To understand the significance of this testimonial you need to understand some of the history at Anderson Police Department and appreciate the fact that this management “team” was functioning as anything but a team. The Department had suffered a catastrophic blow to public image and trust when an officer was arrested and prosecuted for sexual assault under color of authority. The victim was a female in-custody for DUI and sexually assaulted by the officer while in custody. The impact this had on the reputation of our small department, as well as on our quaint community was immeasurable, and, at the time immediately following the incident, seemed permanent and irreparable. The city manager determined that a review of Departmental policies and procedures was necessary and hired an outside source to conduct the evaluation. Employees were interviewed and encouraged to voice their comments, concerns, and disapproval of administration, which seemed to cause distrust to form, morale to diminish, and ultimately stimulated the employees to engage in unethical slander against administration and move to force the removal of the chief of police from his position in May 2011. Local media was used for a platform to cause unrest and further degradation within the Department. There was no cohesion, common goal or mission, or unity in this department.
POST graciously acted quickly to approve a Team Building Workshop. I thoroughly researched several companies and spent the effort to contact agencies for references before choosing Switzer Associates Leadership Solutions. Merle Switzer came highly recommended for his thoroughness, expertise, and sensible approach to facilitating change and trust within an organization. In January 2014, the APD management team (comprised of the new Chief of Police, one new Lieutenant, three Sergeants, one Support Services Manager, and one Support Services Supervisor) met to embark on a three-day training retreat with facilitator Merle Switzer.
Over the course of the three-day sessions, our group transformed from a divided, non-communicational and autonomic operating set of persons to a trusting, collaborative and unified team of leaders. During the training, we learned to break down walls of mistrust through a variety of exercises and realizations. Open and honest communication led to foundations in which relationships have grown. Merle provided us with management tools, such as conflict resolution techniques, that have allowed us to move forward with a greater understanding and common goal in the best interest of the organization. We developed a strategic mission statement and agreed upon rules of operation within our team.
One year later, January 2015, I facilitated a one-year reunion, offsite, two-day training to reflect on our progress and to revisit the concepts of our original session. We are better known collectively now as the “First Team” at APD and operate accordingly. The turnaround has led to phenomenal success in our organization and community. Morale has remained at an all-time high, steady for the past year.
I am not a touchy-feely or politically correct type of guy. I typically see training sessions/retreats of this nature as a gigantic waste of time and a form of new age liberalism that I staunchly resist and detest. However, given the extremities of the situation and the importance for this management team to come together for the good of the organization I approached it with an open mind and full participation. Merle Switzer’s facilitation, course instruction, and management reform techniques has paid immeasurable dividends for this agency. I strongly recommend Merle as a Team Building Workshop facilitator.
- Chief Michael L. Johnson, Anderson Police Department