I am proud of our personnel. They are an exceptional group of police professionals who are highly motivated to be the best and welcome opportunities to improve themselves to the benefit of our agency and the community. We give constant consideration to how we can grow our people in such a way as to maintain the service level this community has come to expect. Higher education is one way to do that.
Staff and Command is a real growth opportunity for our command officers. They learn to see policing from a higher view and understand more about its impact on safe communities. Sgt McGraw attended earlier this year and after I saw his final class presentation on video I asked him to write about his experience. You can see his final presentation at the end of this blog.
My name is Scott McGraw; I have been employed with the Auburn Hills City Police Department since 2003. I promoted to Sergeant in 2013. I have had the pleasure of growing professionally with the police department since I graduated the academy. I have experienced a great deal in the police department. I trained as a bicycle officer, evidence technician, honor guard member and field-training officer. I have worked on every shift, I worked in the retail district investigating retail crimes, and I worked in the Directed Patrol Unit, prior to my promotion. As a Sergeant, I currently supervise the Alpha platoon on day shift along with overseeing the patrol vehicle fleet. Last winter, I was accepted into the Michigan State University School of Staff and Command. As the guest blogger, I would like to walk you through my experiences while attending the MSU Staff and Command school.
Through my fourteen years at the police department, I have watched my predecessors go through the Staff and Command school. The entire time saying to myself, “wow that looks like a ton of work.” On January 2, 2017, I found out that my observations were accurate. The class is 6 months long, it requires a week of distance learning and the next week was in class at the MSP Training Academy building in Lansing (2 weeks of class, 2 weeks back at work). The commitment to the class extends to your home life as well. Many times, I was in class all week in Lansing and then came back to work the weekend. In my opinion, the sacrifice was worth it.
The class is not set up in the traditional learning style of lectures and tests. It is set up as peer teaching and problem based learning style. I was placed on a team with a mixture of personalities and learning styles. The facilitators do this to help with your leadership abilities and social skills. Fortunately, I was placed with a team that clicked after our first team-building project. Not really knowing what to expect, I went into the first week expecting to have a great deal of knowledge bestowed upon me. To my surprise, the first week was set up to helped improve our public speaking skills and learn how to complete the PBL (Problem Based Learning) process. A simple explanation of the PBL process is, identifying a specific problem with a statement, brainstorming some possible solutions, listing knowns/unknowns about the problem, doing research to make the unknowns, knowns and then selecting the best possible solution to the problem.
To be completely honest, as a newer Sergeant, it was intimidating to be in the class with Captains, Lieutenants, not forgetting to mention, one of the facilitators is a Lieutenant Colonel with the Michigan State Police. As that first week went by, I realized that we were all on the same level playing field and our rank went out the door. What I was good at, others were not and what others were good at, I was not. We learned from each other and became comfortable with each other.
During the first week project, I learned more about this city and department than my previous 14 years of employment. I also figured out how to create a blog, something I had never done. As the class progressed, I started to see a pattern to the projects, each week builds from the previous week. A lesson I learned quickly, was that police work and crime statistics are not easy to create consistently in any police department. I was very fortunate to have the knowledge on how to use the CLEMIS system and Omega Dashboard (for more information on CLEMIS https://www.oakgov.com/clemis). This was something many of my other classmates did not have.
The facilitators give little guidance and direction throughout the class. The reason being, is they want to see your ability to follow written directions and lead your team down the right path. If the team gets off the path, do not expect the facilitator to push you back, you will need to self-correct. A couple teams had to recreate projects because they did not follow the directions given.
Each week my facilitator evaluated each member of the team with a rubric evaluation that specifies what the expectations are for the corresponding achievable score. According to my personality profile test that I took in the first week of class, I like having clear expectations and the rubric evaluations have clearly defined expectations.
The hardest week during the course was week 5. The project for week 5 was the grant application. I had to look for a grant that would address a problem in my agency’s community. The class was given a list of grant solicitations to choose from. I was able to find one that fit what Chief Olko already had been planning. As I said before, each project builds from the previous. In the previous weeks, I found that my agency had committed to the ‘One Mind Campaign’ organized by the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police, http://www.theiacp.org/onemindcampaign). Our agency is the only one in the state of Michigan to take the pledge and was one of the first of the 174 agencies. If you do not know, the ‘One Mind Campaign’ has four strategies or objectives the agency has to meet to complete the pledge. First, an agency has to collaborate with a mental health partner. Second, create a policy on Responding to Persons Affected by Mental Illness or in Crisis (a policy AHPD has had since 2015). Third, train 100% of our first responders with Mental Health First Aid training. Fourth, train 20% of our first responders in Crisis Intervention Team training. With that said, the easy part was over, now I had to put together a simulated application to receive funds from the grant. My final project ended up being 11 documents and my application paper was 10 pages. I gained a large amount of respect for those who apply for grants and I now have the knowledge of how to do it in the future.
The culmination of the class is to create a strategic plan for your department by selecting two organizational goals. The final paper had to be 20 pages maximum and had other requirements that made it difficult to keep to only 20 pages. The goals that I created were, “Improve the City of Auburn Hills Police Officer response to persons affected by mental illness” and “Continue to develop community partnerships while improving communication and becoming more involved with the citizens of Auburn Hills, in an effort to reduce crime and enhance quality of life.”
The last assignment for the class was a 10-minute maximum power point presentation for my 20-page paper. How do you fit 20 pages of planning into 10 minutes? You cannot. I do not claim to be the best public speaker… the proof is on the video… but I made it work.
In closing, I cannot stress how valuable the class was for me. I learned how; to use reflective learning, use the PBL process, read a budget worksheet, apply for grant funding, create a blog, build a policy, create a strategic plan and the list goes on. It certainly broadened my perspective on management and leadership and I created lasting friendships and networking channels with classmates. Thank you for your time, I hope that you enjoy my video and learn something about our department and the MSU Staff and Command class.