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For New Supervisors—No Longer A Grunt?
By Barry Evert, Sergeant
Published: 12/19/2011

Lead and learn The last thing you will have to come to terms with is that you are no longer an officer. In the days that you were an officer you may have been the first one at an incident, handling business. You may have been constantly on top of things such as searches, fights, and major incidents. It is now time to step back a bit.

You have to distance yourself from almost every situation to the point where you are not directly involved when-ever possible. If a fight breaks out on the yard, it is not your job to be the first one there and rush in to break it up. There may still be times when this is necessary due to being short-staffed, but overall you should hang back. Let the officers take care of these situations. You are their eyes and ears during these situations now. It is your job to assess situations to make sure nothing gets missed.

For example, a small fight breaks out in the middle of your yard. Rather than jump into the dog pile, take the time to look and scan over the facility if other inmates are out. Do you see anything unusual? Is there a stabbing tak-ing place on the other side of the yard? It is critical that you understand that you are now the tactical eye for your officers. Presumably your officers are capable of dealing with this disturbance while you scan the area for an-other incident or even a set-up to attack staff. This is not to say there are not going to be times when you still need to get down and dirty. It is just best you stay back and evaluate the situation before you get involved. Should the situation “go south” you need to be able to make the right decision for your team, something that is much easier to do when you are not “in the mix.”

Another hard thing you are going to have to do is delegate responsibilities to other officers. A Supervisor is only as good as his team. You are going to be inundated with paperwork and other tasks that can often be delegated to other trusted staff members. Including them in this day-to-day operation of your facility will build trust, and help officers understand what it is that you have to do on a daily basis.

Part of delegating is going to be special assignments that you get from upper management. If the gangs unit calls you and tells you they need you to search an inmate’s cell for something specific, you should be able to trust your officers to handle the job. Delegate this out to a couple of officers and have them report to you, rather than go out there and do it yourself. There is nothing more frustrating than having a supervisor come in your unit and complete a task that you know you can do just as well. You need to have the faith in your staff to complete a task as well as you can. This can be hard for some people, especially when their mantra is “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” You need to distance yourself from this attitude. Again, your staff is relying on you to be a leader, not an excellent cell searcher, etc.

With this in mind it is important that you follow up when you give an assignment. Not necessarily a physical inspection every time; sometimes a phone call will suffice. Make sure you follow up on assignments you hand out by communicating with your staff. Most often I will ask my staff to notify me when they have completed a task that is out of the norm. In the cell search example, I would ask them to call me as soon as possible after searching the cell. This way I know the task is done. I can also guess at the quality of their search by how long it took them to get it done without standing over their shoulder hounding them.

You should have enough rapport with your staff that during an incident or situation you can take charge and hand out assignments with the trust of your staff members. After the incident, always debrief your staff and ask them what it is that they saw going on during the incident. Give your input of what you saw that went well, and what you saw that could have been better. Take suggestions from staff members on how to improve the staff’s response, and what they would like to see done differently next time. You may hear something you had not considered before. Remind yourself that you are now a supervisor. You will learn volumes from your staff if you choose to listen, but you have to be willing to take a step back and supervise. Your staff already know what kind of officer you were. It is time for them to see you in your new role. You have nothing to prove other than your dedication to the safety of your staff and your willingness to lead in a firm, fair and consistent manner.

Reprinted with permission from "CORRECTIONAL OASIS" A Publication of "Desert Waters Correctional Outreach".

Sergeant Evert has over 12 years of experience on our nations toughest beat. Sergeant Evert is a noted columnist who specializes in officer survival, gangs, and tactics. Sergeant Evert believes that the health of a good officer starts at home, and family is critical to the survival of any officer. These views are reflected in his recently published book “Scars and Bars”. For the first time Sergeant Evert has put together practical, real life advice for those entering our profession. Sergeant Evert believes the most valuable lessons learned are those taught by experience, and at times, going back to the basics."

Visit the Barry Evert page

Other articles by Barry Evert:


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