Tips for the Police Leaders of Tomorrow

The last two years have been an extraordinarily difficult time for law enforcement officials in the United States. Beginning with the riots in Ferguson, Missouri the media, public advocacy groups, and politicians have focused their efforts on an intense examination of the law enforcement profession. As crime rates surge across the United States this summer and the scrutiny of police tactics continues to accelerate, it is plainly clear to many experts that the policing profession is rapidly changing, and the expectations communities have for their police leaders are steadily evolving. The successful police leaders of tomorrow will have to adapt to an ever changing environment in order to be successful.

To be successful law enforcement leaders should consider the following tips:

Be Open and Forthright

The days of hiding behind the Thin Blue Wall are over and officials can no longer hide the inappropriate actions of some of their officers. Cameras are everywhere and the public is more aware of police misconduct than at any time in history. Officials who make public statements of innocence on behalf of their officers before viewing all of the evidence will pay with their careers. The best approach is to present all of the facts of an investigation immediately to the public, no matter how damaging they may ultimately be to the agency. The cover up is always worse than the act.

Highlight Your Successes

Too often police leaders fail to tout the good work accomplished by their officers working in the community. In order to be successful a good leader must push success stories directly to the public in order to counter the wave of negativity in the press. There are many tools to push positive information out to the community including social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Look From the Outside In

There is no doubt that law enforcement has been under siege over the past two years by a wave of scrutiny. Effective leaders will not indulge in self-pity and instead will seek to better understand the perspective of those individuals and groups that are distrusting of police. It is too easy to dismiss those who question the police as ‘radicals’. It is much harder, and more effective, to take a step back and consider their grievances. Critical thinking and tough inward reflection may ultimately provide solutions that have eluded law enforcement leaders in the past.


Law enforcement agencies are going to continue to be faced with shrinking budgets, and officials are going to be expected by their communities to do more with less. Successful leaders will find ways to embrace technology and develop innovative ways to engage their communities. Officials must be open to change and ready to embrace strategies that may seem radical in order to effectively deliver services.

Embrace Change

The profession is evolving. An effective leader will be at the forefront of the evolution and will relish the opportunity to guide their agencies and through the difficult times ahead. Be quick to recognize the innovative ideas of younger officers. In the past the voices of younger members of an agency were often buried beneath the many layers of the paramilitary structures prevalent in many departments. As society and technology advance at a dizzying rate it is imperative that all voices in the structure are heard, from the junior most patrol officer to the senior commander. The days of top down communication are over, and leaders unable to recognize that change will be doomed to failure.