The 3 Morale Killers That No One Talks About At Your Police Department

Best Cops

A tough hard look

This topic is one that most police executives and managers would rather avoid. It may appear that I am beating a dead horse but it is a topic that I’m passionate about.

And there is good reason for that.

As I have discussed in previous articles, policing in our country is at a crossroad. Agencies are having an extremely hard time retaining good cops and hiring quality candidates.

But this article does not lay all of the blame at the feet of leadership. I have already addressed leadership in other articles.

This one addresses the rank and file.

I bet you weren’t expecting that.

Now don’t get me wrong, if the leadership is terrible then you are in far worse shape than just being dysfunctional.

I know some, especially those of rank, may question my experience or lack of seeing the bigger picture from the lowly rank of sergeant.

And to a point they would be correct.

But I’m not your typical police sergeant. I’m not saying that I am better than others of the same rank (I’m not even the best sergeant in my own police department).

But I do have the ability and the stones to speak through social media platforms on issues that face all of us.

Sadly, many are either too scared or are too wrapped up in themselves to advocate for our profession.

Roughly 80 percent of the articles that I write are satire. I use satire to amplify issues that effect cops everywhere.

Our founding fathers also used satire to blast the tyrannical rule of England. It was and still is a powerful medium to get your point across and to also bring laughter.

This article, however, is not one of them.


This post is going to sting a little bit. Some more than others.

This article is not satire.

1. Too many arrogant douche bags

I told you it would sting.

The douche baggery that I am referring to isn’t just synonymous with police agencies.

But the DB that I am describing does have some unique differences that are magnified greatly when one of these has a badge.

We all know him or her (sorry ladies but you should know me by now).

They are the greatest cop or detective since the job was invented.

All you have to do is ask them.

“The Top Ten Rules of Good Police Leadership”

They love to tell the bosses how awesome they are, forever bringing up an arrest or a case that they solved. And each time they tell it the story becomes more legendary.

And typically these DB’s will throw you and anyone else under the bus if they perceive that their awesomeness is being threatened by you.

Before long you will have a situation where no one trusts each other.

This reason alone is enough to dismantle and begin the implosion process of your agency if not kept in check.

2. Laziness

It wouldn’t matter if you paid them six figures for the job, they just do the bare minimum to keep it.

This laziness, this total apathy to do the absolute minimum, not only spreads like a virus but also destroys morale.

We have all heard the old adage that the workers who do a good job get rewarded for their effort by getting more work assigned.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t true.

The odd thing about these offenders is that they will expend more effort trying to get out of work then if they were to just complete the original task.

If not checked, this behavior can spread throughout your agency like a cancer.

3. Cliques 

And yes, I know, cliques are just a part of life in every organization.

In my 23 years of policing, I have sat back and watched the various cliques in my agency and have made some interesting observations.

And I’m betting that these are very similar to almost every police agency in this country.

Let’s start with the female officer cliques.

This clique is the smallest but may have the strongest bond.

The partnerships formed by female officers are both unique and complicated.  

Because there are so few female officers in law enforcement, the cliques that they form are usually force multipliers.

What do I mean by that?

Simple, they look out for one another.

They are almost forced into this way of operating because of how small their numbers are compared to males in the profession.

The flip side of female officer cliques can be just as brutal.

If you try and go it your own and not willingly accept the clique then you are an island. Also, if you are a terrible officer and are female, god help you with this group.

“Why Some Cops Stay Longer than they Should”

Black officer cliques are very similar to female officer cliques.

Black officers look out for each other. And they are much more forgiving when one of their own is not performing well or is perceived as not performing well. Black officers also appear to rejoice more so in the promotion of one their own versus other cliques.

Like female officer cliques, when one of their own is promoted it’s seen as a win for the group more so than the individual.

Then there are the white male officer cliques.

Or the lack there of.

White male officers, in my observation, tend to go it alone throughout their careers and don’t conform to cliques. This is not to say that they don’t have close friendships but the bond of a group or clique just isn’t there.

