Law Enforcement:  Challenges, Changes and Adapting to 2020 and Beyond


Performance Objectives:

  1. To prepare learners to become more effective and outcome-oriented leaders.
  2. To enable learners to contribute more to organizational concepts and systems.
  3. To enhance the importance of the human element in leadership development.
  4. To better understand the challenges facing the future of law enforcement.
  5. To embrace organizational change and professional growth.


Initial Discussion Points/Questions:

  • Describe the Future of Your Department (5-10 years).
  • When is the Last Time Your Department has had a Victory?
  • Does Your Community Feel That Your Department Has Victories?
  • What Are the Characteristics About Your Department That Makes It Unique?
  • Do You Have Legitimacy in Your Community?
  • How Well Does Your Department Handle Crises?
  • How has Your Department Benefited from Leadership Training?


Four Assumptions for the Future:

  • Technology
  • Macro trends
  • Organizational Structures
  • Talent Pool


Enduring Characteristics of Law Enforcement Leadership:

  • Integrity
  • Character
  • Courage
  • Capacity to execute
  • Pride
  • Service orientation


President’s 2015 Task Force Report:

  • Building trust and legitimacy;
  • Policy and oversight;
  • Technology and social media;
  • Community policing and crime reduction;
  • Training and education; and
  • Officer wellness and safety.


Future Directions:

“A new leadership paradigm seems to be emerging with an inexorable shift away from one-way, hierarchical, organization-centric communication toward two-way, network-centric, participatory and collaborative leadership styles.”

“Modern policing organizations need to recognize the importance of the leader as an enabler of the learner, innovation and adaptation required rather than top-down bureaucratic administrator of technical fixes to well-known problems.”

“Leaders need to experiment and engage with stakeholders rather than simply apply technical and authoritative expertise.  Because complex problems do not have straightforward answers, and they achieve nothing by using their authority to dictate what should be done.  “Faking expertise” in complex environments can be counterproductive.”

“In ice hockey they teach you skate not to where the puck is, but to where it is going next.”

Dispersed Leadership:  “Instead of sending individuals to courses to make them better leaders, we must improve leadership as an activity in the organizational system.  This requires a move away from investing only in those at the top of the organization who have authority roles to recognizing the importance of (informal) leaders dispersed throughout the police force, supporting the development of learning organizations.”

Learning Organizations:

“The role for the formal leader is in setting a climate in which employees can continuously expand their capacity to learn, understand complexity and set the vision for the organization.  For this to happen within existing leader development paradigms, organizations need to equip formal leaders with an understanding of leadership, as reliant on more than their individual roles, and create a climate conducive to such an understanding.  The question is:  how much of a refocus of existing leader development programs and organizational culture would this involve?”

  • Requires multiple well-coordinated activities to develop employees and systems;
  • Focuses less on experts telling leaders what they should do;
  • Focuses on community and organizational learning rather than individual outcomes;
  • Commitment to longitudinal timeframes for “learning”;
  • Creates a climate where innovation, experimentation and collaboration flourish; and
  • Promotes continuing education for advancement opportunities.


Re-engineering the Role of the Police Leader:

  • Visionary, Conceptualizer, Role-modeler
  • Leadership by example
  • Executive-in-training
  • Training for competencies v. developing capabilities
  • Accentuate the positives, de-emphasize the negatives
  • Good listener
  • Developing followers

Re-engineering the Role of the Police Officer:

  • Decentralization of responsibilities (what about authority)
  • Would decision-making processes improve
  • Remote policing – technology, digitalization, algorithms
  • Community policing v. warrior mentality
  • Quality policing v. quantity policing
  • What about morale and motivation
  • Performance Improvement


Drivers of Change:

  • What are the drivers of change that have an impact on law enforcement leadership challenges?
  • Focus on community and citizens, operational efficiencies, rapid pace of change.
  • Need for innovation.
  • Internal organizational issues and challenges.
  • Talent retention


What are Ethical Implications for Law Enforcement Leaders?


Police Organizational Culture:

  • Is it helpful for leadership development, or does it hamper it
  • The need to transform leadership models and talent strategies
  • Command and control environments
  • Focuses on internal promotions, not external
  • Should we change the hierarchical model? (Katz Model)
  • Vertical and horizontal growth and development
  • How many ranks are necessary
  • Traditional v. contemporary values
  • The organizational change-process

Leadership Competencies:

  • Belief in collective leadership, the decline of the heroic leader
  • Networking thinking
  • Adaptability
  • Self-awareness
  • Recruitment, hiring, and promotions (focuses on talent)
  • Talent management: getting the right people in the right jobs doing the right things
  • Communication-skill development
  • Fostering innovation and creativity
  • Developing leaders (from officer to chief)
  • Selecting leaders from within/outside
  • Assessment of future leaders
  • Succession planning
  • Long term incentives


Barriers to Developing Leaders:

  • Lack of leadership behavior measures
  • Inadequate knowledge and content for development
  • Lack of emphasis on officers (they lead too)
  • Lack of rewards for leadership development


How Do Future Leaders Grow?

  • Give them wider exposure and greater participation
  • Modify their roles and responsibilities
  • Unleash talents – don’t harness them
  • Challenge them with real situations (scenario training)
  • Provide mentoring and coaching strategies
  • Give feedback
  • Reward them fairly


Leadership Where Personal Interactions and Communications are Lacking:

  • Virtual environments
  • Traditional supervisory practices – approving reports
  • Sub-cultural clashes

Are We Training in the Right Way?

  • Para-militaristic style
  • Education v. training
  • Practical skill development
  • Intellectual skill development
  • Training follow-up – implementation and application
  • Auditing the training function


The Renaissance Leader:

  • Multiple intelligences (high IQ is not enough)
  • Analytical “left brain” thinking abilities
  • Emotionally based “right brain” competencies
  • Intuition, listening skills, personal values and true to oneself
  • Uses their “whole brain” rather than a part of it


Computers v. Human Communication:

  • Predictive analytics v. officer street skills
  • In-service training needs
  • Social distancing
  • Internal communication issues




 American Management Association.

Center for Creative Leadership, December 2011.

 New Perspectives in Policing, National Institute of Justice, Harvard Kennedy School, June 2015.

Police and Security News, March 2017.

Police Chief Magazine, March 2020.

Police Executive Research Forum, 2013.

Copyright © 2020 by Dennis Bowman. All rights reserved. This material
or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner
whatsoever without the express written permission of Dennis Bowman.