Chief Allen Aldenberg has worked in law enforcement for nearly 20 years. He served as a corrections officer in Massachusetts and began his law enforcement career with the Goffstown, NH Police Department. He later joined the Manchester, NH Police Department and rose through the ranks, becoming the Chief in 2019.
He is a Colonel in the U.S. Army Massachusetts National Guard and has led the 972nd MP Company. He was activated and his unit went to Afghanistan during the war on terrorism.
He recently attended the FBI National Academy. We talked about leadership, preparing future leaders, the importance of training, and the effectiveness of CompStat and problem-solving teams.
[00:00:02.870] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The Cop Doc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc podcast.
[00:00:31.950] - Steve Morreale
Hello again, everybody. Welcome back to The CopDoc Podcast. I'm Steve Morreale, talking to you in Boston, and we have the opportunity to chat with the new police chief in Manchester, New Hampshire. Al Aldenberg. Manchester being the largest city in New Hampshire. Good morning, Al.
[00:00:48.360] - Al Aldenberg
Good morning. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:49.730] - Steve Morreale
Thank you. Thank you very much. So, we had the opportunity to talk for a few moments before I'll let you talk about your background, knowing that you went to Norwich and your education and the fact that you were in the National Guard and a high-ranking official even today.
[00:01:02.150] - Al Aldenberg
Yes, I'm still in.
[00:01:03.050] - Steve Morreale
Okay. So tell us about yourself.
[00:01:04.550] - Al Aldenberg
Growing up on the North Shore, Massachusetts, grew up, went to Lynnfield High School. I went up to Norwich University Military College, Vermont, and graduated out of there, was Commissioned out of there into the United States Army, went right into the National Guard. I had one of those guaranteed National Guard/Reserve scholarships for my last two years. So I got ready to get my initial officer basic course out of the way. I was an MP and then got into corrections for about three or four years down to Essex County, Middleton. Very valuable experience.
[00:01:33.280] - Al Aldenberg
I took away from there how to basically taught me how to communicate with people and how to get people to do what you need them to do. Kids coming from Lindfield, going to work in jail was definitely an eye opener. From there, I was fortunate. And the 97 98 I got on with Goffstown PD here in New Hampshire. So, when 9-11 happened immediately, I called up to active duty. I was at the time a company commander of the 972 MP company time was in Melrose, Mass.
[00:01:56.960] - Al Aldenberg
So, I went on active duty. And then from October 1 until March of 02, my unit was at Logan Airport as part of Operation Legal. And remember, back and then that was kind of a big step for the country and for the military putting soldiers at airports under President Bush. So, we did that for about eight months. And then we figured, okay, we're going to get a little break. And then right at the end of March, we got our orders to deploy to Afghanistan. And that got a little interesting for me to remain a company commander, deployed my unit, and then we got in the country and they pretty much immediately split up my unit.
[00:02:30.670] - Al Aldenberg
The half of my company was in Uzbekistan, which is north of Afghanistan. The other half went to Pakistan. And then it had small elements in Afghanistan. So I was kind of on the frequent flyer plan on the C 130 traveling around to see your troops, my men and women. So we got out of there in April of O, three around there. And I came home and I said I was needing a little bit more out of the job. My life, where I was in Goffstown. They were very good to me, but I was looking for more of a little more of an activity, a little more of a challenge, no more room to grow.
[00:03:01.880] - Al Aldenberg
I actually applied to Manchester, and I applied to Hampshire State Police, and both gave me conditional officers. And I basically flipped the coin. Manchester came up and they were able to get me through the process quicker. And here I am with Manchester. 18 years later. Great stone. Massachusetts Army National Guard been able to make it to the rank of Colonel. Very fortunate. And some people along the way looking out for me. And I'll probably retire from the army in May of 23.
[00:03:26.780] - Steve Morreale
Well, thank you for your service from a veteran. Myself and I had applied to Manchester and ended up going to Dover for the same reason. Dover grabbed me first, but I had lived in Manchester. So tell the listeners about the police Department. How big is it and where Manchester is for those people who are listing from out of the country?
[00:03:43.390] - Speaker 3
Yes. We always hear about Manchester. Built 45 minutes north of Boston. Well, that's pretty accurate. So right up 93, we board at Bedford Goffstown hooks it right around that central New Hampshire area. Pd is now located on four or five valleys. We moved into this new building in 2012, and we pretty much outgrown it. That's a good facility. We're fortunate. The police Department is my current authorized strength as of July 1 is 267. That's top to bottom, with an additional approximately 60 support staff, for records, folks for dispatchers, evidence.
