As more and more law enforcement officers from the Baby-Boomer generation retire, Gen Xers and millennials are filling leadership positions in law enforcement.
Law enforcement has always been one of those civil service sectors where experience counts, more so than educational background. However, as the role of police officers evolves, there is a demand for more educated personnel.
The void left by retired officers is becoming difficult to fill because even though the younger generation may have stronger educational backgrounds, there’s no way to know if they can develop leadership and management skills without experience.
One of the major reasons why leadership positions are so difficult to fill in police departments is because recruitment programs are underdeveloped and underfunded. Law enforcement professionals don’t necessarily have the expertise to assess which candidates are best suited for the job.
At a time when public distrust is high, police departments need to have leaders who can shrink the gap between police officers and the people they serve. Cops should be going through leadership and management training before taking management roles in their departments.
Why Leadership Training is Crucial
Leadership skills can’t be developed overnight; they are cultivated through ongoing learning experiences. In the police department, leadership skills are often the difference between life and death.
Leaders are expected to make decisions on behalf of their teams as well as the civilians they work with. Leaders in law enforcement need to be quick on their feet; no matter how challenging the situation is, they need to be able to assess it and come up with the most practical solution.
But making tough decisions is only one of the requirements of holding a leadership position in a police department; leaders are also expected to be mentors to their subordinates. Law enforcement officers develop a kinship with each other, the relationship between a captain and his subordinates is no different.
Captains are supposed to lead by example and share knowledge with their team. With the correct transformational skills, leaders in a police department ensure that their agency achieves long-term success by preparing younger cops for managerial positions.
The Problem with the Current System
Even though there is a clear need for strong leaders in law enforcement, studies have shown that leadership training is underfunded. Police academies and criminal justice programs concentrate on finding ways to reduce crime instead of focusing on teaching police officers the skills they need to be better at their jobs. Leadership training is usually researched for senior-level officers.
Leadership Training for All
Seniors in police departments have stated that to groom younger law enforcement professionals for managerial and leadership roles, the hierarchal approach needs to be abandoned. Leadership training should be available to everyone who is currently in a leadership role, and to those who can apply for such positions later in life.
Unfortunately, the budget given to police departments isn’t enough to train all police officers. There are independent educational programs such a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) that offer a range of development courses to police officers, but these are often outdated and don’t take major changes that are happening in the community into account.
For example, these days, development courses must incorporate technology into their content and have an interdisciplinary approach, but they don’t because they’re poorly funded.
Natural Leadership Qualities
Despite lacking formal leadership training, law officers in managerial roles typically possess natural leadership traits and emotional intelligence.
Here are a few leadership characteristics that allow law enforcement professionals to advance their careers and positively influence their communities, departments, and coworkers.
Servant leadership refers to how committed a manager is to their team. Servant leadership involves enhancing engagement and building stronger, long-term relationships with all team members. This type of leadership lets managers break some barriers between managers and subordinates.
Regardless of the type of organization they work for, leaders are always held responsible for both failures and successes. Law enforcement managers are held accountable for internal activities for external events too. In times of turmoil, these leaders are expected to be transparent with subordinates and the public.
Think of all the officer-involved shootings that take place around the country. You never see the officer defend themselves; their managers are expected to speak on their behalf.
All the leaders in a police department must have strong moral values; their moral compass should lay ethical boundaries for their subordinates too.
Leaders are supposed to guide younger officers by defining the lines between right and wrong. They set the standards that their teams follow.
No matter what their ranking is, the primary purpose of every cop is to serve their community. Leaders need to persistently promote the fact that their team’s main job is to protect people and prevent crime.
Leaders in police departments must make sure that their team knows how to show compassion when needed.
Working in law enforcement is physically and emotionally taxing. Police officers are expected to support and rely on each other. Leaders of any organization have to earn the trust of their subordinates by constantly contributing themselves. It’s not enough to tell others what to do, you should show that you too are making an effort and are committed to the cause.
Being transparent and exhibiting a great work ethic helps leaders earn their teams’ trust and builds loyalty.
Today’s great leaders are in charge of mentoring the leaders of tomorrow. It’s in the police department’s best interests to invest in leadership and development programs.
Civil Service Exams
Before they become candidates for leadership positions in the police departments, aspiring police officers will have to pass a civil services exam that tests their critical thinking, problem-solving and reasoning skills.
At Civil Service Success, we train applicants for the Suffolk Country Police Exam so they pass with flying colors and get into reputable academies.
Contact us for more information.