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Is This The Best Agency In America?


I recently spent a week with the Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff’s Department and while it may seem to bold to proclaim any agency as the best in the country, what I observed has to be discussed.

I described much of it in the above video but I wanted to reiterate how unique this agency was and challenge each of you to determine where your agency stands regarding leadership.

For almost a decade, I have been traveling the country discussing Courageous Leadership and in the early days, I spent time in class discussing with each attendee where leadership was within their agency.

To simplify the question, I would simply ask if the leadership in your agency was above average, average, or below average. While the majority of the answers fell “below average,” I recognized a few years ago that employees in the same agency, surrounded by different ranks and even their bosses, may not provide the honesty I was trying to achieve so I placed the survey in a QR code and they began doing it anonymously.

Pinal County Sheriff’s Department

I recognized early in day one at the agency that something wasn’t right. After two decades on the road, I have a pretty good sense within few minutes how a training day will go but on this day, I had no idea what was going on.

It just felt different.

A few hours in the class, I had the attendees take the survey and I immediately recognized what was happening.

I was among law enforcement professionals that were working in one of the best agencies in the country in regard to leadership.

The Survey

Up until that day, I knew what the survey results would typically say before I gave it. It didn’t matter the state, agency or conference, it ran around 60% below average, 30% average and maybe 10% above average. The results were often worse and I couldn’t recall any room where more than 50% of the students would say that their agency leadership was 50% plus average and above average.

Indeed, it’s a dismal indictment on the profession that few want to even acknowledge.

On this Monday, with a room full of Pinal County deputies of various ranks, it was 100% above average. The participants had no one to impress. They had no idea what the previous results were and it was an anonymous answer to a question they didn’t even know I was going to discuss.

I spent the week at the agency, teaching a class each day to a different group of students. Combined, the agency was 90% above average and 10% average.

It’s unheard of and frankly, every police leader in the country should go and study that agency immediately. That’s what I did all week.

Why and How?

I spent the week absorbing every detail I could about the agency and what their employees had to say and it came down to one theme and one theme only.

“They let me do my job.”

There was more to that answer including words like support, caring, understanding, and the resources to fight crime, but that general sentiment tells you all you need to know about the profession and all of the failure in leadership we have witnessed.

Courageous Leadership In Action

If there was a downside to notoriety, it’s that the real work of leadership can get overshadowed by a character that others define for you and in a sense, Sheriff Mark Lamb and Chief Deputy Matt Thomas deserve a ton of credit for the culture they have built in the agency.

Sheriff Lamb has attended our Courageous Leadership Seminar and gave “The Courageous Police Leader” to his staff and he graciously credits that as part of the success in the transformation of agency. Bu the truth is that those resources only served as a confirmation to the work they had already been doing.

Mark was a courageous leader long before he heard of my name and I would recommend listening to him on this recent podcast. As I described on social media, this interview will serve as a masterclass in leadership to anyone willing to listen.

There Is Hope

What you need to understand with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department is that it is possible for every department. Their transformation to courageous leadership had nothing to do with a popular television show or a charismatic leader.

I knew that after speaking to countless deputies that week and you will get a sense of that in the interview with Sheriff Lamb above.

Are you wondering where to start your agency on the road to Courageous Leadership? Reach out to me today and I will do all I can to help you on that road to courage.

Lead On & Stay Courageous!


Dr. Travis Yates retired as a commander with a large municipal police department after 30 years of service. He is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.

Courageous Police Leadership with Travis Yates
Courageous Police Leadership with Travis Yates