[00:04:15.580] - Al Aldenberg
Those type of employees very valuable employees. But I have 21 vacancies.
[00:04:19.550] - Steve Morreale
[00:04:20.800] - Al Aldenberg
[00:04:21.170] - Steve Morreale
[00:04:21.580] - Steve Morreale
Are those funded?
[00:04:22.490] - Al Aldenberg
Yes. Everything is funded. I have a very good, very supportive Mayor and board of Alderman. Our complement was 30 less, but over the past three years they've allowed us to increase it by ten. So now in that final year, that's what got me the 267.
[00:04:37.060] - Steve Morreale
[00:04:37.860] - Al Aldenberg
Now it's on me to fill, right.
[00:04:39.480] - Steve Morreale
Busy city. And so as you climb the ranks, what I think is important for me. Thank you very much for being here. By the way, we're talking to Aldenberg, the chief of police in Manchester, New Hampshire, today. I want to talk about leadership to start, because podcast is about leadership, about innovation. I want to ask you questions about those two things. You're going to the National Academy in October. You told me, correct.
[00:04:59.020] - Al Aldenberg
[00:04:59.450] - Steve Morreale
How excited are you to go?
[00:05:01.070] - Al Aldenberg
I'm very excited. And I was supposed to go in April of 20 when I was a capital. But Kobe got in the way of that. So this class. This is going to be the first class they've held since Kobe. So they're going to downsize the class to about 127 students and they're not going to have the international students attempt. So you kind of miss that flavor, which is valuable. But I'm looking forward to going and getting it under my belt. And hopefully I'll take away many things from.
[00:05:26.790] - Steve Morreale
Well, just being collocated with people from all over the country. My guess is there will be from some from Canada, maybe, but it's a mix and match. And I've been to the Academy I've taught at the Academy. You'll be in the Boardroom a few nights, which is basically opening at 05:00, and that's their pub. But that's where a lot of lessons are learned from each other from your colleagues. People will be picking at you because you're a chief now and have that experience. But one of the things I'm trying to understand is the opportunities that you got to climb the ladder, both in the police department and the military.
[00:05:59.020] - Steve Morreale
There are training opportunities along the way. It's my experience and my understanding that the military is much better at getting people ready for the next level. Can you contrast the experience you've had as a police officer and as you move up the ranks, what they do, they Knight you. And the next thing you know, you're in charge. Have you had training as opposed to how they do it in the military?
[00:06:20.860] - Al Aldenberg
I think it's pretty distinct difference in the military. You want to get to your particular, whether you're a non-commissioned officer or Commissioned officer, you have to hit those marks, right? You have to attend your office basic course. You also advanced course, intermediate level education, so on and so on. And then somewhere along the line, somebody says, hey, we're going to send Al Aldenberg to War College because we think he is general officer material, or at a minimum, we are definitely going to promote him to Colonel. So you kind of have that built in mentoring, professional development where you take it on the police side, kind of what we're trying to do here, change that, identify people that we see as the next generation, the next the next Sergeant, the next Lieutenant, the next Captain, the next chief, and get them into these professional development, leadership training opportunities before they're in the position, right.
[00:07:08.320] - Al Aldenberg
Because it's almost too late. We promote somebody and like, oh, that's not what I'm not getting out of him or her what I thought it was going to get because they're lacking in leadership in some areas. And now we're trying to play a catch up. And a lot of it go on police side, as you know, it comes down to resources, comes down to funding and comes down to the bill ability to strengthen. So we're really trying to change the way we do that. And part of that is what we're doing now is how do we evaluate it, right?
[00:07:33.350] - Al Aldenberg
We have our historically, here our yearly evaluation forms. Well, that's the way we've always done it. If I need one more person, tell me that's the way we've always done it. I'm going to throw myself on a window. So we're changing our evaluation system to make it more along the lines of what the military does is, hey, what are your goals? What are your objectives? Your goals and your objectives from a professional development standpoint align with the goals and objectives of the police Department. And you're always going to have your personal objectives.
[00:08:00.310] - Al Aldenberg
You want to meet professionally and personally. But how do we make those line up with the admission of the police Department and making the evaluation something a real document that quarterly. We check in with the employee and say, okay, have you been able to sign up for these trainings that we wanted you to sign up for? Because we put you on the track to be a Detective, we put you on a track to be a resource officer or to be a supervisor. Have you been able to get into the necessary training to meet that goal?
