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That Guy - An LE Related Article

We all work with that guy (or woman, that girl?) who shows up for work in last weeks uniform, still stained with that McDonald’s double quarter-pounder, with extra cheese.  The guy who never has his flashlight on the evening shift.  The guy who leaves his pool car at the end of the shift with the empty light on because, he “had a busy shift.” The guy who arrests the local, well known, bum who happens to have every possible infection known to modern medicine for a warrant he could have just issued him a paper summons for knowing full well you’ll be the one dealing with him while he’s “doing paperwork” for the rest of the shift.  That guy is also the one who takes his time showing up as backup on a vehicle investigation, a domestic call, a multi-hit accident with lots of injuries when it’s in his area of responsibility. That guy shows up for work “just to get paid” and carries his pistol because he is forced to. That guy is also the one who will run, crying, to the brass over every little slight he sees, while trying to push his seniority around whenever possible.  That guy is toxic and he needs to be called out at every single opportunity possible. 

Law enforcement has always been a family, a healthy family which fights and laughs together, and just like any normal family we have plenty of guys (and girls) who go out of their way to put their personal benefit over their group.  Every single police department in the US has a mission, that mission is driven by the boots on the ground, the patrol officers and their immediate street supervisors. That mission can only be accomplished by patrol, but it can only be accomplished when the most detrimental aspects of any given squad are removed.  This is very unique to law enforcement because in other fields, especially non-first responder professions, you are not putting your life in the hands of your coworkers every single day. In law enforcement, that is a daily occurrence, and getting on the same page is something very important, not just for the mission, but for the overall health of any given squad.  

It is exceedingly difficult to deal with someone who comes to work everyday thinking about themselves first and wanting to get all the benefits without pulling any of the weight.  This is primary a supervisory issue which needs to be pointed out the moment it occurs by everyone involved. However, a squad can definitely turn “that guy” around quickly by simply embarrassing and ridiculing him into doing the right thing.  If you respond to that well known house for a domestic call and that guy is your backup, wait for him before you go in. If it takes him a while to get there, ask radio dispatch where he is and what is taking him so long. Call him out every single time.  If he complains to you, tell him that you are safety focused and going into domestic calls solo is an absolute no-go, and it has never has been acceptable. If he continues to do this let a supervisor know and that supervisor will need to take steps to make sure that guy is showing up on time, pulling his weight. 

If that guy shows up to work with a stain on his shirt, point it out and make fun of him because he should feel embarrassed and everyone should make sure he feels the heat of embarrassment for doing it in the first place.  This should not stop at a stain on the uniform. If his tactics are suspect, fix them (not on the spot, but after the situation unless he is outright dangerous). Explain to him why there is an issue and show him the right way of doing it.  If he continues to do poorly thought out things or blatantly dangerous things, let a supervisor know and hopefully that supervisor will understand the need to retrain that guy. The trick is to be consistent with the level of positive ridicule and attention to properly done, widely acceptable, work.  It also cannot just be one of the squared away officers doing all the talking and pointing out, it needs to be a collective effort.

As a squad, everyone, needs to come together and commit to getting on each other for the issues they see.  It is not done out of malice, though it may seem that way by those lacking fortitude, it is done to strengthen the overall fabric of a particular squad.  Sometimes a supervisor needs to start it, sometimes a senior officer, rarely a brand new boot, but if he walks in and sees some clear issues with senior guys being lax in their daily work, attire, professionalism, then he needs to step up and say something, after he’s off of FTO of course.

The goal is to make that particular squad as squared away as possible.  Think about the stories of “good old days” and of the legendary bruiser squads which had all guys over 6’4” and built like linebackers.  They showed up heavy to call and handled every issue in-house without anyone getting written up. We cannot go back to that, nor should we want to, but we should want to emulate the comradely which existed, that self-generated level of responsibility for each others demeanor, appearance and the overall mission.

One thing to remember is that anyone of us can be “that guy” at any given moment.  No one is perfect and we all make mistakes or mess up from time to time. Sometimes you have a stain on your shirt that you did not notice.  Sometimes your boots are scuffed really bad and you thought nothing of it. Sometimes you did not shave before your shift because you were up all night with your sick child, it happens to everyone.  Those things are resolved pretty easily, squads, can and should, help each other out whenever possible. There is always another squared away guy in the squad who knows how to make any boot mirror finished.  There is always a guy with extra disposable (premium) razor blades in his locker he’ll gladly give you to take care of your 25 hour shadow. The way you show respect to those guys is to reciprocate in kind and help them when they need it.  That is literally part of your job, that is how you all work towards building a tighter bond.

Things will never go completely smooth, it always falls to the supervisor of a particular squad to make sure they do by setting a tone of respect and responsibility within any given group they are supervising.  This is absolutely paramount to the success of those individuals and the overall mission of that squad. The supervisor is the one who has to step in, make statements and lead from experience and example. Law enforcement is unique in that the supervisor can ask a senior or squared away officer to intervene with another officer without it looking like there is a problem even though there may be.  Realistically a senior or squared away officer should already see the possible issues which exist in their squad before the supervisor and they should take steps to correct them immediately. Once it gets to the supervisor there may be official channels used, but it does not need to get there most often, especially when a squad has a healthy base of respect for each other and they work together every day to accomplish the mission. 

*(image sourced from wikia.com)