This lone-wolf mentality can sometimes lead to an over zealous pursuit of getting ahead or promoted, usually at the expense of their peers.

“But Sarge, why are you even talking about this?” or “What makes you think you know what it’s like to be black or female?”

These are legitimate questions.

I do not know what it’s like to be black or female.

But I do have a brain and have observed these behaviors for over two decades. This is not to say that my observations differ greatly from your department or agency.

My gut tells me that many are similar to what I have just described.

The point that I am making is that we all need to drop the veil of exclusion and become united in our cause.

One team working for the common good against evil without the inner turmoil that these 3 examples can bring.

We must, as a profession, recognize and treat these viruses that have the potential to decimate a police or sheriff’s office.

All of us working together as a team and lifting each other up.

One blue team for us all.

You can find other ORIGINAL articles like this one and more at The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.


  1. Salty, I served 20 years with the New Orleans Police Department and I agree 100% with what you wrote.I was a lone wolf and the biggest problem I encountered was the politics that rotted the department out. Affirmative Action was a cancer we dealt with, mainly, by smiling at the incompetent supervisors, and just doing the job. I’ve been gone for a number of years, however, I hear that the recent anti-cop atmosphere, and the higher-ups that agree with BLM and Antifa have paralyzed a once great department to the point of irrelevance. Perhaps New Orleans is unique in this, but, I doubt it.

  2. I’m also a sergeant in a mid to large size police agency and I’ve been here for 22 years. I agree with almost everything that you said with the exception of the lack of a white make clique. I’ve seen it over and over again through out my years as a police officer. You have the SWAT clique, the CID clique, the Narcotics clique.

    But mainly in my department we have the “who drinks with whom clique. Or who golfs with whom clique. These friends always seem to get promoted, and are handed the best assignments. When one of their members rises to the top command staff level, soon their friends are riding their coat tails all the way up. Often they become untouchable and as it is in my department, they forget what it was like to do police work, and each and every one of them won’t hesitate to step on someone else to get where they want to go. As I’m fond of telling these douchebags, “You don’t have to step on me to look taller. If you’re good, I’ll lift you up”.

  3. I m a female retired LEO. And much of what you say I agree with except in my department the clicks were black female officers who tried to act like Prima Donna’s always expecting special treatment.,.. the other females were in competition for those special assignments and mostly distrust each other, Friendships and alliances did occur.I had friends in both categories but I was older and married unlike most of them,therefore my relationship was different. Respectful but different

  4. After 30 years in all levels of policing in three different parts of the country, I found several things to be true. One was that 30% of the officers made 70% of the arrests These officers came to work and put in a full day’s work, making DWI arrests, sitting in dark shadows watching drug deals and then making arrests, patrolling with the good sense to notice something that just wasn’t right. The next group was 40% of officers who could handled a radio assignment, write a good report not complain about being over worked. Then there were the 30% who looked at being a cop as having a great government job with benefits where you didn’t have to do much once you learned how to avoid work. As mentioned this group would often work harder avoiding work than just doing it. Which group was most likely to face disciplinary action? It was always the first group that did the most work and made the most arrests. They generally worked on the belief of right and wrong and did not let local and departmental politics guide them. The group that did the most work got the most complaints and saw careers stall or end because they did what was ethically correct but not correct within the power structure above them.

  5. The article is a great perspective of police work. I especially like John Hoffmann’s comments. After 20 plus years of working one of the most dangerous cities in the world I’m basically sick to my stomach to watch as it derails of the tracks.

  6. Your articles are refreshing and spot on! After 31 years as a cop, the last 11 as a patrol sergeant, I can honestly say you’ve highlighted some of the truths they don’t emphasis in SLI or Sergeant 101. Without sounding “too salty”, the cops today have different ambitions and perspectives of the job and the public than we did 30, 40, 50 years ago. I plan to use some of your material in briefing as a nice respite from the officer safety concerns, case law and pending bill legislation that only make me more disgusted in state of California. I love the satire too… As a Marine Corps vet (was a platoon sergeant there too) and a woman (even more of an anomaly) I can can admit that I am a first class smart ass and try to inject humor into every appropriate situation. Keep the articles coming!