[00:08:27.520] - Al Aldenberg
Because if we're not checking in quarterly with the employees, then how are we going to really keep track of how are they developing? So that's something we're running going that change now. And I'm kind of just mirroring the evaluation system in the army.
[00:08:39.530] - Steve Morreale
I want to ask this question. So many who come to policing nowadays have no military experience whatsoever. And here you are with plenty of experience and bringing the ideals of the military into the police, which I admire, and I'm impressed. But what kinds of pushback do you get with the unions? Never mind the fact that sometimes the first thing to go is training money, especially with budgets, the way they are the pushback from the unions.
[00:09:04.090] - Al Aldenberg
We have a good relationship with all three unions that I have here that type of stuff in training and trying to get officers to as much professional development as I can. I'm not getting any pushback at all.
[00:09:13.970] - Steve Morreale
[00:09:14.280] - Al Aldenberg
The piece you're exactly right is the fund, right. So what I did when I took over in October of last year, I revamped how we train, because historically, you'd go to your annual firearms call. You do use a force. You point your Taser at the wall. Very minimal. Here. They had the lead Commission, which I'm sure you're familiar with up here that came up with 48 recommendations after the whole George Boyd incident. They formed this Commission to improve law enforcement in the state. And they came up with about 48 recommendations, and a lot of them were focused on training.
[00:09:46.000] - Al Aldenberg
Everybody was like, good, we want more training, but who's paying for it? We're fortunate here at Manchester, where what I did was I pulled my training unit. Here's the deal. What I want is everybody's going to get at a minimum 40 hours of training per year. We're going to take them out of their assignment for one week, a year at a minimum, and they're going to be assigned to training. And they're going to cover everything from firearms, implicit bias training, youth supports firearms, scenario- based training, cultural awareness, cultural diversity, training, all the things that this lead Commission wanted to see.
[00:10:17.400] - Al Aldenberg
So at a minimum, they're getting 40 hours. So the feedback on the Union on that was I followed a contract, one in terms of how we do training. So there was no kickback and it's been received very well. So again, I'm saying 40 hours minimum. Anything they get after that is a bonus. So they go into other specialized training. They're on squat, Montana. All that is a bonus to the minimum of 40 that they're getting per year, which is, by all accounts, we're kind of leading the state in that way.
[00:10:44.240] - Al Aldenberg
And now what we're doing is the towns that surround us, Bedford Merrimack, Goffstown, the Sheriff's office. We're bringing them in to our training and offering them slots. They come in and train with us because we all have mutual aid agreements. Let's all try to get on the same page as best as we can.
[00:10:59.830] - Steve Morreale
That's great leadership. I appreciate hearing that. And one of the questions that I have for you, and I'm writing a bunch of things down. You've got project safe, neighborhood, community outreach. So important. Manchester is a diverse city. Manchester is a great city, but it's a diverse city. So let's go back to the time when you were captain, and now you have been told you are going to be the police chief.
[00:11:20.440] - Al Aldenberg
Kind of happened. I don't want to say that I was not arrogant like that, but kind of was on that track, if you will. But it ended up happening about a year sooner than anticipated. And the chief of the time, Carl Capano, had been chief for two years, and he had been presented with an opportunity in the private sector and chose to pursue that. That kind of threw me into the game a year earlier than I was ready for, where I had an advantage being captain of the patrol division, our largest division.
[00:11:47.530] - Al Aldenberg
I was comfortable making the leap where I kind of didn't get that experience. Was being the assistant chief for a period of time for at least eight months or a year. So I had to get ahead of the power curve regards to the budget, some of those processes, but it didn't take long. It's police work, right? We're not splitting atoms, but the things that I had to wrap my head around to make sure the things that I wanted to do, I could do legally and morally.
[00:12:12.550] - Steve Morreale
So lessons from the military that come into your work in the conference room, in your command staff, talk about you walking in for the first time. You are now the chief. Were you dictatorial? Were you collaborative. What was that first meeting like, what are the things that were on your sheet of paper that you wanted to talk with your colleagues about?
[00:12:31.440] - Al Aldenberg
I can think I'm never a dictator. I think any chief or any boss has their days where things bother them and things aggravate him or her. But when I came in, the process will start, right? I'm like, what's my vision? What's my strategic vision for this police Department and kind of trying to take my education from the war College and be like, okay, how can I apply? I spent two years doing that program and here's my life. I'll never get back. And what can I take from the military?
