A Note on the Growing Importance of Community on Policing
During the first phase of the Executive Session on Police Leadership (ESPL) several police leaders created detailed narratives of their careers from recruit to chief.1 Later in the project female chiefs shared on video their paths to leadership.2 These valuable contributions reveal what moves individuals to pursue a career path that takes them to the chief’s position. Now in our final phase, community has emerged as a driver of leadership development.
In our July 18-19 ESPL meeting the participating police leaders talked about the role of community in framing a vision for public safety and in the professional development of police leaders. Mayors and city executives are beginning to look for candidates who have shown their ability to engage with community members and have working relationships with their leaders.
There are no national standards or templates for developing law enforcement leaders. But we do know that leaders with a broad vision of public safety must be mentored and created.
The ESPL participants identified a number of steps leaders can take to build opportunity and awareness into their departments.
- Pre-hires. When you address potential recruits or are asked by someone interested in policing, suggest they get to know the community they would serve.
- Interviews. An interview should reveal the vision, values and activities of the department. Community should be emphasized as much in the interview as crime reduction (the two are not separate). Candidates should be asked about their knowledge of and interaction with the community.
- Advancement. Some departments begin community engagement through walk and talk programs. Those programs can be reinforced by including questions about who they know and what they have done in the community into officer promotion processes. Raise the importance of community relations to the level of how many arrests has the officer made in the promotion process.
- Public Safety. As mentioned above, productive community relations are “real” policing. In one community after a walk and talk policy was implemented, tips from citizens went from about 25 a month to between 300 and 400 a month. The quality of arrests has also improved.
- Opportunity. Encourage and nurture leadership potential at every level of the organization. Create opportunities for development through assignments, task forces, training and problem solving. Provide promising leaders the opportunity to enroll in respected national training programs. Consider establishing exchange programs with other agencies to provide an opportunity to experience policing in other settings.
- Internal Community. Finally, but fundamentally, consider it your personal responsibility to create an internal environment that has a clear and consistent vision of policing that is inclusive and fair. Model the behavior you want to see in your officers.
Contributors: Shon Barnes, Margo Frasier, Tony Holloway, Phil Lyons, Michael Scott, Ellen Scrivner
1 www.bjaleader.org/LeaderFuture.html. Leader of the Future, Police Leaders on Leadership
2 www.bjaleader.org/OrgFuture.html. Organization of the Future, Diversity, Women In Police Leadership Tell Their Stories