There have been a lot of conversations going on lately about the younger generation—the so-called Millennials—and how they can’t communicate, are afraid to use force when necessary, ditch calls, don’t have loyalty to agencies, and over-share on social media. Well, there’s one ray of sunshine in all of this.
We can play nice with each other.
If there’s one thing millennials learned growing up, it’s how to play as a team. Many of us spent a lot of time on extra-curricular activities that emphasized the importance of working together: sports, clubs, video games, and so forth. We value collaboration and working together to achieve a greater common good.
One of the great things police have been doing right since 9/11 is getting more involved in task force operations. Task forces typically involve local agencies either working together, lead by a larger agency (maybe a sheriff’s department or the state police), and even working hand-in-hand with the feds on certain big issues like terrorism. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has seen 71 new task forces set up since 9/11. Keep in mind the total now is 104, so some simple math tells us that it tripled after 9/11. That’s a good thing. Sadly, it took a huge cost for us to learn that lesson.
The JTTF in New York was started in 1980, and the concept is not new. What is new is the idea that we need to break down silos and barriers that prevent communication, innovation, and developing better intelligence to stop the bad guys. Now that all sounds like buzzword salad, so let me put this in to terms that humans understand:
Egos kill progress.
Egos kill innovation.
Egos kill good ideas.
Of course, we can also replace ego with fear—fear of the unknown, losing control of your operations, losing funding or political sway. When we read these things on paper and discuss them, the obvious advantages to a task force/collaborative operation become apparent, and the choice seems simple. We need to set our egos and fears aside to break down these barriers.
But, simple does not equate to easy.
And the other question we might ask is, what are the advantages to task force operations?
Funding. None of us are as capable as all of us, and that’s especially true when it comes to funding. Pooling resources and people certainly has its benefits. The other nice thing is getting a body off your payroll. Sure, by headcount they will still be there, but that is now money you just freed up to put elsewhere in your department.
Experienced personnel. Of the 18,000-plus law enforcement agencies in the U.S., the average size is fewer than 100. This means the scope of experience and institutional knowledge each officer has is often narrow and limited to their own experiences in their own agency. Not all of us are like LAPD or other municipalities and county governments that have extremes of wealth, climate, society, and political views, all in one jurisdiction. The task force allows an officer to gain experience and insights in a few years that might otherwise take decades to gain if they stayed inside the compound, so to speak.
Training. Some agencies are obviously training-oriented, while some agencies do the bare-minimum mandated by POST (and even then, it’s hard for them). We all know that dollars spent on training save tons in the long run when it comes to litigation, safety, and injuries. But that’s rarely the incentive that pushes agencies over the edge. Task forces allow personnel to get extra training, often at no cost to the home agency.
The Way Forward
Here’s where I see the world going. Millennials are those born throughout the 1980s and ’90s (you get the idea). Right now the oldest of these are in their mid-30s, which means they’re just barely breaking the mid-level management barriers in the law enforcement realm. What’s the world going to look like when these officers, now flooding your ranks—seriously, what percentage of your department is age 35 or younger?—start to make executive decisions?
It means we’re going to see more collaboration, and hopefully more experienced officers making better decisions as a result. So what does this mean for senior management, if they aren’t already accustomed to task force operations?
1. When a sergeant or lieutenant or detective approaches you with this idea for a task force operation, it’s okay. Let’s hear them out. Travis Bradbury does a lot of excellent writing on emotional intelligence and points out the higher you go in an organization, the less emotional intelligence people tend to have. Have you taken inventory of your emotions? Is fear your guiding star? Are you letting ego make the decision?
2. It’s not because there’s something inherently wrong with your organization, and this employee probably isn’t using this as a protracted job interview to job hop. The fact that other organizations actually want your people involved should be a compliment! How does this look on your next annual review:
Commander Smithy had one of his detectives requested by the Alphabet Soup Task Force. The fact that a prestigious group such as this is seeking out our personnel is a direct reflection on the caliber and quality of the people Commander Smithy is developing. (Author’s note: if you need help writing annual reviews, I charge by the page, but I will help you… 😉
3. The only downside is—I don’t see one. Seriously.
The value and benefits gained from a task force far outweigh any negatives you might be worried about.
So what’s stopping you?