[00:12:54.510] - Al Aldenberg
What can I make applicable here? And really, I set three major priorities. When I went into one of the first meetings, recruitment and retention officer wellness not only offer wellness, but our families wellness and wellbeing and violent crime reduction. Those are three things I put on the table and kind of got some looks like, Well, what do you mean? We're not going to live day to day and put out fires? That's kind of the mindset I'm trying to change is, listen, I've seen many good Chiefs here that come in very well-intended.
[00:13:22.490] - Al Aldenberg
Caught in the weeds, right? Because they're putting out fires every day where I used to sit back as a captain and be like, Lieutenant. I'm like, Why are they bothering the chief? Why are they bothering the sister chief? He's got to be thinking strategically. She's got to be thinking six months out, a year out. What are we going to look like? What are we going to be doing? That's why I set those three goals or my vision, if you will, to kind of give everybody okay.
[00:13:44.890] - Al Aldenberg
This is where I'm coming from. And this is what the focus is going to be. And this is the three things that we're going to get behind initially. And we'll see where it's going to take those three things that are valuable.
[00:13:53.370] - Steve Morreale
It sounds to me that you are not afraid to delegate, not afraid to give people authority, make decisions at a lower level, but also set the expectations and indicate this is on you. This is your responsibility. I don't need to know about this unless it's critical. Fair statement.
[00:14:09.660] - Al Aldenberg
Yeah, I do struggle. I have no issue delegating where I struggle as a leader and have for a long time when it comes to being patient and waiting for the results that I want. And I recognize that. Hey, I told somebody, him or her to get on this task. And as leaders, right? You do spot checks to make sure everybody's doing what you're supposed to be doing.
[00:14:29.230] - Steve Morreale
But I call it trust, but verify, right? Once in a while.
[00:14:32.640] - Al Aldenberg
I do get a little impatient.
[00:14:35.370] - Steve Morreale
Nothing wrong with that. I think we're all like that because until you set the standard until you set the bar until you set the expectation, then I can lollygag a little bit instead of saying, hey, guys. And one of the things that I have done with staff meetings is actually to put but put a list and a timeline and say, okay, we were supposed to do that next week. Is that done? All right. When can I expect it? Basically, you begin to set the tone. I'm seeing you shake your head.
[00:14:57.520] - Steve Morreale
I have the benefit of seeing you on video. The audience doesn't. But what's your reaction to that?
[00:15:01.340] - Al Aldenberg
Yeah, absolutely. But in order back to you about the delegation was okay. I've set these three priorities. I needed buy in, right? I needed buy in from the bottom up, from my most junior patrolman to all my non-sworn employees. Right? I'll get into that, too, because non-sworn employees or civilian staff are often forgotten and neglected. So what we've been doing is we've been working with the Police Foundation National Police Foundation on this CompStat 360 program, and I'm sure you're familiar with it.
[00:15:27.780] - Steve Morreale
[00:15:28.080] - Al Aldenberg
So kind of brought them in, and they've been helping us with these three objectives, and we build problem solving teams for each three of them. So for officer wellness, recruiting retention and violent crime, they all have problem-solving teams that meet regularly to improve officer wellness, help us improving attention and the violent crime. The violent crime one is really interesting because we've involved many facets and many organizations in the community to come in and help us deal with this gun crime because it's not going to be solved strictly by police department.
[00:15:56.920] - Al Aldenberg
That whole problem-solving team. I'm hoping for more, but I got many people of all ranks the police Department helping us out trying to solve some of these issues. We're dealing with. One of the biggest things I always took away from the military is sometimes the best ideas come from the bottom up. I think in any organization I used to call it in the military, the E four Mafia, E fours and E fives corporals and specialists run the army. They need to be listened to, just like our patrolman.
[00:16:21.170] - Steve Morreale
I'm very glad to hear that, because I think that so many people will say, you're in the Ivory tower. You don't understand. You've been too far along. Ask us. We've got the answers. We know what the hell is going on. So to be able to work on having these problem-solving teams and let them come up with ideas, identify the problems and some of the solutions, I think is brilliant, because you do get buy in, and it's their Department just as much as it is your Department.
[00:16:46.010] - Al Aldenberg
They're going to be here longer than me.
[00:16:47.520] - Steve Morreale
So you talked about civilian staff out. And by the way, we're still talking with Al Aldenberg, the police chief in Manchester, New Hampshire, today, you talk about civilian staff, and, for the most part, police departments, and I'm seeing a little bit of a change over time. But most police departments, the civilian staff were administrative. Have you added other people or civilianized some of the positions to free up police officers? Is that the magic ball in the future?
