There is a common belief or perception within most large law enforcement agencies that top management is out of touch with rank and file. The arrival of Police Chief William P. McManus marked a new era for the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Department.
Chief McManus initiated several key policy decisions to increase accountability not only within the police department, but also with the San Antonio community. Without delay, Chief McManus enhanced the communication transpiring both up and down the chain of command. Apart from the formality of the
chain of command, informal methods, such as visiting the men and women on a regular basis at roll calls and while on patrol took place.
Prior to Chief McManus taking the helm of the SAPD, command staff members were seldom visible out in the field. The perception was top management had lost organizational reality of what actually occurs at the working levels. Chief McManus changed this mindset by immediately being the face and voice of the SAPD. Chief McManus made himself known in the community by attending neighborhood meetings, meeting with various community organizations and meeting with members of the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender community.
In addition to community involvement, Chief McManus worked in the field making calls alongside patrol officers. He is visible and makes it a point to respond to most major crime calls, regardless of day or time. This type of visibility is incredibly positive as it provides the chief the opportunities to increase positive interaction with officers throughout the department. Chief McManus’ vision called for the remaining chain of command (captains, deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs) to be more visible. This vision was achieved when two captains were assigned to the role of “night commander.” Additionally, “weekend command” was assigned to all deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs in which the field assignment is rotated on a weekly basis.
The “weekend command” provides the deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs with the opportunity to visit with the men and women under their respective commands and address issues or concerns from the rank and file. Many times during this interaction, command officials are made aware of issues that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. One evening, I was working out in the field. I asked an officer what he thought of the chief and command staff being seen out in the field. Sgt. Gabriel Trevino had this to say, “Officers seeing the chief answering everyday calls for service, making apprehensions and assisting or covering officers, reinforces the fact that management is in touch with what the officers do on a daily basis and instills a certain level of confidence and support for what they stand for.”
The visibility also strengthens the relationship between the community and the SAPD. It is now anticipated that Chief McManus will respond to the scene of most major crimes. The community certainly looks forward to seeing the chief out in the open. During San Antonio’s yearly “Fiesta” celebration, the chief is barraged by people clamoring to shake his hand and/or take a picture with him. People invariably thank him for the job he has done as the chief of police and for being so noticeable and approachable.
The community truly respects and appreciates that the SAPD is led by a genuinely professional leader.