By Robin Smith

To build and maintain an effective law enforcement team, leaders must recognize that employees are valuable resources and make them a priority. While financial and physical assets are critical to an organization’s ability to function, the unique knowledge, skills and abilities of team members are just as important. However, while equipment, policies and training can be copied, it is difficult to imitate good employees. Because members are valuable, it is crucial that leaders work with them effectively for the team to be successful.

Because they recognize that employees are valuable resources, effective leaders collaborate with members to build and maintain a successful team. When I began my law enforcement career as a dispatcher, I had a unique talent that soon came to light – I could type. I had learned this skill in a high school typing class filled mostly with girls. You can draw your own conclusions on my motives for signing up. To think of typing as a rare skill now seems odd in an age where kids are typing as soon as they can reach the keyboard. At any rate, it wasn’t long before the chief asked me to type a letter for him, followed by similar requests from others. Let me clarify – the chief didn’t order me to type the letter… he asked. As our department didn’t own one, I had to borrow a manual typewriter from the sheriff’s department – you might have seen one in a museum. Although I wasn’t altogether thrilled with my part-time role as a typist, I was glad I had a role and a skill that benefited the team. In the long run, I was rewarded for my efforts and given opportunities to attend training and take on responsibilities that would further my career.

A few years later, as technology advanced, we hired a young officer that we soon discovered had a background in electronics. He wasn’t altogether thrilled to be called on time and again to deal with our growing technical issues, but he did as he was asked and it benefited the team. He was also rewarded for his efforts and given unique opportunities that furthered his career. The point is, we both had skills that were rare and valuable at specific moments in time when they were needed by the team. Our supervisors worked with and encouraged us – and we were shown appreciation for our contributions. Although we had signed up to do “real police work,” we learned that our contributions in support roles made the team more successful. Incidentally, the young officer with the technical skills is now that department’s chief of police.

When thinking of resources needed to run an organization, financial and physical assets readily come to mind. Equally critical to team success are human resources such as knowledge, skill and ability – not to mention image and culture (pardon the apophasis). Some resources can be copied, such as policies, practices, training, equipment, and tools – however, good people are difficult to imitate. Because people are a valuable resource, it is imperative that leaders deal with members effectively for the team to be successful. An organization may have solid financial backing, the best facilities, the best equipment and the best training – and yet it will be difficult to realize long-term success if team members are not a priority. It may work temporarily, but not in the long run.


Kinicki, A. & Kreitner, R. (2008). Organizational behavior: Key concepts, skills, & best practices, 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill