Calling Balls and Strikes


Michael Warren

February 11, 2021

February 11, 2021

If there is a group that can identify somewhat with those in law enforcement today it is has to be umpires. You may be wondering (and rightfully so) what connection that umpires have with the honorable folks working the frontlines keeping our communities safe – I’ll do my best to explain.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Balls and Strikes.” If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it by clicking here. In that entry, I spoke on the need for there to be a strike zone for our folks. A box, if you will, that identifies where they may work. This allows for our people to utilize their strengths to best handle a situation.

Once a decision is made, however, that decision must often be evaluated. This review can be conducted by an FTO, a supervisor, a trainer in that area, or part of an oversight board. All too often, that decision is dissected, painstakingly, to determine what the involved person did. Very rarely does it ever get to the point where effort is made to find out “why” the decision was made.

It has been my experience that oftentimes we disagree with decisions simply because we would not have chosen to respond that way. Maybe because we simply do not like the tactic that was used. Or perhaps because we feel more confident in another technique. Personal preference, though, should not be used as a basis for judging someone else’s decision.

Another issue is a failure on the part of the leader. Specifically, a failure of the leader to properly convey his or her intent when issuing an order or policy. What may be perfectly clear to the person in charge may not be so clear in the mind of the person charged with carrying out what is needed.

One reason for questionable decisions is improper or lack of training. Our people need to be trained – effectively and regularly. Telling someone something or simply instituting a policy is not training. It is the responsibility of the leader and the organization to prime the desired response into their members.

So, if you are the one charged with evaluating a decision that was made, especially one made under System 1 thinking, be mindful of how the person came to that decision. What have they been primed to do? Is their response legal, within policy, ethical, and effective? If so, then we must give credit (calling a strike) where credit is due. It is demoralizing when the strike zone is modified after the decision was made yet the agency member is held to the new zone. Establish the zone, let your people work their zone utilizing their strengths, and then call balls and strikes properly.