are feeling the effects of that criminal who pretended to be a cop.

Bad cops make the job exponentially harder and, just as in the case of Dowd, the good cops are left dealing with the fallout long after the bad cop has gone to jail or faded away. All reasonable acts of dereliction of duty or abuse of authority SHOULD be investigated and prosecuted accordingly. Read that again.

Where the disconnect comes in is in the definition of just what is abuse of authority vs. you just not getting your way; and every nonsense complaint that is entertained delegitimizes the ones that truly need addressing. Just once, wouldn’t it be nice to see a supervisor put his own personal promotional aspirations aside, concentrate on the millions of calls for service that are flawlessly handled each year by the American police officer and make it loud and clear: ‘These are MY guys’. Wouldn’t it feel great to know that, should an entitled malcontent walk through the door, mad because they didn’t like the way you looked at them, your boss and your department would undoubtedly have YOUR back? What a simple concept that would boost the morale that is in desperate need of a shot of adrenaline.

As I said, I’ve never been a boss. So you can discredit my opinion and come from what you perceive as a position of authority based on our rank differences. However, I think the fact I’ve never been a boss makes my opinion, and the opinion of those like me, MORE important. After all, I’ve never been anything BUT lead. So, who would know better the differences between what it feels like to be supported and what it feels like to be abandoned??

The Yankee players will run through fire for Aaron Boone. You can be sure of that. Because a leader that has your back like that earns that respect. Lead from the front. Leave no doubt that you are the first line of defense of YOUR officers. Trust your men/women and they will exceed what you could ever want as a boss. They WANT to be that way. Abandon them and you will be left with a hollow rank that will serve no other purpose than to impress uninformed family members at your annual BBQ.

“No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair”

~ George S. Patton


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