Every book on management I have read states that employees are the most important resource for any successful business. Employees need to be treated well, compensated fairly, trained sufficiently and rewarded for hard work. If there are any Sheriff’s Department executives who believe the Department is doing any of these things, please contact me. I will refer you to a good psychologist who can help you with your delusion. If there are any Sheriff’s Department executives who believe they provide these things for the employees who are under their command, four of you are right. The rest need to retire and live their fantasy elsewhere so they are not hurting real people.
Let’s first take a look at fair treatment. The reason PPOA wins so many cases in Civil Service hearings is because the Sheriff’s Department unjustly prosecutes and persecutes its employees. The Department blames the hearing officers (and convinces the County that the hearing officers are biased and pro-employee), when in reality the Department was usually wrong and many times malicious or overzealous in its efforts to “get rid of” what it believes is a bad employee. Of course, if the employee in question happens to be a “buddy” of an executive, they get a pass or sometimes aren’t even investigated due to the abuse of power exercised by that executive.
Many executives might say they have no control over compensation and to some degree that is true. But for those who do and for those involved in contract negotiations, put yourself in the employees’ shoes for a moment. They are not making $250K with a take-home car or flexible schedules. Some are barely making minimum wage, are being forced to work long hours and are living paycheck to paycheck. Show some compassion for your employees and understand that when you relieve them of duty or give them 30 days off, you are impacting not only them, but also their families and their ability to put a roof over their heads and food on the table for their children. Don’t mistake this for me advocating to get employees off the hook for wrongdoing, but you should apply compassion and understanding and make an effort to discern between malicious conduct and mistakes or judgment calls that may not have been the right decision. We all make mistakes.
Training is almost nonexistent nowadays due to the shortage of personnel. Who is to blame for that, the employees or the Department? It seems the Department believes that every employee should make the right decisions under duress 100 percent of the time, without training, without supervision and without clear or consistent policies. Imagine being told to rebuild a car engine. You are not taught how to rebuild the engine, but if you make a mistake or fail to tighten a bolt correctly, you will be disciplined. If someone gets hurt or crashes as a result of an error you made in rebuilding the engine, you will be fired and/or prosecuted. Would you rebuild an engine for that company? Would you become a deputy sheriff for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department? The Department and its executives should take all this into consideration when deciding punishment for employees. Maybe it would help if the executives got one day off without pay for failure to properly train their staff for every investigation where the employee did not have adequate training. Maybe then the executives would take responsibility for their role in misconduct or discipline.
Reward for hard work seems like a no-brainer. But the harder you work, the more likely you will make a mistake and receive discipline. If you receive discipline, you will not be promoted or you will be excluded from good assignments. Here is the current system of reward in the Sheriff’s Department:
- Do not make any decisions yourself.
- Do as little as possible and fly under the radar.
- Get an executive, preferably an assistant sheriff or higher, to be your advocate. (Apparently, they are the only ones who know the best employees.)
- Hide your tattoos.
For captains and above:
- Punish your employees to show the boss you can be tough.
- Threaten or intimidate your subordinates to remain silent about your misdeeds.
- Transfer your “problem” employees instead of mentoring them, which requires work.
- Remain silent, even when you know the decision being made by your peers or the higher-ups is wrong.
- Tell the Sheriff morale is high and all is good in the kingdom.
This recipe for success may seem comical, but how many of you reading this article got promoted or a good assignment by following this very recipe? You aren’t the one to blame (well, you kinda are). The Sheriff’s Department has created this culture and this recipe for success. Sheriff McDonnell needs to break this horrible system down by demanding, “This stops right now!” He needs to give clear instruction to all his executives and managers that he will not tolerate this behavior and will hold them accountable if they do any of the above. The next executive who recommends their buddy for a promotion over more qualified personnel should be demoted on the spot. It is time to have people in positions of power who can get things done the correct way and who will speak out when something is wrong. We need leaders who understand the importance of the employees and show compassion toward them. We need courageous leadership to tackle some very serious problems, not followers looking to hide out and go undetected until promotion time, when they really come out and shine.
I hope Sheriff McDonnell will make positive changes in the upper ranks and demand that they treat the employees with respect and compassion. This will certainly help with the recruitment and retention problem and, more importantly, will result in happier and more productive employees.