[00:17:11.260] - Al Aldenberg
I would love to if I was at full compliment. My civilian staff is dispatchers records folks, the evidence folks and my animal control officers, things that they're in the proper Lane. Now, what I'm trying to do, though, is because I only have so many positions on my complement. So we're looking. What we're doing is looking at the civilian complement and the job functions and what they're doing and saying, okay, can we reframe them? Can we reorganize reclassify some of those positions to better support the police side of the building?
[00:17:41.680] - Al Aldenberg
Because we're seeing that with body cameras, body cameras we have is a great program, but it becomes very cumbersome administratively to people that don't have a program yet. You're going to learn that real quick. So we're trying to change some of those positions that I can move over to support our body one program. So we are always looking at our civilian staff best align to support the police Department. But where I struggled the most is dispatching still in those positions? I currently have six vacant dispatcher positions, which causes sometimes police officers to have to sit in dispatch and work at nine one.
[00:18:14.810] - Al Aldenberg
Nothing irritates me more than that. Only so many people.
[00:18:17.330] - Steve Morreale
Talk about analysis, crime analysis. What does Manchester do? And again, that's where I was thinking that sometimes civilianizing a position in that way with a specialist.
[00:18:26.560] - Al Aldenberg
We do have a civilian crime analyst. We've had one for probably the past eight years. Our most recent one left. So a week and a half ago, my new crime analyst just started. She actually worked over Dover PD as a place for a couple of years. And then with the dispatcher, she has the education. She put herself a lot of training. So she's on board now get up and running. Terrific. Another one where we did it was our Pio public information officer for many years. It was kind of fell on a Lieutenant and community policing division did very well with it.
[00:18:58.450] - Al Aldenberg
With minimal training and experience, but he dove into it. And then probably three years ago, we civilianized that and hired somebody from outside the police Department that used to be in the news industry. She's been here for about three years.
[00:19:10.670] - Steve Morreale
[00:19:11.060] - Al Aldenberg
That's another area.
[00:19:12.160] - Steve Morreale
So you talked about Comstat 360. Can you talk us through those meetings? What are the things that you're sitting there listening to, looking for guiding so that you can be more reactive, more proactive?
[00:19:24.090] - Al Aldenberg
They've been very helpful. And it's free, right? Industry leaders or subject matter experts that we've brought in then over Zoom because of COVID. But it's been as far. I found it to be very valuable experience. The biggest thing they're helping us on is kind of the gun crime reduction so we've had a series of meetings and then larger meetings, and then we honed it down relative to the violent crime, to that problem solving team that involves many facets of community. But what we heard as a result of doing this is okay.
[00:19:52.550] - Al Aldenberg
Gun crime. Yeah, we get it. We're a city. Gun crime is going to happen. The resounding theme from the community was the fear of gun crime, the constant fear. When I heard that, I really took that away like, man, we got to do more. We've got to do more. So what we now in the rhythm of doing is we now hold weekly gun crime meetings. That's kind of what CompStat that's what they geared us towards. Okay, start holding these weekly gun crime meetings and getting updates on the investigations.
[00:20:18.940] - Al Aldenberg
But what we did is we brought in all our federal partners, our county attorneys, the FBI, DEA, ATF, every federal probation, parole, state probation, parole Sheriff's office. The US Attorney's office sits in our meetings so that we're having that when we sit there and discuss our gun crimes for the week prior, what we're finding that those doing our gun crime, which we kind of knew was social network analysis that we walked through the same group doing the vast majority of our gun violence. But what we used to struggle with around here was we were trying to fix it ourselves.
[00:20:52.650] - Al Aldenberg
So by bringing in all these partners now probation and say, hey, that guy is on with me, or I can do a home visit I can violate or the county attorney is saying, hey, what I'm hearing is, you want this case to be a priority, really concerned about bail? I just heard that one of our persons on bail, we had to possibly revoke their bail for those constant conversations once a week, for an hour, 45 minutes, we're starting to see results, starting to get some of these violent people held.
[00:21:18.530] - Al Aldenberg
We're starting to specially with the help of the FBI and what they bring to the table and very beneficial and simultaneously, that is the community side. Okay, you have your enforcement now, the community problem solving team. What can they do to help us? So the next step of that is going to be the outreach, the outreach to these younger offenders that aren't completely lost yet that are affiliating themselves with these gangs because they really don't know where else to affiliate themselves with because their socioeconomic status is bad.
