Teamwork: The Backbone of Good Police Work


I’ll bet the Happy Medic is shocked I didn’t use a football picture.

Last week, in a post about being a crime fighter, I mentioned the need for a department to have more than a bunch of punters on their team.

“Teamwork” is a word that gets bandied about frequently, but what does that mean in the context of police work? What does it mean to be a “team player”?

Here are a five things I’ve learned over the years about what it takes to be a productive and contributing member of a team.

No one succeeds alone. No one. 

I recently finished reading Gary Keller’s book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. In a chapter about success leaving clues, Keller makes these statements:

[Tweet “”No one is self-made. No one succeeds alone. No one.” @garykeller @the1thingbook “]

I couldn’t agree more. When departments make big arrests, reduce crime statistics or collision rates, those things don’t happen in a vacuum. It takes multiple people being dedicated to a single cause.

It’s not about plaques, atta-boys, or recognition.

I’ve gotten a few of these things over my career, but you know what has always meant more to me? My partners simply saying, “Nice job, MC.” The flip side of that is being willing to say the same to them. If we’re too busy bitching or tearing each other down, how can we be expected to function together as a cohesive team?

Be willing to pick up your partner’s work.

When your partner is down three auto burglaries, a residential burglary, and some other paper, and he/she gets another detail in the beat, take one for the team and take the call. Paper or not, take the call. It’s no fun being buried in paper. We’ve all been there and been appreciative when our partners picked up our slack. It’s time to be consistent with returning the favor.

Share some personal anecdotes (when time allows).

Much like we want the public to see us as more than just a badge and gun, we should know more about our partners than what they want for lunch. One of the reasons I’ve stayed in my current assignment as long as I have is easy: the people with whom I work. It can be hard to connect with folks when you work in a huge organization, but taking the time to connect with people in our current assignments goes a long way to both humanize them and make us willing to share the load. Talking about hobbies, family, or the last book you read makes it more likely that your partners will want to be there for you on a level deeper than wearing the same color uniform. The point is to connect beyond telling war stories…inject some of yourself into the narrative.

Eat together (when time allows).

This is where firefighters have us cops beat. Families eat together…at least they should. This is probably the hardest to do. If we start shifts at different times, we may not be hungry at the same time. I eat breakfast at 0515, that means I’m eating lunch at about 1030. Other guys don’t eat until after noon. The tenet is sound, however. There is something about breaking bread with others than creates unity.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. Feel free to add your own. Simply remember that the odds of success sky-rocket when more people pitch in to achieve a common goal.

Question: What would you add to this list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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2 thoughts on “Teamwork: The Backbone of Good Police Work

  1. Totally agree and I would add the “courageous conversations.” We are our brothers keepers out there. If you see something that doesn’t look right, talk about it. Allow for an open and honest conversation to happen where we learn from each other and we grow. This will help foster great team work as well as police work.

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