Traits of being a desk sergeant
April 2, 2013
By U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Osbourne
79th MP CO, Operations Sergeant
DOHA, Qatar - Behind the operations of a military police station exists at least one individual serving as the focal point for command and control, and communication in a law and order unit.
This person isn't publicly seen and is behind closed doors. This MP desk sergeant, unlike a civilian dispatcher, is responsible for more than directing patrols to incidents; they're in charge of writing and distributing the journal/blotter and they review all reports coming from the patrols. To be competent as a desk sergeant, one must be experienced and capable of communicating effectively.
Ideally, a desk sergeant will have years of experience as a law enforcement officer and as an noncommissioned officer. This experience will aid patrols with questioning and provide insight on investigations. The desk sergeant has learned, through his or her prior years of law enforcement, which questions will develop an investigation and which direction to take a case. Some cases require more validation of facts than others. Additional statements or surveillance may be required and it is the desk sergeant's experience that will help determine the extent of investigation.
There is a balance that must be achieved between suspense dates and case follow up.
It is important that the MP desk be led by an individual that can illicit the relevant information needed for a call. Interpersonal skills and decision making abilities are vital for an MP desk sergeant. When a call for service comes into the desk, one must be able to collect all relevant information, orient themselves to what resources are available, and decide on the best way to resolve the incident.
Everything is funneled through the desk and the desk sergeant is expected to know details related to law enforcement, medical, and fire responses. However, it can be difficult not being at the actual scene. If the desk sergeant fails to gather the required information, a patrol could respond to the wrong location or have inadequate resources upon arrival. In a worst case scenario, a patrol could arrive unprepared for a situation which could create a life altering situation.
For example which is better, "What are they doing?" or "What is suspicious about the behavior?" Having direct and detailed questions not only saves time, but also helps determine if base resources are really needed for a call.
Misunderstanding a situation will result in the unattended misuse of base personnel. Direct and detailed questions also help articulate why a decision was made. The desk sergeant has to be capable of making decisions and briefing their command group based on information from a second source.
The desk sergeant has to brief all appropriate agencies and staff both verbally and in the form of an MP blotter. The blotter is a concise and detailed summary of events that go out to the base command. The ability to include details and be grammatically efficient is essential. Lack of detail in a blotter can create a misconception of events that can attract negative publicity for your department. In addition, the desk should possess the knowledge and skills to review all paper work for accuracy. Such a task requires that the desk sergeant become an expert on policy and procedure. Knowing these policies provides backing to the stations decisions for when complaints or disputes are received.
For these reasons, a desk sergeant should be articulate with the ability to communicate efficiently both verbally and in writing. Their use of grammar and interpersonal skills will be the foundation for success when handling critical situations. The soldier needs to have the ability to gather the relevant information, decide on the best course of action, and direct the patrol on how to act accordingly. These skills along with knowledge of policies and procedure, and experience, are the preferred traits of a desk sergeant.