[00:21:47.270] - Al Aldenberg
Home life is bad. They don't know how to get a job. They don't know how to finish school. So we're now starting this outreach program to start targeting, engaging with these young men and women to kind of steer them away from the affiliations. They're having to think about going on this path. And we're not just using they don't want to listen to. The white cop from Linfield, Mass. Doesn't know their life, right? What they want to listen to or who they're hopefully going to listen to is people that have lived that life and have done serious time because they went down that path.
[00:22:15.240] - Al Aldenberg
Those are the people that are part of our problem-solving team.
[00:22:18.460] - Steve Morreale
That's great. So what's the mission in your mind? What's the mission of the Manchester Police Department? Obviously, you're talking about reducing crime. It's not wellness. I don't mean that it isn't the mission, but how do you speak to the troops and guide them towards what the expectations are with their interactions with others? How do you use mistakes that are made in other cities from across the globe to try to avoid that from happening in the Manchester Police Department.
[00:22:47.250] - Al Aldenberg
Training, that's one. But we have real conversations with our people. And I call it engaged leadership, right? And when I first used that term around here, I got a lot of what do you mean, what's engaged leadership? And I really think how you prevent problems, how you identify issues in your agency, how you fix them is how engaged you are as a leader. I've worked for many people that I'm not disparaging. I'm going back a long way here, but people couldn't even tell you who the chief was.
[00:23:12.770] - Al Aldenberg
They couldn't tell you who the assistant chief was. They couldn't tell you who the captain of detectives was or so on down the line. So I make it a point. And I'm starting to see that the example that I'm trying to set is now being emulated by others that you're a chief. You don't work Monday through Friday, eight to four. I make a point that at least two or three times a month. I work for twelve shifts, and I work on midnight shift at least two or three a month so that I'm engaging with my people.
[00:23:38.170] - Al Aldenberg
I'm seeing what they're dealing with. Firsthand I'll go out and I'll go to calls. I'll see firsthand what the issues are. Have these discussions at roll call. Every people know if I come to roll call, they can put something on the table. Let me have it. There's no retribution. It's all just having honest conversations.
[00:23:54.520] - Steve Morreale
S, you can understand
[00:23:55.030] - Al Aldenberg
Because if you don't, If you lock yourself in your office and you think that people are going to come up and tell you the truth all day long, you're sadly mistaken. So now I'm seeing that kind of trickle. Now I'm seeing my captains are going up in their divisions on four to twelve, and it's not about, oh, am I going to catch somebody doing something wrong? It's not about that. It's just about being visible as a leader. And one of the biggest feedbacks I've got, especially from my non-sworn staff, is, wow, this is the first time we've seen the chief in a couple of years.
[00:24:27.100] - Al Aldenberg
And when I first heard that. I was, like,
[00:24:29.160] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, pretty sickening Al.
[00:24:30.070] - Al Aldenberg
Almost like, hey, I apologize. And it's helping with morale. It's helping with the getting people to buy into the greater Mission of the police department. That, let's just be the best we can. We're not perfect. We're never going to be a perfect police department. Nowhere is, but really just engaging with the people and understand where they're coming from, what makes them tick, what makes them happy, what makes them sad? And you're not going to fix everybody. You're not going to please everybody, but just having those meaningful conversations in the hallway or, hey, what are you working on today?
[00:24:59.460] - Al Aldenberg
What are you doing? So far it's been working.
[00:25:01.750] - Steve Morreale
I understand. And it sounds to me like what you've been doing is trying to maintain a finger on the pulse and to show some humanity. So a new person comes in, a new Sergeant gets brought forward. What are the conversations you're having with them in terms of expectations and to try to understand and help them perform as well as they can on behalf of the police Department people?
[00:25:21.700] - Al Aldenberg
That's what I talked about. We can have all the greatest equipment in the world, all the whiz bang stuff. But if you don't understand your people and what their strengths and weaknesses are and what they bring to the table, so that when the chips are down and you're on the street as a patrol Sergeant, and that's the first time you're really understanding one of your office capabilities while it's too late. So just getting them to again have those meaningful conversations and demonstrate that you truly care about the people that work for.
[00:25:48.130] - Al Aldenberg
I've seen it if you are genuine and they know that at least this guy or Gal, I know he cares about me, and I really feel that he or she does. I'm going to go through Walford. I'm going to go through a wall for him because I know that when it's all said and done, he's probably going to do his best to take care of, and that all comes back to wellness, right? This job is a grind. You know, it. We're now asking these young men and women to come to this job and do it for 25 years, as opposed to the old 20-year system that I'm in.
