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Keeping Your Boss Happy

Richard Weinblatt

How to Acquire Power in the Agency

Whether it’s chief, sheriff, colonel, superintendent, director, or commissioner, the top honcho in a law enforcement agency is the one that most law enforcers want to impress. In short, they view their boss’ happiness as inextricably intertwined with theirs. In the police world’s career oriented individual’s reality, the score is not kept so much as by the size of year-end bonuses, like in the private sector; rather it is measured by the acquisition of influence and proximity to those in power.

In the midst of what can be a dizzying display of Machiavellian strategies within law enforcement organizations, some badge bearers choose to forgo the jockeying for power altogether. For those of you who want to use techniques that shift the balance in your favor, while not stooping to the tactics of some unethical colleagues (and every agency has them), this Career Corner column is for you. The column maps out the routes you can take to increase your chances for maximum time in the corner office.


Most bosses look to their subordinates for loyalty. This is probably the number one item police executives value. They tend to show loyalty in turn to those who demonstrate their dedication to the boss’ goals.

Talking negatively about your boss behind his or her back is a sure way to give ammunition to your competition and torpedo your career. You can bet that others will be only too happy to repeat any negative missives you’ve let slip regarding Unit #1 even if they have to take it out of proper context.

Pet Project

Figure what is near and dear to the big one’s heart and put your support behind that initiative. Come up with creative ways to help the pet project along. Be sure that you do not take credit away from your mentor, but rather strengthen his or her position with the venture.

Consider your role as that of add-on facilitator. Tack on your piece to the boss’ puzzle, but make sure that word gets back to the head honcho ahead of time.

Heads Up

And speaking of ahead of time notifications, make sure that you give the Big Kahuna word of any developments in private before the word comes from another source. This advice applies for both good and bad news. If the boss hears the information elsewhere, your role in the project may be morphed into one that is detrimental to the top cop’s career. You and your career may then become the sacrificial lamb.

Communication Venue

In this age of old e-mails that come back to haunt law enforcement executives, be sure that you choose wisely the communications channel that you use. Law enforcement professionals have long been wary of tape recorded dispatch phone lines, but few remember that in-car computer and e-mail messages have a shelf life long beyond the delete button. Do not type out anything that could be misread and damage your boss if it fell into the wrong hands.

If the information to be conveyed could be morphed to assist those who have competing interests to the boss’, consider delivering the news in person. Better yet, you may want to meet away from the office and inquiring minds that want to know what’s up.

Image Reflection

Keep in mind that all you do is a reflection on your supervisor. If you do well, that pursuit of excellence will be perceived as the product of good leadership. Act professional and do not do anything negative that will spill over on the boss.

The reflection off the boss, the mirror if you will, will get stronger as you are being seen as being closer. The eyes on the boss will wander and focus on you. You are an easier target and taking you down will be that chink in the boss’ armor that the opposition is looking for.

Professional Image

With that reflective situation seared in your mind, make sure that you present yourself in a professional manner. Be sure that your uniform is clean and pressed. Use shirt suspenders to neaten your shirt’s appearance. Shine those shoes. While you’re at it, don’t forget personal hygiene issues.

Your effort to look professional will create an image that reflects back on your boss. He or she will appreciate your endeavors.

Résumé Building

Even though you are spending an inordinate amount of time supporting the boss and various pet projects, don’t forget about your own needs for résumé building. Continue any professional development pursuits such as college degrees and advanced training. If the department can’t or won’t spring for it, go on your own time and dime.

I garnered much of my advanced training by going on my time off. I even flew to other states and paid for training out of my pocket. Some of my fellow law enforcers thought I was crazy, but I managed to build up a string of certificates and a knowledge base that served me well as I managed my career.

Even as I was getting the training, the upper echelon benefited from the free (at least it was free to them) training as it assisted me in helping them with their projects and concerns.

Your quest for proximity to the power in the corner office is often granted in proportion to your support for the endeavors of the office’s occupant. While some may perceive this as “brown nosing,” I’d rather think of it as being open to the big picture envisioned by the organization’s leader. When you can share that vision, you can share the success of the agency’s hard work towards that goal.

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