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External Accountability is Everything

Thanks to the blend of email and smartphones, work has become portable. Unfortunately, it has also created more work! In the high-paced environment of the modern workplace, it’s easy for police administrators to bypass accountability for rank-and-file officers when the inbox is overflowing. When truck officers lack accountability, bad things happen.

Nobody, regardless of profession, appreciates a micromanaging boss. Micromanagers are either power hungry, lack self-confidence or both. Conversely, most people appreciate a boss who stays out of their hair…right up until the time the employee screws something up and both are in trouble. The absentee supervisor is rarely the first person to take the bullet for their employee.

The lazy boss and the micromanaging boss don’t understand what true accountability is. Leaders who hold their people accountable aren’t nosy. They trust their workers. However, they care enough about the success of their people to not bury their head in the sand either.

The accountability of truck enforcement officers is a tricky thing though. The reality is very few front-line supervisors understand the intricacies of truck law. Management is even more in the dark. Even worse, the vast majority of local prosecutors, assistant state’s attorneys and sadly even judges, have the slightest clue about truck law.

It’s not uncommon to find supervisors who are quick to say “I don’t understand all these crazy truck laws, that’s why we sent Officer X to truck school and he is our expert”. Support of the employee? A+. Wise supervision? F.

With all due respect to the command staff reading this article, rank does not equal understanding. The mere fact you are the traffic sergeant does not make you an authority in truck law. Just because you are the Chief of Police, and a truck officer 20 years ago, you are not equipped to understand the truck laws of today.

Truck law is perishable knowledge. If degeneration of the human mind is not enough, trucks laws are constantly in flux as industry standards adapt to consumer expectations. Blink your eyes and everything changes, again.

If a police supervisor is routinely taking complaints about a truck officer from the public, who is he calling to make sure the officer’s explanation of the law is authoritative? Maybe the officer unintentionally made a mistake, or maybe not. The truth is the boss probably cannot prove the officer right or wrong.

If a police officer is going to have the exceptional authority described in the article last week, then he must have exceptional accountability as well. The ITEA published an article on this topic several years ago.

The key to a police department is external accountability for truck officers. Seeing as how the internal administration of an agency is not setup to adequately provide this protection, the ITEA serves as a resource to provide this service.

Almost all truck officers are good people trying to do a good job. There a few rotten apples out there and the ITEA knows who they are. The good ones share common traits of being highly motivated, goal-oriented and independent workers. They are human and make mistakes.

After six years in operation, the ITEA has fielded dozens upon dozens of phone calls from industry and police management regarding actions taken by truck officers. In most instances, the officers acted correctly. In times where they made mistakes, which is perfectly acceptable, they humbly own it and correct it. That’s what being a professional is all about. That is true accountability.

On rare occasions, there is a police officer who refuses to listen to logic or counsel, and proudly acts alone. Without fail, the case is lost in court and the relationship between industry and law enforcement is tarnished. It does not need to be this way.

Today many people believe video, photographs and audio recordings will hold police officers accountable for their actions. To an extent these tools work, but real accountability comes from within the ranks. It comes from peers willing to stand up say they care enough about the reputation of their co-worker and agency to do what is right.


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