  7. I’m a 37 year (yes I have no life) veteran with twenty of those as a sergeant. What you wrote is right on the money and should be shared with everyone in LE, including the brass who foster the conditions where these cliques and personalities thrive.

  8. It’s an amazingly article. This is spot on except the arrogant people are the one inside the administration. They say they have you back until something comes up or you call them out, then to the wolves you go

  9. This is not unique to police departments. I am a retired firefighter and every one of the points of this post fit the fire department I worked for.

  10. The ultimate poison is Complaining. There is nothing so bad in life that complaining won’t make it worse. Address problems, yes. But, feckless whining has never solved any problem.

  11. There it is, excellent article! The Salty Sarge tells it like it is! As he states in this article, “But I do have the ability and the stones to speak through social media platforms on issues that face all of us”, I like that phrase, gonna borrow it. Police leadership must be aware of the subcultures within an agency and monitor them or it can create a cancer that erodes the morale. Sadly many police managers and leaders are idiots and fools with no understanding of the sociology of their agency. I studied the research of Jerome Skolnick and read several of his books on the topic of Understanding the Police Culture, since it was of great interest to me and I knew it would be valuable information in my quest to develop my police leadership and agency management skills. I suggest perusing Skolnick’s writings if you are a police leader/supervisor or are seeking promotion. If my post appears to be gibberish…never mind as you may fall in the category previously referred to…idiots and fools.

  12. 14 and a half years before being forced out for in my opinion being ‘Too good at my job’. Was told by a Capt that I either accept a letter of repremand or I would have bigger problems so I resigned.

  13. Salty, thanks for your candor. As a police psychologist who works with or has worked with hundreds of agencies over the last 22years i can say with confidence that the word Morale and the word Moral are the same word. Where you have unhealthy morale you have unhealthy Morals. I have worked in departments where leadership had one or two turds in the punch bowl and i have seen similar effect on morale by having a couple well placed douches in the rank and file. Each of the 3 items you list have moral implications but there are others that equally kill morale. Thanks for your efforts and stay salty!
    Doc Greenberg

  14. I read your posts and almost always agree w/everything you say. I was a cop for 30 years in a mid size city and have now been retired for 20. I got my first promotion to sergeant after 10 years, 6 in uniform and 4 as a burglary detective. Another five years to lieutenant then eight more before making captain. As the uniform division commander I told my subordinates that I held them accountable for the working conditions in their squads and I ment it. What I tried to achieve was a working atmosphere where good cops could do their jobs and get support from management, and lazy cops were outed mostly through peer pressure. After three officer involved shootings I’m happy to be safely retired and fear for those who are still out there.

  15. I was a working cop for 30 years and have now been retired 20. My first promotion came after 6 years in uniform and 4 as a detective so I got to see and learn quite a bit before moving up (retired as a captain). The Salty Serge is quite a sage and I have to agree w/everything in this post. My distain was for those who seemed to avoid any real work or responsibility while getting cushy assignments close to the chief, along w/unearned promotions. Most chiefs I have known, and worked for, I couldn’t give you two cents for. I spent my last several years trying to stay out of the chief’s way, pretty difficult as the commander of the uniformed division. My memories are good and I keep in touch w/the agency as the president fo our retirees association, but I’m glad to be out of it.

  16. What John Hoffman says is so true. But you forgot a sub clique to the female officer clique, that being the lesbian clique. Also the white social climber who would do anything for a promotion. Sure sounds like my old agency.

  17. Your rule #2 laziness is outdated today proactive police work doesn’t get you more work it gets you fired, suspended or fighting for your job

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