The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office: An Organization in Transition
Relihan, Susan J., Corrections Today
The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office has always been recognized as an exceptional agency. Through the dedicated efforts of its staff, it earned the National Sheriffs' Association's Triple Crown recognition for its accreditation involvement and has been acknowledged by several organizations for its leadership in both law enforcement and corrections. In July 2002, Sheriff Patrick J. Sullivan Jr., NSA's 2001 Sheriff of the Year, retired and Undersheriff J. Grayson Robinson was appointed to the position. Robinson recognized that the agency was about to experience a transition and was determined to take advantage of the unique opportunity.
Not only did the agency have a new CEO, in June 2002, jail remodeling and the construction of two new jail pods were completed. In August, a new 119,000-square-foot headquarters building was dedicated and occupied. Transition was a high priority, yet it had to be done in an effective way that did not interfere with day-to-day operations. Robinson saw it as "an opportunity to always be better than we were yesterday." Change can be very frightening and one method to minimize that fear is to empower the people affected by the changes. The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office implemented a well-considered and deliberate transition plan designed to reflect on the past, evaluate the present and plan for the future.
Regarding transition, Robinson explains, "It has been a personal philosophy of mine, created from years of trial and error, that people need to be empowered." He went on to describe his philosophy: "The best way to empower is to create an environment where individuals think about their role in their organization, communicate their needs and are provided with an opportunity to grow. The growth opportunity needs to include a mind-set that it is OK to fail as long as the failure is turned into a lesson and is not repeated over and over."
A mandatory reading list was established for all 109 first-line supervisors and above, including: The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics; the agency's mission statement and values; the agency organizational chart; a compact disc containing American Correctional Association, National Commission on Correctional Health Care and Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies accreditation standards, and a specific selection of policies and procedures; The Erickson Report (a review of the Columbine High School tragedy); a description of the Compstat process (a model for taking and analyzing information and developing action plans to address it, assigning resources, creating accountability and providing reward and consequence for the outcome); a description of the responsibilities of the office of sheriff; the documentation of the National Institute of Justice/Chicago Police Automated Mapping Project; agency budget reports and two books--Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by Oren Harari and Good to Great by Jim Collins. These materials were assembled in individual packets and provided by the agency and were to be read in preparation for an agencywide "advance." This was a bold maneuver, quite different from the type of business that is all too typical in county government, in which issues are discussed and rediscussed many times before any actions are taken. According to Robinson, "Most agencies go into a retreat. I decided that we're not retreating, we're on the attack, so we advance."
Before the advance, Robinson made it a personal goal to meet one-on-one with all 109 supervisors. He created a survey/questionnaire to standardize the information obtained from each person. The one-on-one interviews were conducted, using the survey as a standard format. Each person was asked to complete the questionnaire, which included the following questions:
* How do you make a difference in your current assignment?
* List the sheriff's office assignment that you would prefer if you were not assigned to your current responsibility. …