Law Enforcement Morale Buster Hiding in Plain Sight
As a Police Chief, Sheriff or Commander, you recognize the importance of maintaining positive morale among your personnel. You’ve made it a priority to ensure your officers have nice equipment, reliable patrol vehicles, excellent training and the best pay and benefits your budget can afford. You also work hard to ensure they know you have their back and you continually promote them positively to the community and media.
Despite all of your efforts, there is a hidden morale buster lurking in plain sight, typically not noticed or recognized, which means it likely goes unaddressed by your administration. Since it’s not super obvious, it remains in place for many years, continually eating away at morale and amplifying its effect on your personnel.
So, what is this hidden issue, chipping away at the positivity you want for your officers? It’s your off-duty (extra-duty) detail process. More specifically, the lack of fairness, gray area policies and outdated process your agency is using to manage the program.
Before you stop reading or immediately think “this doesn’t apply to my agency,” I encourage you to ask yourself just a few simple questions and determine if you’re satisfied with the answers:
- Are we using a process that ensures available jobs are distributed to our officers in an equal and fair manner? (Hint: using first come-first served or restriction rules for officer sign-up is not a fair process).
- When was the last time we reviewed the rates our officers are paid for off-duty details, and are our rates competitive with surrounding agencies? (Another hint: If your policy doesn’t specify the rates your officers are paid for details, you’re allowing a free market system that could land your officers and agency in the headlines).
- Are our officers collecting money directly from the businesses, and are we in the billing and collection business?
If you’re not satisfied with the answer to any of these questions, there’s a good chance your off-duty detail program is chipping away at the morale of your personnel. Off-duty detail programs are not often at the forefront of your radar, and your staff has become very good at simply making it work. Behind the scenes, however, when officers across the country were asked about their number one concern with their off-duty detail program, the flood gate of morale-busting issues came pouring out.
Their #1 complaint? Lack of fairness.
Their #2 complaint? The method(s) they are paid for details.
In almost all cases, their Command Staff had no idea these were concerns.
As a former Chief, I encourage you to take a look at your off-duty (extra-duty) detail program. A well-run program offers many benefits to your agency, your community and your personnel, and eliminating the hidden problems with your program can go a long way to helping maintain positive morale among your troops.