The Chaplain's Notebook

Supervisory Credibility

Keith D. Bushey is a longtime veteran of law enforcement. He retired as a commander from the Los Angeles Police Department, as a deputy chief from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and as a colonel from the Marine Corps Reserves. He served as an LASD deputy, a state deputy game warden, marshal of San Bernardino County and law enforcement liaison to the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

A high school dropout, Chief Bushey now holds a bachelor’s in Police Science and Administration as well as a master’s in public service. He continues to write extensively, primarily in the area of leadership.

I took a workshop with Chief Bushey just prior to promoting to sergeant. To say it had a profound and beneficial impact on me throughout my career is an understatement. Interestingly, Chief’s impact wasn’t so much what he said (although practical and insightful) as his wise presence. Who he was spoke far louder than what he said, as they say…

I’ve kept his pamphlet, “Establishing and Maintaining Supervisory Credibility,” to this day and refer to it often. I’ve sent it to every cop I knew who was thinking about promoting. “The purpose of this booklet,” Chief writes, “is to hopefully be useful to new supervisors, and those who mentor them.” I didn’t just find it useful — I found it invaluable.

Here are but a few of Chief Bushey’s leadership tips.

It is an honor to lead others: Every man and woman who works for you is the most important person in the world to someone else. Your people are moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, etc. You are now in a position where what you do, good or bad, is going to have a significant impact on other human beings, which is truly an awesome responsibility… Take this responsibility seriously and work hard to be the leader that your people deserve.

Walk the walk: People will always give more attention to what you do as opposed to what you say. The consistency, or lack thereof, between your actions and words will dictate your credibility. Your organization made you a supervisor to enforce its policies and procedures, and you are morally and ethically required to do so. Your people are smart and will immediately detect any deviation between the two. Always remember that talk is cheap and that the road to failure is paved with good intentions!

Know your community and become its cheerleader: Ensure that your actions, both in deed and in spirit, reflect the reality that it is an honor to serve your community… Do not tolerate criticism of that community by your people, and help them to understand that, even in our most challenging communities, the vast majority of the residents are decent and honest people. Seize every reasonable opportunity to create positive interaction between your officers and the citizens they serve.

I could go on. If there’s better, practical law enforcement leadership advice than this, I’d be hard-pressed to identify it!
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).