Failure Is Always a Matter of Leadership

Due to the recent events in Florida, many are asking “Who is at fault?” Whether you are talking about tips that were not followed up on, calls to the home that went nowhere or even officers who did not act the answer is always the same – the person at the top.

There are two statements to remember, whether in a military or law enforcement organizations – “sh*t rolls downhill” and “the buck stops here.” The first statement refers that anything that goes wrong at the top will, in turn, hold all accountable persons below them accordingly. The second means that if something goes wrong at the bottom, the one responsible for making the decisions will be to blame.

It is important to know exactly who failed to act at each step of the way. Furthermore, it is of equal importance to know why no action was taken. Both are necessary to learn from the failures and ensure that it does not happen again in the future. The investigations into the failure may result in everyone from the top down being retrained, reassigned, demoted or even fired. This is part of “sh*t rolling downhill.”

Regardless of what is revealed during the investigation, no matter who it may point the fingers at there is always someone who is ultimately responsible for the conduct or misconduct of a unit and those in it at the top. Despite the issue rather it was training, equipment or simply failure to perform, the person at the top is always responsible.

The military calls this “lack of confidence” or “failure to command” and is one of the biggest reasons a commander is relieved of their duties. Think of what happens if a Naval ship runs aground- whether the Captain was on the bridge, or even awake when it happened they are responsible. Not because they manned the helm and steered the ship into the shallows, but because they are always steering the ship through their leadership.

Law enforcement agencies should be no different. Whether a law enforcement agency is led by a career officer who rose through the ranks, a political appointee or elected official, the responsibility is still the same, and so should the accountability. When repeated directions are ignored, frequent calls not being pieced together, or officers not responding appropriately it is unlikely they did so because they decided not to do their jobs. It highly likely the culture, training and command expectations told them not to do so. It is no different from allowing the culture and attitude to develop that allows the mid-watch to miss a well-marked shoal and run a multi-billion-dollar warship aground.

Like it or not that is one of the hazards of the job when you reach the top.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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