[00:26:13.210] - Al Aldenberg
And if we're not tuned into their mental and physical wellness day in and day out and then try to find ways to improve that as best as we can, we're going to lose them and they're going to eventually disengage. And if we don't have people, we can't do everything else that we want to do. That's the biggest thing I talked to any boss around here.
[00:26:31.210] - Steve Morreale
It's interesting. Right down the road from you, John DeLena with DEA. He was indicating that what he was trying to do. He and Brian were trying to do at DEA was to tell their bosses to stop managing through your inbox and to start getting to know your people. And so, I'm happy to hear that. That's exactly what you're saying. The same thing we all have paper. But the moment we fail to realize that the people are more important than the paper, then we lose our way for sure.
[00:26:54.480] - Steve Morreale
As we begin to wind down, talk about for you, the elements of leadership. You have a new person who's going to be a Sergeant, a Lieutenant or captain yourself. And obviously you've had a lot of experience in the military, and that shows and shines through what are the elements that you're looking for a leader as opposed to a manager.
[00:27:12.850] - Al Aldenberg
The technical confidence part of it, the actual ability to be whatever specialty have all that matters, right? Because all that's going to come to fruition at some point. But for me, I really look at when we go to promote people, we look at their evaluations, we look at their resume, we look at what they've done, what they haven't done, whatever training they have. But I really look at them. What type of person is here? He or her, what's their family life? What are they engaged in outside of the police department?
[00:27:41.150] - Al Aldenberg
Are they engaged in the community?
[00:27:42.540] - Steve Morreale
You talk about work, life balance?
[00:27:43.750] - Al Aldenberg
Right. And are they so focused on that their sole focus in life is being a police officer. That's admirable, right. We all like to think we're like that, but they struck a balance. So they're bringing more of a more rounded perspective about life and what life experiences. Has he or her head that are outside of this police Department that could be translated in a valuable way to them? Being a supervisor, everything matters. It's a combination of everything. But at the end of the day, I'll sit here and I know that he or she is a very good person, very good human being.
[00:28:18.350] - Al Aldenberg
And I think that's going to translate well to being a supervisor. We always get it right. No. Have I made some promotions thus far that I did a lot in my short time or a couple of them didn't work out the way I would have thought. But then you look okay. Why? And if we get to the why, then bring the person in and have a sit down and say, hey, I promoted you. I'm the one who did it. And I see you going off the rails a little bit.
[00:28:39.820] - Al Aldenberg
We want to help you get back on the rails. And I think if you do these things, you should start to be more successful.
[00:28:45.880] - Steve Morreale
What you're saying is there is hope we want to help you. Maybe we failed a little bit. So let's get you back on the right track, which is terrific. How do you motivate your officers through all the noise, through all the disdain for policing, through all of the issues that have happened from George Floyd, on from the shootings, from using a gun instead of a Taser, those kinds of mistakes that constantly bring black eyes on the profession?
[00:29:08.570] - Al Aldenberg
Yeah. I mean, when I took this job, I was going for it. People like, what, are you crazy? Are you looking around the country and for me, I felt like, okay, I have a responsibility. If they had faith in me, that kind of set me on the path for this. And I have a responsibility to everybody in this police department to kind of come in and let us not be part of that narrative. And that's what we talked about. Don't be the story. But don't get so caught up in it that you're going to get yourself killed or hurt or you're going to get somebody else killed or hurt.
[00:29:36.590] - Al Aldenberg
And they really need to know that if you get in the mix and you're getting something bad and you did your job appropriately and you followed the law and you followed the rules and the policies and regulations, we're going to be good. We're going to be okay. And we're going to be upfront about it in this part of the country. I think it's been pretty fortunate in terms of that type of police misconduct, if you will. It's a level that we've seen another place and a lot of people have asked me, why is that?
[00:29:59.700] - Al Aldenberg
I think a lot of it is just I like to think it comes down and we do our best to hire quality people. And a lot of it comes down to keep going back to the training and not just that. Okay. You went and did you 40 hours. I keep going back to this. But we'll talk about I went to roll call and talked about the joyfulness I hit every roll call. It took me about four days to do it. And we talked about that and okay, guys and girls of all walks of life, right.
[00:30:22.980] - Al Aldenberg
From my white officer to my black officers, to my Asian. And let's talk about it once they start to talk and they kind of get it out. It was like, all right, time for us to move on and make sure it doesn't happen. You can't run, right. Because I think a lot of people just say, oh, let's not talk about it. If you talk about it, then you're part of it. But now I want to discuss it. And we discussed it with my police Commission that I have as an advisory Council, and they were very helpful in helping me.
