Process Problem Solving Contributor

A recent article on THE BROTHERHOOD drew responses from many. Most were positive. I am sending along a piece of an email that came from an officer in New York. He is really frustrated.

While we might not be able to fix the world, we may be able to do a better job of coping with it and raising our own self defense mechanisms. Here is part of his message to me:

Bosses and politicians (listed together because they are "tied" together)

The hardest part of the survival of the brotherhood is not tactics, training, education, or physical fitness, because these are the enjoyable parts of the job. Oh no; the hardest part is surviving the administrative jungle!!! Give me a clean bill of health and some cool tools like guns, TASERs, cuffs, some guys that I love to work with and would lay it on the line for - we could conquer the world.

Attach a couple supervisors that are directly controlled by their supervisors who only answer up to their supervisors who only answer up to the ones climbing our COPorate ladder which leads directly to retirement and politics as a "reward" for those that haven't been "on the street" in years (they probably didn't even know what a cell phone was in the 70's or 80's - much less how to handle a complaint on harassing text messages).

JOB STRESS - let me beat a drug dealer into the dirt and then shoot his pit-bull in the head. Ice the cake with actually having the DA's office go for a conviction (not a plea bargain) and a little more icing with a JUDGE throwing this dirtball in a jail (not a prison resort for higher education) so he is suffering for what he did.

These are all actually stress relievers. I would love to come to work and do that. Mix in a few chances to return a lost child to their mother, help an old lady across the street, make a difference in the life of a child that just stole a pack of gum from the store and got caught - hell sign me up. I will be a COP 24 hrs a day. You bet your *ss when I see something off duty I will be all over it. There will be no crime, druggies, pimps, rude people in my world. I am a COP. This is my hometown. This is my beat.

Wow. Thatís a page-full of thoughts.

As I see it, the majority of job frustration and dissatisfaction comes from within the walls of the police station, rather from the jerks we arrest and the public in general.

People are drawn to police work for the obvious reasons, i.e. catching bad guys, fast cars, etc. We train them hard and do our best to ensure that everyone on the crew behaves like a hard-hitting Alpha Male. We tell them to go do the job.

Then it turns bad: Supervisors don't back them up. Officers get a mixed bag of directions, depending on which sergeant or lieutenant is on duty at any particular moment. The judicial system routinely cuts loose the dirtbags we worked so hard to catch. Grunt cops get reprimands for doing what they were trained to do and they get treated unfairly because they arenít one of the favored sons of the current bosses.

Promotions and "atta-boys" are rarely given out based on merit, but rather for all of the wrong reasons - and everybody knows it. However, no one will speak up for fear of becoming the next target.

This is the kind of mismanagement that is text book classic. It kills private businesses every day. Private sector operations that are managed this way don't last long.

It's like the husband who tries to please his wife by helping her around the house. No matter what he does, it isn't right. She re-does it. Rather than offer thanks for what he's doing, she complains that he didn't do it the way she would have. What happens? He stops helping. His drive is gone. We all know that guy. Hell, we may even BE that guy. What makes you think we'll react any differently if we get the same treatment at work?

Too many good cops spend the last half of their careers counting the days until they can get out. Too many are frustrated in their jobs to the point that they hate going to work. Too many cops are only doing the bare minimum required to get by.

Mismanagement perpetuates itself. There's an agency I know of in the Midwest region... The culture of mismanagement, favoritism, and rewarding all of the wrong behavior has turned its work environment into a cesspool. Before being promoted above the level of patrolman, existing management makes sure that the candidate "thinks like we do." Management has been drinking its own bath water for so long that it's become an uncleanable mess. Many believe that the correction will come only with a wholesale replacement of every person above the rank of sergeant.

It may go even deeper as this tainted management style has truly perverted the selection and hiring process. Is that likely to happen? Probably not. Is it a freak anomaly? Probably not. The result? There's an entire agency operating as though the cops have one hand tied behind their collective backs. The residents pay full price for police services but certainly don't get the full service they are paying for.

The culprit is: mismanagement. Those words aren't strong enough. It's egregious management.

In any arena outside government, it would be squelched quickly and with certainty. That needs to happen in our world too, but it probably won't.

What can one cop do?

Such topics usually require beer for men to discuss in earnest. But it's only 7:00AM here and I know that my wife would object if she found me buzzed at the computer when she gets up in a little while. (sigh)

Philosophically speaking, a grunt cop can take the high road. He can choose to rise above the petty B.S. It's about attitude. Remember this phrase, "attitude, more than aptitude, determines one's altitude." No matter how petty, frustrating, or crazy the supervisors may be, try to find something positive in each task and each day.

Remember that even in a pile of fresh cow manure, flies can find something that they want.

Each situation is different. It can be really hard to find a positive when an award for great street-cop work goes to an officer who is know by all to be a slacker and incompetent. It's even worse when that "decorated" officer has been sleeping with someone in the administrative ranks. I know - I've been there.

Sometimes the best you can do is self-preservation, and consider the source. Shrug it off. Don't expect more. Just like you don't expect to be sitting next to the crack whore you arrested last week when you go to church on Sunday. Keep your expectations low and it will help your mental attitude.

Reward yourself. Do it mentally. Recognize when you've gone the extra distance. If someone compliments you on something you've done, don't deflect of defer the kind words. Simply say, "thank you." That will make both you and the compliment giver feel better. If appropriate, share your good experience - with a co-worker or your significant other.

Remember that the world in which you live is far greater than the sharks at the top of the tank where you're currently swimming. Your world is the entire ocean. It's made up of those citizens who count on you - yes, 24x7 no matter where you are; no matter how petty their request. They come to you because they trust you and they're counting on you to show them the way. Do it with style and grace. You can mutter under your breath once they are out of ear shot.

Equally important, is that your world is made up of 900,000+ cops in the U.S. We are bound together by the blood of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice before us. Each May, many of us go to D.C. to remember. We have vowed to Never Forget. For those who cannot be there, know that your brothers carry you in their hearts as they pay homage to the fallen.

You are truly doing God's work on this earth. He is truly our Commander in Chief. He will reward your service on Judgment Day. We are told that "peacemakers are blessed." Believe it with all of your heart.

It's really tough to deal with immediate supervisors who are jerks. We question how they ever got the job - but it in our heart, we know. We also know that we'd never stoop so low. That's what is important.

Rise above the BS. Remember who you are truly serving. Always know that you are part of a Band of Brothers that exceeds every shift, every bureau, and every agency that will ever exist. Your brothers know you for who and what you are. Know that God is smiling upon those who do His work from the goodness of their hearts.

Make the best you can of each assignment and each day. Try to smile through the worst of it. To each job take the notion that you are doing it under the watchful eyes of your children, your spouse, your parents, and your Maker.

Keep a Positive Mental Attitude because it is your greatest defense to those who treat you badly.

Be strong. Be staunch. Watch their hands. Get home safely.

As always, I welcome feedback (positive or negative). Email me. I'd like to hear from you.

Jim Donahue