If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, Don’t Say Anything At All

Well, I am back from the IACA 2014 Training Conference and I have to say it was a great experience. I got to meet a lot of fellow crime analysts and learn some new tricks. I am very grateful for the lessons, advice, and encouragement I received regarding not only crime analysis but the blog as well. I would highly recommend you go next year, it is well worth it. Although, I hear MACA is pretty good too, but that came from a guy from Boston, so I am not so sure how reliable that information may be…


While I attended lots of interesting sessions, some of which will be discussed in future posts, this one session in particular has really stuck with me. It was about ways to better integrate a crime analysis unit into a department. As we all know, crime analysis continues to experience… difficulties… in many parts of the country, especially in places where it is still very new.


What captured my attention during the session was a discussion involving a common sense rule we all know already. Yet it is probably one of the most important rules to follow in a professional environment and thus worth reiterating.


The discussion was about the dangers of getting caught up in the gossip and politics of an agency. Probably the single worst thing that can happen to an analyst is to get sucked into that particular black hole. I could say that some of it is easy to avoid, especially if it is simply this officer is talking about that officer in a negative manner, just walk away, right? But sometimes it is not that simple.


Since I am the only analyst in my agency and I am located in the Investigations unit I am constantly interacting with the detectives. They are some of the nicest, funniest people I know and I have been building relationships with them bit by bit. I have reached the point where I am in a fantasy football league with many of them and going on their annual ice fishing trip early next year (something they were delighted to find out I did not actually believe in until I moved here and lived through last winter).


Sometimes, unfortunately, events lead people to have opinions about other people and it can be very tempting to chime in, whether I agree or disagree with what they are saying. However, it has taken me a year and a half to get some of them to even consider approaching me for my input or assistance and I do NOT want to jeopardize that. So I avoid engaging in those conversations at all costs. You should too.


Officers and analysts are obviously very different people, with different jobs. Officers have one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs around and that forms a very tight bond between them. An analyst caught talking bad about an officer is going to have a tough row to hoe regaining the confidence and respect of their sworn coworkers, if they ever do. I am told officers have very long memories.


While this situation can be easy to avoid, there are harder ones to avoid. For instance, what do you do when one sergeant comes to you and asks for performance stats regarding another sergeant? A lieutenant about another lieutenant?


Police departments can get very political and getting caught in the middle is bad news, and the surest way to make your unit, especially if it is just you, irrelevant. No one wants to go to someone for help when that person just sold them out to one of their peers.


Yet it is a difficult position to be placed in. Police departments run on a very set and defined hierarchy. Defying the hierarchy is problematic, especially for someone who may be on as unsure of footing as an analyst can be. How do you say no to rank?


Luckily, I have not had to deal with this but others in the session had. One way that was mentioned was to tell the officer or sergeant who comes to you looking for dirt on another officer or sergeant, that you simply will not do that. Be nice about it and explain why you will not do it, but say no. For the most part, there is no reason they should be looking for this information in the first place, officers do not manage their peers. If there are issues to be looked at it should be done at the request of the direct supervisors of the person in question. Saying no will probably be tough, but being ostracized will be worse I am sure.


Also, you have a supervisor who can help you with tricky situations like this, so make sure to get their help when you need it. The few times I have had requests I was not 100 percent comfortable with I routed it through my supervisor and the problem was solved.


I am not sure what the situation is like working with other analysts, but I bet issues like this creep up there as well. Something that would make me just as careful to avoid gossiping or talking bad about other analysts, other than that I am generally a nice person, is the fact that, while officers may have long memories, analysts have databases which will NEVER forget… They might get corrupted, but they will not forget.


Like I said, none of this is earth shattering, Thumper taught us all this lesson very early on in our lives. Yet it is good advice to reaffirm from time to time and I was glad I attended that particular session. It is something that applies not only in our jobs but in our associations and personal lives as well.


Sometimes it will be you with the negative opinion of others, sometimes others will have a negative opinion of you, sometimes you will take on an assignment that does not make you the most popular person on the planet, c’est la vie. In the end, no matter the situation or your personal feelings, gossip can all to easily become destructive and make life difficult, so avoid it.


How have you dealt with a situation like this?

4 thoughts on “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, Don’t Say Anything At All

  1. This is awesome! Civilian staff members in police departments have always been a critical component of what makes the department run. For a civilian, working in a PD can be very challenging because the police culture is so unique and can be slow to accept ‘outsiders’, and sometimes there is a great deal of disparity between sworn and civilian with regard to how rules, policies and benefits are applied (unfortunately).

    Sadly, part of the police culture can be pettiness and childishness that those on the outside would never guess existed. And you are right, it is easy to get tripped up in it and most definitely, there are those that will use everyone around them for a nefarious scheme or two.

    I have had the pleasure of working with the ‘best of the best’ civilian staff in my career, as I do right now with the most incredible support staff and analyst staff one could wish for. One of the many reasons they are so effective and work well together is that they have learned to follow the advice you give and stay out of the petty rumor mills that exist.

    Great advise Levi; you hit the nail on the head.

    Lt. Lyons

  2. I’m a retired officer and always remember the advice I was once given by one of my peers who had been around a lot longer than I had at that time. ” A wise man once said – nothing”.

  3. Great post, and great advice! I know plenty of people take exception to the adage in the post title, but it’s definitely time-tested and invaluable. Keeping your thoughts to yourself may not always be the best course of action, but choosing when and how to share them certainly is. I am privileged to know, and have worked with, both sworn law enforcement officers and LEO agency civilians over the years, and they have all espoused the same sentiment at one time or another: maintain your integrity and watch out for each other.

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