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A Police Leader: A Good Dude

The other day, I was on LinkedIn, which used to be a regular occurrence in my recruiting role. However, I did a couple thumb swipes to scroll my feed, which I would categorize as an irregular occurrence. I saw a local police leader I knew had been designated as the new chief of his agency. I threw a like into the stacking pile and thought about writing a message.

I didn’t ( and don’t) know him well, but he was an early, notable leader in my journey in this profession. How we came to meet was that he was essentially doing my job now- he was leading the recruitment and hiring of another area agency. I had met through testing and interviewing with that agency, a neighboring agency, those many years ago.

There wasn’t anything specific about the commission of his job through my lens that left an impact. But there was a general nature that I recall in how he treated me, and presumably most people. He made me feel valued as a possible asset and member of his team. This would seem like a no brainer in this police recruiting world, but outside of him and the agency I ended up choosing in the end- my current employer- I didn’t really experience that much in my hiring processes. (In fact, I still see and hear plenty of anecdotes that boggle my mind as agencies are supposedly all hurting to bring on people… but I digress).

Being treated well was truly what set these two agencies apart. It wasn’t anything over the top, either. It was responsiveness and a candid message of, “We want you. We think you’d be good here.” My employer won (obviously), with an actual demonstration of that- a ride along, meeting many officers, and an organic vibe that was not scripted. Various officers of varying parts of their career interacted with me with varying degrees of engagement. But overall, it seemed that a new face was a welcome one.

I had another experience with another agency quite a ways up north. This agency was the opposite, from the get-go. The oral board felt cold. But I passed. Standby. The background interview felt like an interrogation. But I passed. Standby. The polygraph made me feel like a criminal. But I passed. Standby. The Chief’s/Command board felt like a judiciary committee. But I passed. And I was given an impersonal, sterile job offer to follow suit .

Luckily for me, I was a “good candidate” which meant I had options by this point. If you’re trying to crack into the police job market, you find out pretty quick if you’re a “good candidate.” A good candidate gets invites and offers. A less-so candidate sits on a list. It is a quiet place to sit.

I respectfully advised that I appreciated the offer, but I would like to request time to think on it, as two other agencies had been communicative about their pursuit to hire me and I wanted to give them an opportunity to respond. (I know it was respectfully, because I even said the word, “Respectfully” in my address). I was met with some gesture that blended a sigh with an eye roll. Something to the effect of how many spots they were trying to fill for some academy class by some date and did I want in or not and then it got more and more Charlie Brown adult speaking wah-wah noises.

I wasn’t as perturbed by this then as I am now while writing this. And I’m not perturbed for 21-year-old me… I’m perturbed for how those “police leaders” decided to engage a bright-eyed hopeful. And when I say, “hopeful” that word should have been accurate from both sides of the table. A candidate should be hopeful. And a hiring agency should see hope and promise in them.

In subsequent years, multiple officers left that northern agency, a few came right to our doorstep. It’s not surprising. Treat people poorly, they don’t tend to keep a lot of reasons to stick around.

Let’s cut back to where this started, since this isn’t about that agency. It’s not even about my agency. It’s about a man who climbed up another rung, to the top of a large agency. A highly respectable position.

I will highlight again that I have not worked in tandem with this man. But I will say, that in my 15 years, his name kept coming up in light or casual conversation. About him being part of this group or running that unit. And a phrase generally like the following, if not verbatim would follow:

“He’s a good dude.”

There are few simpler and weightier compliments. When I heard it, I believed it. It gelled with my brief interactions years ago, and gelled with the continuing brand that was furthered everytime someone else uttered it. It’s not often you hear of such high-ranking leader dudes or dudettes- police or otherwise- where people who worked near and people who worked afar will agree to a dude(tte)’s goodness to that extent.

It is something to reflect upon, something to aspire to. Sometimes I consider what level of good dudeness I may possess. I know there’s been times where I was too “nice”, “easy” or hesitant. Others where I was too impassioned or emotional. Too mission focused. Too people focused. Where I was too hands on- I’m sure just as many times too hands off.

I return to my actual interaction with this leader. A chunk of time in a couple interviews, but otherwise a few minutes of a few phone calls here and there. I remember clearly calling him to relay my gratitude for the opportunity, for believing in me, BUT to give him the news that I was choosing another direction. Here is what I remember, and the lessons I recall and try to emulate in my roles as a leader today:

1. He remained supportive. He relayed I chose a good agency.

2. He connected as a human. He said he was bummed about my decision, but didn’t blame me for it. (You recruiters know this break-up feeling).

3. He invited feedback. He asked why I made my choice so he could seek opportunity for improvement.

4. He was genuine. He told me that he supposed I reminded him of his son, with my political science major and being just a bit older. I imagined he felt an odd juxtaposition of pride and defeat, to which I felt an odd juxtaposition of pride and defeat.

5. He wished me well, made it about me, and encouraged me with confidence that I would be a fine officer in a fine department.

So, my thoughts on the newly appointment Chief, “He’s a good dude.”


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