Critical Response Toolkit for First-Line SupervisorsCollage depicting critical incidents

Critical Response Toolkit for First Responders (logo)When major events occur, the first officers on the scene will look to their sergeants for direction. Ensuring that these law enforcement professionals have the knowledge, experience, skills and tools to handle any situation is critical to the success of the coordinated response. This Toolkit is designed to help your agency better prepare your first-line supervisory team for critical incidents.

The Need for Better Training

There is broad recognition among law enforcement officials of the importance of first-line supervisors. However, research on effective supervisory training is sparse, and relatively few law enforcement agencies have strengthened their policies and training practices to emphasize preparing first-line supervisors for the important decisions they must make, particularly those related to critical incidents. 

In many agencies, systems for selecting and training first-line supervisors have not changed in decades. Few agencies provide immediate training to new supervisors at all, and even fewer agencies teach new supervisors strategies and tactics related to critical thinking and decision-making skills, handling high-risk and crisis situations, major incident management, and how supervisors should prepare their officers to respond effectively during an incident. 

This Critical Response Toolkit for First-Line Supervisors (Toolkit) will help you bridge this gap in training.

How to Use the Toolkit

The Toolkit is organized into three main areas.

Each area contains a variety of useful information to help first-line supervisors gain the knowledge and skills necessary to confidently navigate a critical incident and direct those in their command on the important roles that each of them must play. 

The Toolkit is designed as a continuum, covering all three elements of a critical incident response in order. However, the material in individual areas can stand on its own as well. In addition, the Toolkit includes a listing of resources to help sergeants and their agencies effectively manage critical incidents. 


Before a Critical Incident [section heading] Managing a Critical Incident [section header]
Post-Critical Incident header Helpful Resources [section header]


If you would like a PDF of the entire Toolkit, please click here.


Toolkit Background and Methodology

The Critical Response Toolkit for First-Line Supervisors (Toolkit) builds on previous work PERF has done in this area, as well as the knowledge and insights of numerous law enforcement professionals. 

In April 2018, PERF hosted a national meeting of law enforcement executives and first-line supervisors to discuss the importance of the sergeant rank in law enforcement agencies. After the meeting, PERF published Promoting Excellence in First-Line Supervision: New Approaches to Selection, Training, and Leadership Development, a report which highlights the conversations that took place at the conference as well as other PERF research on the issue. The report examines topics such as how crucial the rank of sergeant is to an agency, and best practices for sergeant testing, selection, evaluation and career development.

The report also detailed the shortcomings of much of the training for first-line supervisors, especially related to critical incidents. PERF designed this Toolkit to address the deficiency in first-line supervisors’ training and response to critical incidents. 

PERF comprehensively reviewed research on effective FLS supervisory styles and how those styles influence patrol officer behavior and productivity. In 2019, PERF conducted site visits at five partner agencies and facilitated several focus groups that included agency members of different ranks, experiences, and assignments. The five partner agencies were:

  • Camden County (NJ) Police Department 
  • New York City Police Department 
  • Tucson Police Department 
  • Metropolitan Nashville Police Department
  • Harris County (TX) Sheriff’s Office 

In addition, PERF assembled a team of subject matter experts (SMEs) to advise the project team, review all documents and site visit findings, and submit additional resources for the Toolkit. The Toolkit was greatly enhanced by the commitment and expertise of:

  • Captain Kevin Lutz – Camden County (NJ) Police Department
  • Assistant Chief Sean Patterson – University of Tennessee Police Department 
  • Inspector Matthew Galvin – New York City Police Department
  • Sergeant John Flynn – New York City Police Department
  • Sergeant Bryan Hubbard – Oakland (CA) Police Department
  • Sheriff Tim Cameron – St. Mary’s County (MD) Sheriff’s Office
  • Sergeant Shawn Moses – St. Mary’s County (MD) Sheriff’s Office
  • Lieutenant Shelly Katkowski – Burlington (NC) Police Department
  • Officer Cameron Deane – Cambridge (MA) Police Department
  • Lieutenant Daniel Warren – Riverside (CA) Police Department
  • Lieutenant Kevin Kilgore – University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Police Department
  • Captain Gregory Bean – Marathon County (WI) Sheriff’s Office
  • Commander Matthew McCord – Tulsa (OK) Police Department
  • Assistant Chief Rodney Reed – Harris County (TX) Fire Marshal’s Office
  • Lieutenant Chris Cook – Arlington (TX) Police Department

The Toolkit’s contents are based on information collected from the literature review and focus groups, feedback from a national webinar that PERF hosted, contributions from SMEs, and collaboration and direction from the COPS Office. 

If you have questions, or if you would like to submit helpful resources on behalf of your agency, please contact Senior Research Associate Matt Harman at [email protected] or (202) 454-8302. 

This project was supported, in whole or in part, by cooperative agreement number 2018CKWXK016 awarded to the Police Executive Research Forum by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.