The new sergeant’s dilemma: Navigating the transition from line staff to first-line supervision

If you can’t help wondering why you feel like you’re new and why those stripes are a little heavy, read on


First-line correctional supervisors spend more time in proximity with their teams than many other law enforcement supervisors. With long shifts and regular overtime, the shift supervisor at a corrections facility can have a significant impact on morale, retention and operational success. This article is the first in a series for Corrections1 members that outlines the tools effective supervisors need to lead their team.

Congratulations! You got your stripes. You worked hard. You took on special assignments and became an expert corrections deputy with enough training for big-picture thinking. You have trained half of the night shift. Command staff can always count on you answering the phone and showing up. Not only did you pass the sergeant’s written test, but you aced the oral panels.

Day one, sitting at the supervisor’s desk, you have already noticed the difference those stripes make on your shoulders. Inmates are testing the waters with you; it’s like you are new again! The inmates are asking themselves if they can circumvent your staff and ask you for decisions. They want to know if you will follow up on discipline.

Your best friend, the gal who swore in with you a decade ago, just asked if she could work booking tomorrow. The guy who tested second for your position is still avoiding you. He’s got three years on you and someone has already told you he is bitter about your promotion.

You are a rock star in your duties, you remind yourself. You’ve got this. You had top stats for finding contraband in your facility. You could book an arrestee faster than some of the booking clerks. You can’t help wondering, however, why you feel like you’re new and why those stripes are a little heavy.

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