[00:30:45.220] - Al Aldenberg
Okay. This is good that you're talking about it and keep having the conversations and let the community know that you're doing so and you're going to gain that little more trust.
[00:30:53.380] - Steve Morreale
Well, I can only presume that one of the things that you're conveying was, why didn't those officers intervene? This is what I would expect from you, whether it's a senior officer or not. Right. That duty to intervene.
[00:31:04.010] - Al Aldenberg
That was kind of the most common denominator was why they just stopped it. But see here, right. When we've been in that situation, we've been in where people are on the ground in handcuffs, and we've kind of drilled it into people's heads around here. Okay. If that person ends up in that position, so be it. They were handcuffs, right? But you'll hear our office say, get up, get up, get them up, get them up. Kind of get them up and get them out and get them up.
[00:31:25.160] - Al Aldenberg
Get them out and move on to the next thing.
[00:31:27.540] - Steve Morreale
It's almost like it's over. And what's interesting, I think. And I'm sure you've dealt with this the emotion of somebody who's going to make an arrest and put hands on. Maybe they've been bit kicked and all of those kinds of stuff and a second officer and doesn't have that same emotion. And sometimes you say, All Right, Al, I got it. You've arrested him. You're shaking your head. But I think that's something that we have to drill into people to get the emotion out of it. I know.
[00:31:47.470] - Steve Morreale
I understand when you arrest somebody, you're pissed off at them because of what they did to you. They led you on a chase. They punched another person. But if I'm the third officer in just kind of tap Al on the back and say, okay, Al, I got it. You're shaking your head. Your thoughts?
[00:31:59.870] - Al Aldenberg
Yeah. A lot of it comes down. I got a very young police Department. I got a very young control division. About 80% of my pro division is less than five years on the job. So that supervision. That first level supervisor position, the sergeants, those are critical. And I tell them, I don't need you going to every call, but you got to be tuned into who's going to the call, how much experience he or she has, and what's the level of the call? Go and just keep an eye and don't let them fail.
[00:32:25.850] - Al Aldenberg
Don't let them fail because we weren't there to help.
[00:32:28.550] - Steve Morreale
So here's the last question. It's really not a question. I give you the last word. What do you say to people? Young people who are beginning to question whether policing is for them in this day and age. How do you overcome that?
[00:32:41.710] - Al Aldenberg
Yes. And you're seeing that in the lack of numbers and people that are applying. But, I firmly believe there's still a good part of our population of young men and women that want to get into this profession for the right reasons. I will continue to advocate to please do so come in and find out for yourself. Find out what this profession is really about and pull the curtain side and see what kind of people we have in police departments across the country. 99% of this profession and good human beings had come in every day and try to do the right thing day in and day out.
[00:33:09.770] - Al Aldenberg
It's easy for anybody to sit back 810 hours later and get critical of an incident and have their opinion. And that's fine. Have your opinions all day long. But don't disparage people in this profession who are trying to do the right thing and do do the right thing every day. I encourage people, not just here and wherever you live or wherever you're listening to this. If you're interested in the profession, get into it coming and be part of the solution. I think you pay dividends for your entire life.
[00:33:34.750] - Steve Morreale
I really do. Terrific.
[00:33:35.990] - Steve Morreale
Al Aldenberg from Manchester Police Department. We want to say thank you and want to wish you Godspeed with your work, but also as you go to Quantico on another journey with the National Academy and hope to hear from you and talk with you later. Thank you so much for being with us today.
[00:33:51.840] - Al Aldenberg
Thank you very much.
[00:33:52.620] - Steve Morreale
Take care. Okay, everybody. You've been listening to Steve Morreale in The CopDoc coming to you from Boston and been talking with Al Altenburg, the chief police in Manchester, New Hampshire. Stay tuned for more episodes and thank you for listening. Thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the US but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues and practitioners listening. We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia.
[00:34:20.950] - Steve Outro
We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at [email protected] Please take the time to share a podcast with a friend. If you find value in the discussions. We've had so many amazing guests and more to come who have shared their wisdom, their thoughts, their viewpoints, and their innovative ideas. Most importantly, a huge thank you to those of you who show up for work in policing every day, not knowing the kinds of calls that you'll be sent on or the kinds of situations you'll find yourself in.
[00:34:50.050] - Steve Outro
You risk your lives for people many of whom you don't know, and for that we owe you a debt of gratitude. A big thanks. Hope you stay safe, healthy, and look forward to hearing from you and hope you'll continue to listen to upcoming episodes of The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:35:05.610] - Outro
Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.